Los Angeles

UTLA, Students Protest Charter School Plan At Broad Museum Opening

Student, parents, educators want money for current schools and arts education, not charter schools

Protesters gathered outside The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles Sunday to protest Eli Broad backing a charter school plan that could enroll half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

At the peak of the protest, 1,000 participants were present, including students, parents, community members and educators, joining members of the LAUSD teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

Protesters chanted, held signs and listened to speakers.

While the much-anticipated opening of the $140 million museum, housing Broad's 2,000-piece contemporary art collection was the scene of the protest, the museum itself was not the target of protesters, according to UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl.

However, Caputo-Pearl noted Broad's political contributions to help defeat Proposition 30, a proposal to raise taxes to fund public schools, including arts program funding.

"We're concerned about the hypocrisy of building this great new arts museum in downtown, but working against schools having good arts programs across Los Angeles," Caputo-Pearl said.

Jay Davis, an art teacher at Augustus F. Hawkins High School, spoke to the assembled protesters about the importance of art in schools and communities.

"We're grateful to send a clear message together to say that arts literacy isn't something you just buy and hang on a wall, or simply absorb through a passing gaze in a museum," Davis said.

Beyond arts funding, protesters raised concerns with Broad's charter school plan, which, according to Caputo-Pearl, will entail "half a billion to a billion dollars" to fund charter schools, taking students out of LAUSD schools.

Caputo-Pearl said charter schools, which are not managed transparently by a public entity, do not have to follow the same guidelines as public schools, are prone to specially pick students for admission and do not facilitate a public process for teachers to interact with parents.

Cecilia Jimenez from Dorsey High School attended the protest and expressed concerns about the creation of charter schools. Unlike public schools, which are obligated to accept all students, charter schools do not accept special education students or English language learners, according to Jimenez.

Jimenez thinks that Broad should give the money he would spend on this plan directly to LAUSD to improve existing schools, including more art classes, electives and college counselors.

"Instead of [Broad] investing money in making charter schools, we need him to pay attention to us, and make our public schools better," Jimenez said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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