Congressman Jimmy Gomez visited Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School on Tuesday to talk with students about what stakeholders have described as a lack of funding for school improvements.
Students and staff led Gomez on a tour of Bravo before meeting with the congressman in the school library to discuss funding as well as other issues like teacher salaries and college affordability. Five students and four staff members were present during the meeting.
The meeting comes as students, teachers, and parents have been advocating for more funding at Bravo since late 2021. They’ve said they’re in need of new classroom spaces, a multipurpose room and a performing arts facility. They would also like to see a new physical educational center with a new sports track and locker rooms. Stakeholders are also seeking an expansion for career tech programs and updated labs.
Bravo hasn’t received any significant funding for structure renovations since 2003. Meanwhile, other area schools have been earmarked for major renovations. In 2021, for example, the board approved $1.2 million for renovations at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles and $233 million for upgrades, including a new classroom and performing arts building at Abraham Lincoln Senior High School, in Lincoln Heights.
“I believe in equity,” Gomez said during the meeting. “This idea that you invest the most resources into the areas that need the most help.”
To Gomez, whose 34th congressional district includes Boyle Heights and East LA, the majority of available funding should be allocated to overcrowded campuses and schools with students who are academically falling behind.
“If you really look at who’s failing and who’s falling behind, it’s Latinos, Blacks, and first generation students,” he said.
Victoria Montes, a college advisor at Bravo, noted that Bravo “is bursting at the seams” with low income and first generation students. “We have lacked extra funding and support systemically since we opened,” she said.
Gomez recalled a time when funding was allocated to different schools in the same amount. “Then the kids that were in the most need, were often left further and further behind,” he said.
“LAUSD is a complicated animal,” Gomez added, explaining that school funding is a local matter in which Congress isn’t directly involved.
The congressman, however, told students and staff he would address Bravo’s funding issue to Dr. Rocío Rivas, the newly-elected board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, who represents the Eastside.
During the meeting, Gomez also talked about a bill he introduced in 2021 with other congress members that would permanently expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to millions of college students.
“The main problem is that tuition is just way too high across the country, and we have to reinvest in higher education,” Gomez said.
Gomez also brought up the lack of proper teacher salaries and the need for smaller classroom sizes, issues which the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has been advocating for.
“We want more money for teachers,” Gomez said. “I have two siblings that are school teachers. “Reducing class sizes is critical.”
On Tuesday, Gomez visited multiple classrooms and spoke with students about his youth and his previous goals of becoming a doctor.
The congressman’s visit comes after Raphael Rodriguez, an English teacher at Bravo, attended a community hike that Gomez hosted last summer.
During the hike, Rodriguez told Gomez of Bravo’s funding situation in hopes that the congressman could bring awareness to the issue.
After a series of delays, the visit finally happened on Feb. 14.
“I hope it was a great Valentine card for our school who deserves it so much,” Rodriguez said.
Sadia Orpa, the senior class student body president, was present during the meeting with Gomez and said she appreciated “his promise and dedication.”
“I hope he can carry our story with him,” Orpa said.
Alondra Nava, the associated student body president, felt that the meeting with Gomez was very beneficial.
“I hope that our school can finally get the funding that it deserves and needs,” Nava said.