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Boyle Heights school fights and wins against privatization threat

By Sol Márquez

Teachers, parents, and students defeat school privatization.

Los Angeles, CA – On April 22, more than 100 Sheridan Street Elementary School students, teachers, parents and community supporters took to the streets to oppose a privatization threat through the co-location of their school.

Co-location involves the takeover of public school classrooms and resources by an incoming charter school. The KIPP Promesa Charter is the corporation threatening to co-locate at Sheridan and is notorious for doing so at countless LA Unified School District schools. Teachers and staff at Sheridan heard about the plans, and quickly organized a protest to voice their opposition. It was quickly learned that the action resulted in a complete back-off by the privatization threat – a victory for public schools.

Beating on drums, shaking tambourines, and holding handmade posters, the participants chanted, “Boyle Heights says, ‘No to KIPP!’” and “KIPP Promesa, you’re not cool! We don’t want you in our school!”

The march was organized by Sheridan teachers and began at the school. The protesters circled around Sheridan a few times, before heading off on the sidewalk towards downtown. Turning left on Cummings, the marchers then took a right on 1st Street, and continued marching until they ended at Mariachi Plaza. Once at Mariachi Plaza, the large crowd cheered as the successful arrival to Mariachi Plaza signaled the beginning of their rally. A delegation of Centro CSO members participated, supported and helped with the protest.

Edelyn Ortiz, who has been a paraprofessional at Sheridan for years, was one of the organizers and security of the event. At the rally at Mariachi Plaza, Ortiz said, “It’s not okay to come into our school and divide us and our students.”

Another key organizer of the event, Esperanza Polley, said, “Some of our teachers have been at Sheridan for over 25 years; Boyle Heights is our community. Today was incredible, it really showed everyone that teachers will always fight for their students and that parents are able to move mountains when they unite.”

Antonia Montes, who is a teacher at Eastman Avenue Elementary School and a member of Centro CSO, spoke about the damage done at her school. Eastman is currently co-located by the Extera Charter corporation. Extera has taken over much-needed classrooms, poached students and not paid any rent to the LA Unified School District (LAUSD). Dr. Rocio Rivas spoke about the need to rein in the growth of charter schools at LAUSD. Dr. Rivas is running for LA school board and is supported and endorsed by many organizations that fight for public education, including Centro CSO and United Teachers Los Angeles.

On the stage, various speakers talked about the reality public schools face against privatization efforts. Corporations like KIPP, Extera and Ednovate-Esperanza hide under the guise that they are better options for students. In reality, charter schools are highly selective of their students, have high suspension rates, and oftentimes reject students with disabilities and African American students.

Due to the bad press KIPP received from this inspiring action, KIPP announced they would not be co-locating Sheridan Avenue Elementary. This was a victory because of the rapid action taken by teachers, students and parents.

To join efforts to protect public education and to become a member of Centro CSO, attend the next Centro CSO Education Committee meeting. They meet every first Tuesday of the month, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. You may contact CSO at 323-943-2030, [email protected], and @CentroCSO on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

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