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375 desks block traffic outside LAUSD office in dropout-rate protest

It was a surreal scene for some, a traffic headache for others, as demonstrators set up 375 desks in neat rows Tuesday on the street in front of the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The stunt's organizers said desks represented the roughly 375 students who dropped out of L.A. Unified schools each week during the 2011-2012 school year.

According to the California Department of Education, 8,748 L.A. Unified students dropped out during that school year. It's a number organizers with the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success say they don't want district officials to gloss over.

Drivers stymied by the demonstration were clearly frustrated as traffic officers directed traffic around it. But organizers said the issue of so many students dropping out school was also frustrating.

"We're glad the drivers are upset, because we're upset about students dropping out," said Elmer Roldan, education program officer with United Way of Greater Los Angeles."The most vulnerable students should benefit from the budget."

Elmer was referring, in part, to a push by community activists for L.A. Unified to concentrate spending on the neediest students and schools.

The demonstration outside L.A. Unified's headquarters was the second in as many days. On Monday, a citywide coalition of community groups and civil rights leaders unveiled the "student need index." Taking into account test scores, dropout rates, gun violence, asthma rates and eight other factors that affect learning, the index indicates that the neediest schools are concentrated in southern and eastern Los Angeles as well as in Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley.

alicia.banks@latimes.com

Twitter: @AliciaDotBanks

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