White Teacher in an LA School
Posted on: 2012-08-26 09:27:43
A look inside
I am a professional teacher, an unknown white teacher in Los Angeles, toiling away in a grey, run-down government high school hidden from the eyes of the public behind a nine-foot, spike-topped, chain link fence. There are no locks on the front gate; they were broken long ago. The official sign that notes our location has been scratched over with the number 187, a reference to Section 187 of the California Penal Code, which defines the crime of murder.
My school is typical of Southern California: majority Hispanic, a small handful of blacks, a stray white or Asian. Blacks are not welcome in the neighborhoods where I work; the students themselves tell me Hispanic gangs drive them from the projects through intimidation and violence. This is never reported by the local media; they are too busy looking for the Great White Bigot and institutional racism, neither of which can ever be found in the Los Angeles Basin.
My classroom was old and worn when I arrived. It had been dragged over, rats included, from a bleak, failing inner-city school. Yes, literally dragged over. I teach in a “portable classroom” that can be broken into two pieces and shipped across town on a flat-bed truck. It came to my school because some bureaucrat—there are many who make well over $100,000 a year and work in plush, secure, downtown offices with private bathrooms, far away from the schools—decreed that upgrading the infrastructure of “failing” schools would close the gap. As a result, several mostly-black schools were rebuilt from the inside out and ground up. We got the leftovers.
I have not had a raise in 10 years. In fact, my pay has decreased, mostly through district-imposed “furloughs,” which is a school-district code word for pay cut. Yesterday, I learned that school will end four days early this year. That is better than last year, when seven days were whacked off the 180 days of mandated instructional time—and from my paycheck, too. The Los Angeles Unified School District got a special directive from the California state legislature to “shorten the school year” in order to curb payroll.