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San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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SMHS Walks Out

Roman Trovato
San Marcos students walkout out on Monday, December 11 in solidarity with their teachers.

On Monday, December 11, 2023 the bell rang to signal the start of Royal Time, yet, many students did not go to class. Instead, they congregated in the Greek Theater, picked up signs and posters with phrases such as “Give fair pay or go back to LA” and “Why did we lose half our teachers in 2 years?” before leaving campus. Hundreds of San Marcos students flooded the main hallway, walking towards the A-lot, where they then crossed Turnpike Road, blocking traffic. With this, the walkout commenced.

This student-organized protest occurred in support of unionized teachers negotiating for higher pay.

“I think that it is ridiculous that the people who are educating the youth of America are the ones who are lacking proper compensation for their hard work,” said junior Ilan Abramov.

Due to inflation and the high cost of living in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Unified School District has needed to hire “more than 100 new teachers” to “fill the positions left by educators who had resigned last school year,” reported The Independent in May. The teachers’ began a work-to-contract, “soft strike,” on November 15, following the first couple rounds of negotiation between the Santa Barbara Teachers Association and the SBUnified School Board, where they asked and did not receive a 20% salary increase. 

Every school year, 55% of SBUnified School District’s budget is required to go towards teachers’ salary, but an influx of COVID money given to the district upset this balance, meaning only 51.82% of the budget went towards paying the teachers of the 2022-2023 school year, as stated on the Santa Barbara Teachers’ Association website. According to the website, the 3.18% “is equivalent to $6,716,235.66” that did not go towards the teachers’ salaries.

This dilemma, among several other factors, has caused teachers to resign from the SBUnified District. This has affected students across the district because trusted adults are gone, classroom doors are closed at lunch, grading is slower, and students cannot get the extra help they need from teachers.

With these recent negotiations concerning teachers’ salary for the upcoming school years, students throughout the district have attempted to influence the boards’ decisions by walking out. 

“Teachers need to get the fair pay that they deserve and that’s what we should all be fighting for,”  said SM junior Benjamin Watson.

Roughly 800 Royals marched on Monday in support. The walk out gained this level of traction via Instagram promotion by ASB leadership students and from students’ personal experiences during this past month.

“I joined the walkout because a lot of my family members are teachers so I most directly see how this is affecting them. My aunt can’t even afford to live by herself, she still lives with my grandparents. I’ve seen this affect my personal friends as their grades have been slipping as they can’t get extra help from their teachers who close off their doors,” said SM senior Zoe Javanbakht. “So, this is really important because it affects teachers and students alike, not just one or the other, so it’s important for everybody.” 

Students flooding the main hallway, beginning the walkout. (Roman Trovato)

Dos Pueblos High School and Santa Barbara High School have walked out as well these past two weeks, with hundreds of students participating. DPHS students walked around two miles to Girsh Park, while SBHS students walked to the District’s Office. 

During the San Marcos walkout, students walked roughly 1.5 miles, from San Marcos to Tuckers Grove, with policemen in cars telling them to keep on the sidewalk. Other students drove along the line of hundreds of students walking, honking their car horns and cheering out the window. At the park, once the large turn-out of students arrived, they gathered in front of the organizers of the walkout. Several students gave their own speech in front of their peers, News Channel KEYT, Noozhawk, and administrators.

“I’ve been in the SBUnified District for six years and am in the San Marcos Education Pathway. There’s one primary reason I don’t want to be a teacher- the treatment I’ve seen teachers getting. They haven’t been paid well. They haven’t been commended for their tremendous efforts for their students. And I hear all the time about teachers struggling to make ends meet, living in Ventura, living maybe two hours away sometimes. I’ve heard teachers commuting at 4 in the morning just to get here on time. So I think it’s really important that we stand up for our teachers as one of the most expensive places to live in the country and let them know that we need them,” said senior Laura Spieler, who spoke to the crowd.

Following the speeches, chants were started by senior and ASB President Kavya Suresh such as, “If you want your student to stay in class, give your teachers what they ask” and “What is teacher appreciation? Give them compensation!” The voices of students spoke in unison, “What do we want? Fair pay! When do we want it? Now!”

The protest concluded with a walk back to San Marcos.

The day after, on Tuesday, December 12, negotiations took place between the teachers’ union and the school district. The school district agreed to pay 75% of medical premiums under any plan, and to reduce class sizes. The two sides still were unable to come to an agreement on salary. Negotiations will continue in January. Then it will be revealed if the student walkouts have any impact.

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About the Contributors
Evelina Erickson, Editor-in-Chief
Evelina Erickson is a senior at San Marcos High School. It is currently her fourth year with the King’s Page. For the past two years she has been the news editor and feature editor. This year she is excited to be one of the Editor-in-Chief and the news editor. Evelina enjoys writing about all topics but especially would like to move or inspire the people who read her articles. She is also a part of the Entrepreneurship Academy on campus. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading, arts and crafts, logic puzzles, playing golf, and hanging out with friends.
Roman Trovato, A&E Editor
Roman Trovato is in 12th grade at San Marcos High School and an alumni of the School of the New York Times. He is excited to begin writing for his second year in journalism as the A&E editor. His hobbies include reading, listening to music, running away from his problems, hanging out with friends, and playing video games. He is very excited to broaden his knowledge of journalism and to continue writing an assortment of nonsense!
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