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Arts high school students walk out to protest proposed budget cuts

May 8, 2012 | 11:33 pm

Cortines school student protest

More than 1,000 students from the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts walked from their downtown campus to school district headquarters Tuesday afternoon to protest budget cuts that have the potential to devastate the school’s arts program.

The high school opened three years ago as the district’s flagship arts program in a gleaming, high-tech campus on the north edge of downtown. The school has struggled with a series of principals and other issues, but also has developed a committed following among students and their parents.

The students left campus en masse about 2 p.m., well before the midafternoon dismissal time. As they marched, they were supervised by Principal Norm Isaacs and numerous teachers. Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters is on the western edge of downtown, about a mile from the campus.

The Cortines school costs more to run than a regular high school because of its unique structure as well as its programs in visual arts, dance, theater and music. Each arts area has an assistant principal in charge, staffing that could be cut in half next year. More than a dozen arts teachers also could lose their jobs, said Judi Bell, a parent leader on the school’s governance council.

Some of those teachers could be replaced by teachers from elsewhere with more seniority if the cuts go through, which wouldn’t be fair, said Bell’s daughter, Rachel, the student body president.

“We need to have the same teachers in place for continuity,” said Rachel, a 17-year-old senior. “It’s hard enough when our principals are shifted around every year. We’ve grown attached to our teachers. They care about us.”

She added: “Cutting the arts wouldn’t really help anyone. We need equity and balance in our curriculum,  and the arts only help us academically. Cutting them would not fix any problem really.”

The budget cuts are driven largely by state funding reductions over the last several years. But the district and employee unions, notably the teachers union, have been at odds over how much the district can spend and how best it should use its resources.


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Photo: Students at the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts demonstrate against budget cuts. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times