"Save the Magnet"Monday, May 16, 2011 By Mitchell Handler
With the daunting prospect of over $400 million in budget cuts throughout LAUSD, including a nearly 90 percent cut to magnet programs, Venice High students took to the front lawn on April 12 to protest the cutbacks. The protest began shortly after the start of first period and continued through the end of fourth period. At the end of each period, students would report to their next class and then walk out of the class to join the protest. Students wanted to save teachers' jobs and support a tax extension to save school funding. They spread their message with signs saying “Save our schools, save our future,” and shouting “What’s disgusting? Magnet busting!” Many students were protesting the magnet school cuts, including the potential cut of Mr. Brendan Schallert, the Foreign Language and International Studies Magnet Coordinator. “[The magnet’s] been defunded 86 percent,” said junior and protestor Morgan DiSanto. “They’re cutting the magnet coordinator. They’re making it much more difficult to get an education. What is the logic in cutting the best part of the school?" “I am here to save the language classes so that our next generation can be well versed in the language of our cultures,” said junior Yazad Dastur. “I’m not in the magnet but I know the magnet’s the best thing to happen to this school, and without it, we’re screwed,” said sophomore Karen Ruhman. Others wanted their message heard and spread. “I’m just trying to have everyone know about what’s going on,” said junior Bella Wong. “Most of the people don’t know why we’re out here.” “All these budget cuts are taking a toll on the school,” said Alexander Diamont, who found out about the protest through a Facebook invitation. A handful of magnet parents, who helped organize the protest, came to show support and supervise the protestors. "There was talk about students wanting to do something once Mr. Schallert got his notice," said magnet parent Melanie Rhalter. "We're all here to support each other. I'm very proud of our students." School administrators and police remained outside to supervise. "I'm very happy that everything was peaceful, and that students looked organized, said Principal Elsa Mendoza. "I still think that to walk out of class is not the best tactic, but I definitely understand and support their passion to fight for what they believe in. That's what I believe in and support." "I've always felt it's important for students to voice their concerns in a constructive way," said Mr. Schallert. However, Mr. Schallert said he believes that other efforts to spread the message should be made before a walkout is conducted. It is still unclear how many of the 7,302 LAUSD employees that received pink slips will end up losing their position in the next school year because a final budget for the 2011-2012 school year has yet to be approved.