UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Marches in Save Our Schools Rally!
& Witness Ministries proudly carried our banner at the July 30, 2011, Save Our
Schools (SOS) rally near the White House. Boy, was it a hot afternoon!
The planners brought in the most serious academic prophets
of educational equity---NYU’s education sociologist, Pedro Noguera; Deborah
Meier, New York small-schools founder and education guru; Linda
Darling-Hammond, the Stanford Professor who almost became Secretary of
Education until pushed aside by a campaign by corporate reformers; Angela
Valenzuela, professor of cultural studies at the University of Texas; Jonathan
Kozol, the writer of a whole shelf of books about inequity and injustice for
children and in public schools--- beginning with Death at an Early Age
in the 1960s; and Diane Ravitch, NYU education historian who donated the
Moynihan Prize money she was recently awarded by the American Academy of Political and Social Science to
help pay for the rally.
The event got press coverage, a lot of it devoted to
celebrities like actor Matt Damon, who contributed financially to the rally and
the video clip sent from Jon Stewart.
Speakers decried corporate-style school reform that has
culminated in Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and Obama’s Race to the
Top. They affirmed the importance of a strong system of public schools
that serves all children with a variety of needs, not a race that creates a few
winners and the rest who lose out.
And they spoke up for school teachers and against those who
claim teachers need merit pay incentives to do their jobs well. Again and
again speakers pointed out that the dedication of teachers is not motivated by
financial gain. After Ravitch’s speech, teachers chanted, “Thank you!”
“Thank you!” “Thank you!”
Delegations from places where public education has been
under attack were particularly visible---Chicago, Wisconsin, and New
Orleans. Ohioans wore buttons decrying Senate Bill 5, the anti-collective
bargaining law that will go on the ballot for possible repeal in November.
While unionized teachers were present in matched t-shirts from many
places, the rally was a grass roots affair originally growing from several
bloggers who are Nationally Board Certified teachers.
In perhaps the day’s most moving speech, a school
superintendent from Texas declared (Here is my best effort to paraphrase his message.): “The schools in my district are failing
schools. You want to know why? Eighty percent of my children do not
speak English when they come to us and they can’t pass the tests after only one
year in our schools. I wear my scarlet letter proudly, because it means
that we serve the children who come to us; we do not push those children out of
our schools. It is our job to welcome them and to teach them. We
seek to be the Good Samaritan and not pass by on the other side of the road.
In these terrible times of attack on educators and public schools, I take
heart, knowing that our children’s lives will be touched by what we do
for them while they are with us."
You can watch the whole speech by John Kuhn, Superintendent in Perrin, Texas (the one I tried to paraphrase above). You can also watch Diane Ravitch's speech, and you can read Linda Darling-Hammond's speech.
Here is the article that appeared in the Washington
Post. It was picked up across the country… including today’s Cleveland Plain
And another… in Education Week .
Here is the blog post by Valerie Strauss in yesterday
afternoon’s Washington Post as well.