Los Angeles, CA – Dozens of school custodians, food service workers, teacher assistants, and other dedicated school workers at The Accelerated Schools (TAS) were joined by parents and students in a spirited candle light vigil today calling attention to how poverty wages paid by TAS, a group of three charter schools in South L.A., are impacting local families, student services, and the surrounding community.

The school has reported $27 million in reserve funds and receives funding from major donors, including The Wallis

Annenberg Foundation and Wells Fargo Bank, yet it claims it is exempt from paying Los Angeles’ minimum wage because it is an LAUSD public charter school, even though LAUSD schools pay above minimum wage. The city’s current minimum hourly wage is $13.25. Workers at TAS earn as little as $11/hour. This means dedicated school workers, many of them parents of TAS students, struggle on poverty wages. Poverty wage jobs also make it difficult to retain and recruit experienced staff, leading to shuttered bathrooms, long lunch lines, and concerns about student safety due to insufficient staffing.

School workers have been in contract negotiations for nearly a year to address these issues, but TAS has refused to reach a fair agreement. Negotiations were declared at impasse in September.

“Poverty affects our children. Students can’t learn when they are hungry, or sick, or worried about how their families will pay the rent,” said Hilda Rodriguez-Guzman, Health Services Coordinator and one of the parents who help found TAS in 1994. “The fact is employers like The Accelerated School can’t claim they support student achievement while they ignore and even contribute to poverty in our communities.”

“The lack of respect and living wages affects students because it creates a high turnover of staff,” said Maria Macedo, a Custodian of 15 years with TAS and a parent of TAS students. “In fact, we recently had to close bathrooms because there is not enough staff to clean them. Without enough staff, it sometimes means dirty schools and limited resources for our students.”

“South Los Angeles is already one of the poorest areas in the city. Over 97% of students at TAS are economically disadvantaged. You can’t talk about putting ‘kids first’ while ignoring their families. You can’t say student achievement is your priority and not have enough staff to make sure every student can learn in a clean, safe, and supportive school,” said Conrado Guerrero, President of SEIU Local 99 and a Building Engineer with LAUSD. “When parents in our communities earn poverty wages and are forced to work multiple jobs, students suffer instability and lack access to resources which are crucial to their academic success.”

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SEIU Local 99 is a union of 35,000 education workers in K-12 schools, early education centers and homes, administrative offices, and community colleges throughout Southern California. Nearly 50% of SEIU Local 99 members are also parents or guardians of school-aged children and a great majority are members of the predominantly Black and Latino communities they serve.