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Schools Not War

Centro CSO Fights for Schools in East L.A.

by Carlos Montes |
April 2, 2004
Press conference at L.A.’s Roosevelt High School
Press conference at L.A.’s Roosevelt High School. Students, parents, teachers and community members demand, “Schools, not war.” (Fight Back! News/Carlos Montes)

Los Angeles, CA - Students and parents in East Los Angeles want decent schools. Centro CSO has been organizing for over two years to pressure the Los Angeles Unified School District to build a new high school in Boyle Heights to relieve the extremely overcrowded conditions at Roosevelt High School. The L.A. Unified School District will present the preliminary design at a community meeting at the Utah Street School on April 14.

Centro CSO, with parents, students and teachers from Boyle Heights and the Revolutionary Students of Roosevelt High School, have organized a series of actions, press conferences and meetings to pressure the L.A. Unified School District to speed up the construction of a new high school at the corner of Mission and First Street. They reject the presence of military recruiters targeting Latino immigrant youth and to call for end to the occupation of Iraq and Palestine and an end to intervention in Colombia.

Roosevelt High School is overcrowded, with over 5,000 students, year-round multiple track calendars and a drop out rate of over 50%. The California State Department of Education has ordered Roosevelt High School to make changes to improve student scores, relieve overcrowding and improve facility conditions.

A new high school for Boyle Heights is not planned to be completed till late 2007 and will only house 1026 students. There is a need for a second high school in Boyle Heights to relieve Roosevelt High School. This does not include the additional need for 2000 new seats for the East L.A. unincorporated area to relieve Garfield High School, which has similar bad conditions. Schools are going up in other areas, but Boyle Heights and East L.A. continue to take a back seat and are given low priority. This is racism.

Military Recruiters

The students at Roosevelt High School are Mexican and Central American immigrants whose families fled war, repression and extreme poverty in their home countries. The U.S. government and corporate intervention caused these conditions. Mexico has suffered unemployment, agricultural and economic crises due to policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement. The people of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia suffer under repressive regimes funded by the U.S. government.

Now these students face racist conditions in bad schools and are the targets of military recruiters who make false promises of training and college. The U.S. Army and Marines specifically target Latinos for enlistment by taking advantage of lousy schools, poverty and the lack of good jobs, by promising college. Many of these recruits end up in the front lines during war, leading to high Latino casualty rates - in Vietnam in the past and now in Iraq.

Big Money

The L.A. Unified School District construction projects are a major source of money for large corporations and big developers via construction contracts, consultant fees and real estate development and acquisition. The new bond measure R, passed on March 3, will tax another $3.87 billion for school repairs and construction. But where are the high schools for Boyle Heights and East L.A? The East L.A. community has always supported election measures for schools in the past, but we must now demand equity and priority for the communities of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles.

The opposition to a new high school in East L.A. has come from a very small minority of middle-class, self-appointed ‘leaders’ who have paraded under the banner of a fake community group calling themselves the Save Belvedere Park Committee.