Southeast L.A. Peace Walk Unifies Families From All Types of Public Schools

  Southeast L.A. Peace Walk Unifies Families From All Types of Public Schools

Parents and community leaders from Southeast Los Angeles joined together Saturday for a Peace Walk to call for an end to the hostility against immigrant families and to unite all parents with children in all types of public schools: traditional, magnet, pilot and charter. 

The Peace Walk, organized by Parents in Action and supported by Speak UP, was part of a community festival at Riverfront Park in Maywood, attended by local elected officials, including Maywood Councilmember Heber Marquez and LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin. The event was designed to break down barriers of division and bring the community together to unify all children, all parents and all teachers for great public schools. 

“We are already living in a climate of fear and intimidation from the Trump Administration,” said Raquel Toscano, a parent at Los Angeles Unified’s Maywood Center for Enriched Studies (MaCES) magnet and a parent engagement coordinator for Speak UP. “We all want the same thing, a better future for our children. The last thing we need is to face more hostility from within our community over the path we choose to help our children succeed. We’re calling for unity and peace in our schools and in our community.” 

During the event, there were booths where parents could learn about different schools in the area and other resources, including immigration services and information on the Census 2020. Sponsors and participants in the event included NALEO, YMCA, AHF, Students For Education Reform (SFER), Parent Revolution, Los Angeles School Police, the California Charter Schools Association, artist Diego Aguirre and the Southeast Community Development Corporation, which donated two laptops that were raffled during the event.   

Before and after the mile-long Peace Walk along Slauson Avenue, the MaCES student marching band and dancers from Estrellas de Santa Rosa de Lima and the American Vive Foundation entertained parents, while a clown painted the faces of kids. Fruit and taco vendors fed the crowd alongside a truck informing families about the dangers of drug addiction. 

MaCES teacher and Maywood Councilmember Heber Marquez also gave a moving speech in English and Spanish. “In the midst of uncertain immigration reforms, family separations, job insecurity, environmental problems and so many other things that separate us, we shouldn't be working against each other, we should work together,” he said.

Melvoin also praised the parents for promoting peace in a time of disunity. “We are reminded everyday about the forces of division and hatred in our local community and our country, but it takes true courage to come out here and say we’re for peace and unity and belonging,” he said. ““It’s easy to blame other people for your problems, whether you’re a parent who made a certain choice in your school or an immigrant who came here for a better life. It’s easy to point at you and say you’re the reason things aren’t good. But you are doing the much more difficult and courageous thing, saying let’s come together and solve our problems because we are stronger when we are united than we are when we are divided and divisive and hateful.”

Other public officials who attended the Peace Walk include Maywood councilmembers Ricardo Lara and Carlos Álvarez, as well as Alejandra Zelaya, field representative for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendón.

Most parents who participated in the march walked with their kids. One of them was Mario Cervantes. His chant in Spanish, “Parents united will never be defeated,” was heard along the walk’s route. Cervantes told La Opinion newspaper, one of several media outlets that covered the Peace Walk, that he was chanting out loud to motivate all parents to never give up.

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Speak UP Joins Coalition to Bring More Money to Los Angeles Schools

Speak UP Joins Coalition to Bring More Money to Los Angeles Schools

Speak UP has joined a coalition campaigning for passage of Measure EE, which is expected to generate $500 million a year for all Los Angeles public schools, both district and charter. The coalition campaigning for Yes On EE includes Great Public Schools Now, Parent Revolution, United Teachers Los Angeles and SEIU Local 99, the union representing LAUSD bus drivers and cafeteria workers. 

Speak UP parents began going door to door this week to encourage friends and neighbors to head to the polls June 4 to vote yes on Measure EE, which would charge 16 cents per square foot on commercial and residential property. If it passes, nearly 80% of these funds will come from commercial property owners.

"It's shameful that California, one of the wealthiest states in the nation, remains near the bottom in per pupil funding,” said Speak UP Founder and CEO Katie Braude. “Los Angeles voters now have a chance to begin to change that trajectory for more than half a million kids. Our kids deserve these funds, and if we want to have any chance of reducing class sizes and putting more resources in our kids' classrooms, Measure EE must pass. We plan to do everything we can to help make that happen." 

Because the turnout is expected to be so low for this election—the experts are forecasting between 8% and 16%—every vote counts. And every vote is needed since the measure requires two-thirds approval for passage.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has thrown his support behind the measure, praised Speak UP and its coalition partners for their efforts. 

“When it comes to Measure EE and fighting for our kids, we're all in the fight together,” Garcetti said. “I am grateful that Great Public Schools Now, Parent Revolution and Speak UP are working so hard to pass Measure EE and lower class sizes in every school.”  

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Speak UP Launches English Learner Workshop So Parents Can Help Their Kids Master English

Speak UP Launches English Learner Workshop So Parents Can Help Their Kids Master English

Speak UP just launched its first "English Learners" workshop, with the goal of offering tools and raising awareness among parents on how to help their children become proficient in English. Workshop participants learned about the initial English language assessment, six steps for enrolling a child in the EL program and tips on how to help their children master English.

More than 2.6 million public school students in California speak a language other than English in their homes. This number represents about 42.8 percent of students enrolled in all public schools in the state, and when a language barrier is not detected early, it can be a major obstacle in the learning process.

One of the main challenges for parents who come from other countries is to get their children to learn in school at the same pace and level as students whose first language is English. In California, 20 percent of students enrolled in public schools are classified as English Language Learners who require extra help and support.

Among the resources available to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District is the English Learner program (EL). This program is of great importance for the Latino community because 82.2 percent of the students enrolled in the English Learner program in California use Spanish to communicate at home.

Many parents who attended the workshop said that parents are not properly informed about how to get their kids the help they need to become "reclassified" from the EL to Fluent English Proficient status. Reclassification is achieved when the student is considered proficient in understanding, speaking and writing in English. This process often takes five years or longer, and some kids never get reclassified.

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