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LA Demands Decent Schools

by staff |
February 1, 2002
People displaying signs
Local community activists, Lorena Castañeda, Blanca, Jose and Noe Bueñas. The Bueñas are organizers working with CSO. (Fight Back! News/Carlos Montes)

Los Angeles, CA - A room full of determined Boyle Heights parents and community leaders faced down 2 bureaucrats from the Los Angeles schools, demanding decent conditions for the education of their children. The meeting, at the El Centro Community Service Organization (CSO) office on Dec. 21, was the latest in a string of actions taken by the group in the Clean Schools and Quality Education campaign.

The topic that sent the schools board's operations and facilities representatives scurrying to the meeting was the parents' demands for decent lighting in the neighborhood school's grounds and playgrounds. The playgrounds, which should have been a safe place for neighborhood children to play, were instead dimly lit. After school in the winter, the children were sent into the dark, and many parents were worried for their safety. At the meeting at the Centro CSO, the parents demanded large lights for the area, and were successful in getting 2 of them installed.

The Dec. 21 meeting was only possible because of the many months of struggle waged by El Centro CSO, parents, and other local community organizers. Over the summer, the group protested, marched and challenged the unhealthy and unsanitary conditions of schools in the east sector of Los Angeles. They constantly pointed out that none of the rich areas of Los Angeles forced their children to study in such terrible conditions. In late September, they won a concrete victory - forcing the Bridge Street School and then surrounding schools in Boyle Heights to clean up the leaking, unsanitary trash areas by the playgrounds. At first, the schools claimed they didn't have the money for the fix, but the community banded together and won.

Besides getting the trash cans cleaned up and walled off with sanitary drainage systems, the group forced the schools to commit to painting, cleaning, and re-carpeting inside the schools, along with installing new water fountains and other facilities. The campaign started out with the schools saying "no way," but the Clean Schools Campaign kept up the pressure, kept up the exposure, and kept up the protests.

"Now, the school board representatives are respectful to the parents, but we had the jam them," said Carlos Montes, a CSO organizer, "We just kept pushing and pushing, and now they know we are serious. It's really great how the CSO, Chicano and Mexicano parents, and other community leaders are coming together, demanding justice, winning victories, and getting respect."

Centro CSO, 511 Eschandia, Los Angeles, CA, 90033. 323-221-4000