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Earlier this week, I posted an interview with Peter Cunningham of Education Post, who said that more and more Americans are abandoning public schools for privately managed charters (which may hire uncertified teachers and generally do not get higher test scores than public schools), for homeschooling (where the quality of their education depends directly on the quality of their parents’ education), and vouchers (where children get public money to attend religious schools where many teachers are uncertified and the curriculum may be based on the Bible).
Jeff Bryant sees the walk-ins that occurred yesterday as a response from many thousands of parents and students who support their public schools.
In Boston, the walk-in took place at City Hall where hundreds gathered outside to protest an estimated $50 million budget shortfall for the city’s schools. “At the proposed level, district schools could lose teachers, after-school programs, and elective classes like languages and arts,” according to a local news account. The crowd presented to the mayor a list of demands and a petition with more than 3,500 signatures, then proceeded to march to the State House to present their demands to the governor too.
As part of the protest, ninth graders at one school, according to the Boston Globe, wrote a letter to the mayor complaining of the budget cuts and “asking that you come to our school and explain to our students why you are letting this happen.”
School budget cuts were a point of contention in Chicago as well, where walk-in protests occurred at hundreds of schools across the city. “We’re united as a community, “Chicago Teachers Union vide president Jesse Sharkey tells a local reporter. “The cuts are unacceptable.”
Parents and students joined the teachers at many of the Chicago events, according to another local reporter, and voiced their disapproval of school budget that have swollen class sizes and eliminated course offerings. “Not every school is able to get what they want for their students,” one teacher explains. “I hope they get exactly what they’re asking for,” a parent chimes in.
Jeff cites the statement by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which coordinated the walk-ins:
The future of public education in the United States stands at a critical crossroad.
Over the past two decades, a web of billionaire advocates, national foundations, policy institutes, and local and federal decision-makers have worked to dismantle public education and promote a top-down, market-based approach to school reform.
Under the guise of civil rights advocacy, this approach has targeted low-income, urban African-American, Latino and immigrant communities, while excluding them from the reform process. The reforms have sown distrust and division among parents and teachers, and utterly failed to improve educational outcomes for children. These attacks are racist and must be stopped.
The time is ripe for a new education movement that provides students throughout the United States, regardless of their race or income, with equitably resourced neighborhood schools.
Today, I stand with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools to demand and fight for:
Full, fair funding for neighborhood-based community schools that provide students with quality in-school supports and wraparound services
Charter accountability and transparency and an end to state takeovers of low-performing schools and districts
Positive discipline policies and an end to zero-tolerance
Full and equitable funding for all public schools
Racial justice and equity in our schools and communities.
There is too much at stake to be silent in this moment. I commit to fighting until we bend the political will in this country so that we create public schools where parents want to send their kids, students are engaged and educators want to work; the schools all our children deserve.
Members of the public are invited to sign the AROS statement.
Views can differ on whether there is “a web” of collaborating groups – as AROS contends – directing education policy, and whether or not the intent is to “dismantle” public schools, but it’s very clear the thousands of people involved in this week’s walk-ins feel they have little choice in what’s happening to their schools.
They did not choose to chronically under fund their schools and send public money somewhere else. Someone else chose to do that.
While some parents may find charter schools and vouchers can provide useful workarounds for them, that doesn’t correct the chronic under funding of the entire system and the unwillingness of political leaders to take that problem on. Participants in this week’s walk-ins see the hard, bitter truth of that. Good for them.
Anyone who denies that there is a “web” of collaborating groups has not been paying attention. Start with Gates, Broad, Walton, Dell, Helmsley, the Fisher Family, Teach for America, ALEC, the Koch brothers, Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform, Families for Excellent Schools—or save some time by reviewing the list of those groups that are funded by the Walton Family Foundation. There is a very large part of the web.