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Negotiating an Education for Downtown Kids

By Susana Benavidez
Published: Thursday, January 08, 2009, at 10:07AM

Writing for blogdowntown has opened my senses to everything dealing with children in our neighborhood. Suddenly I am in the middle of a burgeoning cause of concern for the future education of Downtown L.A.’s youngest residents.

I have been a loyal fan of blogdowntown and Downtown News since moving to South Park and I have seen a trend of the social issues that residents feel should be addressed.

When Kathryn Maese, of Downtown News, wrote “A Jarring Downtown Wake Up Call”, angry responses flooded in accusing her and her supporters of being self-entitled yuppies. Advocates for the homeless individual that harassed her child angrily defended Downtown as the rightful home to the homeless population and not that of the new “loft dwellers”.

As I probe the possibility of educating my daughters here in downtown and not having to move to find decent education, I have met several parents that share my concern. Residents in Historic Core, South Park, and Little Tokyo have voiced their frustration for lack of a good school or any school within walking distance to any of those locations.

I knew I would find parents that felt the same way I do, that we deserve a school in return for the property tax that we contribute. Along the journey of exploring a solution, though, I stumbled upon another demographic that is underserved in downtown.

Residents of the affordable housing units, of the hotels that lease monthly rooms, of the Midnight Mission, which school do you think they have to go to? The creation of a downtown elementary school, available to all downtown residents, would satisfy the hunger of education-starved young students. When I walk to Ralph’s or Grand Hope Park, I see dozens of young school-aged children that cling to their parents and peer at my daughters with interest. It strikes a chord in me as I recall growing up and the poor resources that my community had to make do with. Ridiculous is what defines the circumstances in which these young children are being raised. One of the reasons I love downtown is that it exposes my children to diversity and that is exactly what should be found in a school for downtown residents.

I have no tolerance for under-educating an individual, but to educate a young child with the misconception that it is acceptable to have to live in poverty and be weighed down in the economic-climb of adult hood with a faltering education is unacceptable.

Navigating the political and bureaucratic landscape of LAUSD requires a GPS composed of an extensive network of parents and residents who someday hope to have children in downtown. For all the meetings, calls, and emails that I make; it amounts to nothing if no one steps forward to demand the necessities of a functioning and thriving residential neighborhood. Parents have been contacting me, expressing their support, knowledge, and initiative in bringing a proper education institution to downtown.

Young children deprived of a school are an issue that should not exist in downtown Los Angeles. Residents have created an economic anchor that has inspired small business owners and restaurants to open in what used to be a sleepy downtown. My kids, as much as the children that live in temporary or low-income housing, deserve the time and attention from Los Angeles politicians to create a proper learning environment.

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Topic:
Kid-Friendly Downtown

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