By Dave Earl Carpenter
Students join in the protest for equal access to affordable education.
The conversation was passionate, with the words “education” and “respect” rising repeatedly. It was Saturday morning, March 6, two days after the rallies that brought public education back into the national spotlight. The coffeehouse was bustling, and a group of eight ladies, all roughly retirement age, were talking in serious tones about how unfair the state has been to its teachers and students.
“It’s just not right,” said one woman. “We’re talking about people we’ve put in charge of cultivating the young minds of the next generation — and we don’t seem to care about giving them the most basic things they need to do their jobs.”
That statement hung in the air — an easy target for objections from a dissenter, but there was none. Instead, a chorus of agreement came from the others. One woman said that sitting back and accepting subpar education in the U.S. was unconscionable, and more people needed to speak up. Another said she couldn’t believe the conditions that teachers were asked to work under — buying supplies with their own money and having to accept furlough days, pink slips and dwindling pay.
Their interest in the topic might be surprising to a listener. These ladies — all of them at an age where they might be expected to discuss topics like Medicare, Social Security and family — were speaking out for public education with remarkable passion. But after listening to them a bit more, you could see exactly why they were so engaged in this discussion. They knew that the future of the children — their grandchildren — is inextricably tied to the future of everyone. The students in the classroom today are the police, paramedics, software engineers and teachers of tomorrow.
As educators, we are heartened that people throughout the state are talking about the crisis facing us and the necessity of properly funding public education. And it’s important we keep them talking. March 4 was a massively successful day of action, but now what? What are the next steps? It all starts with having conversations, with our students’ parents, our neighbors, our family, and yes, even our friends over a Saturday morning coffee. Our fellow Californians need to understand what is happening in their neighborhood schools if we expect them to fight for public education as wholeheartedly as we do.
In the following pages, we’ll see what CTA members did to rally the public all across the state on March 4, and we’ll also look at where CTA members can take this momentum in the coming months to make a change that matters for our students and their future.
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