Playa Vista Elementary took the teachers’ strike to Jefferson Boulevard
Story By Shanee Edwards | Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner
Morning commuters honked in support as teachers, parents, students and one Vietnamese potbellied pig took to Jefferson Boulevard on Jan. 18 in support of the LAUSD teachers’ strike. While it was day five of the strike, energy was especially high because it was the first one without rain.
Momentum was on their side all over the city. Just up the hill, the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University had released survey results on day two of the strike showing nearly 80% support for teachers among Los Angeles County residents.
Dressed in red and with many carrying matching balloons, striking teachers and their supporters traversed the south side of Jefferson from a block east of Lincoln Boulevard down to Centinela Avenue. Afterwards, many headed to a rally in downtown Los Angeles to watch Playa del Rey Elementary student Aryana Fields sing “A Strike Song” for the large crowd.
Out on Jefferson, Playa Vista Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sonia Ahn said the most important issue to her is class size. She started off teaching classes of 20 students, and now that’s climbed to 24.
“We are walking,” she said, “to show people that we care about public education. I think at first people thought we were striking over pay, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about really putting in the effort to save public education. It’s about respecting the teachers and also caring about our communities.”
Lewis Tsai’s two daughters attend Playa Vista Elementary, one in kindergarten and the other in fourth grade. Tsai thinks the district can do better on many fronts.
“Most parents have already given a lot of money to the school, and to have the school district not reciprocate, that’s kind of a slap in the face,” he said.
Jennifer Whitley, the school psychologist for Playa Vista Elementary and two other LAUSD campuses, said she was striking because she needs more time at each school to be more effective.
“I’m only at my schools about a day and a half each week. If ratios are reduced, I could possibly be at only two schools and provide more comprehensive services and emotional health services for my children,” said Whitley, who works with kids in special education.
By the following Wednesday, teachers would be back at work with a new contract agreement that included a 6% pay raise, class-size reductions, and more nurses and counselors.
Westchester mom Alyssa Bost, who taught in New York City public schools, said she marched because she felt for the teachers and is troubled that the Golden State ranks 43 of 50 among per-pupil public education spending.
When Bost told her four-year-old daughter they were going to march to support the teachers’ strike, her daughter replied that the preschool she attends was doing just fine.
“I told her not everybody is OK — it’s not OK until everybody has a good school like you.”