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L.A. teachers end hunger strike protesting budget cuts

June 18, 2009 | 12:54 pm

Los Angeles teachers who launched a hunger strike 24 days ago to protest budget cuts said today they are ending the campaign to focus on recalling school board members.

Members of the Hungry for a Better Education campaign will announce this afternoon the end of their hunger strike and the start of a recall campaign aimed at one or two Los Angeles Unified School Board members.

Participants plan to begin collecting signatures to recall either board President Monica Garcia or board Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar or both, said teacher coordinator Jose Lara. Lara said both Garcia and Flores Aguilar have supported increasing class sizes.

The hunger strike began with nine people, and two made it until the end, but along the way more than 200 teachers and community members throughout the district participated in one- or two-day solidarity fasts, organizers said.

The campaign's goals remain largely unmet. Participants wanted a guarantee that class sizes would not increase and that teachers would not lose their jobs. But organizers said they achieved small gains, namely garnering community support and having Supt. Ramon Cortines announce last week that 500 layoff notices would be rescinded.

Lara, a history teacher at Santee High School in South Los Angeles, attributed the latter development to the hunger strike.

“I don’t think he’ll [Cortines] admit it," Lara said, "but I think so.”

Still, thousands of teachers and other district employees remain at risk of losing their jobs in the school board’s attempt to close a $700-million budget gap.

-- Raja Abdulrahim