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Budget cuts affect schools differently, youths find

Resource type: News

UCLA Today |

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California’s education funding has been cut by $17 billion in the last two budget deals, and schools are suffering. But some students are hurting more than others, according to a group of high school student researchers who presented their findings at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, August 7.

This group — the Council of Youth Research, sponsored by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) — spent the last five weeks researching educational opportunities in Los Angeles-area schools and neighborhoods and found that the economic crisis is hitting students of color especially hard.

“The economic crisis is biased, which means that it impacts everyone differently,” said council member Gabriela Dominguez.

The students’ presentation, which used video documentaries as well as PowerPoint, was the culmination of a summer research seminar in which the council’s 25 members — students from five South and East Los Angeles high schools — studied educational theory, surveyed nearly 700 LAUSD students, and interviewed students, teachers, principals and policy makers, including LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Under the direction of Associate Professors Ernest Morrell and John Rogers in education, IDEA has held research seminars with urban high school students for the past 10 years. The students examine education conditions in LAUSD and later present their findings to the public. “Our youth have important recommendations for students, parents, teachers, administrators, policymakers and everyday citizens who are interested in change,” Morrell said.

To a standing-room-only audience, this year’s council members explained how the economic crisis has worsened inequality both between and within schools and neighborhoods. For example, at Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles, more than 40 percent of the teachers — many of whom lacked seniority — got pink slips this spring. Schools in wealthier neighborhoods, however, have had far fewer layoffs since they employ more senior teachers. Teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and tightened school budgets combine with cuts to health care and community programs to have disparate effects on youth and families.Listening in the audience were Cortines, teachers, principals, staff members representing elected officials, and family and community members.

The council members explained two dimensions of this impact: First, the hardest-hit areas are those where Latino and African American residents constitute majorities. Second, students from these groups deal with more hardships than their peers even when they live in wealthier areas.

The council called for far-reaching changes to make education more equitable. They recommended reinstating funding to education, providing information about schools to parents and communities and making education a priority for policymakers.

“We youth are tired of disappointment and false promises, so now we demand real actions based on our research,” said council member Richard McClain.

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