Approximately 50 parents and children gathered at at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning dressed in pajamas and bathrobes and carrying placards demanding that Californians “wake up” to the crisis facing the state's public schools.
The protest was organized by Educate Our State, a parent-led group advocating high quality K-12 public education, and was part of a planned day of rallies at school sites, culminating in a citywide rally at the Federal Building in Westwood at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The rally brought out many parents from , , and . Grand View and Beethoven held similar rallies at their schools earlier Tuesday morning and many parents who attended those rallies made their way over to Venice High saying they also planned to attend the Federal Building rally in Westwood in the afternoon.
Local Educate Our State parent activist Heather Austin told Patch the rallies were being held simultaneously in 20 cities across California as part of the group’s efforts to focus citizens’ attention on the state of emergency facing public education.
Austin, whose son attends Grand View, says she’d like to see Governor Jerry Brown’s “May Revise” budget passed. The budget calls for some tax extensions, which Austin says she believes will help restore cuts to education funding and prevent teacher, librarian and nurse layoffs as well as class-size increases.
“We have to get our priorities straight,” she said.
Another Grand View parent, Sarah Auerswald, dressed in a bathrobe, told Patch that she was furious when she found out that California spends $47,000 a year on a prison inmate, but just $7,500 a year per student.
Auerswald said she believes the long-term solution is to repeal Proposition 13 (which limits property tax increases).
“I know that’s not popular,” she said, but she argued that it would be the only way to create sustained school funding in the state.
Wen-Chia Parker, a mother from Beethoven Elementary, attended the rally with her husband and daughter, all of whom were dressed in their pajamas. She told Patch she has been doing lots of face-to-face organizing, telling other parents and non-parents about how deep the cuts will go.
“When you tell people we’re going to lose our school nurse – who we only get half a day a week now – and we’re going to lose our librarian, they start to realize that can’t work.”
The daughter of an immigrant family, Parker attended public schools in New York City.
“I believe in public education,” she said. “It changes you, shapes you, so you can be a productive citizen.”
Leticia Antonio, who has children at Grand View, Mark Twain and Venice High said she was at the rally because Grand View will lose seven teachers if state funding is not restored.
"Many think, ‘Well, the government is going to decide, and there is nothing I can do about it,'" Antoni said. However, she added that by talking to parents about how dire the situation is and giving them concrete things to do, they are becoming more involved.
“One of us is just a drop of water,” she noted. "But together we are an ocean.”