By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Molly Servatius (left) from San Francisco and Amy Louise Glanzman from San Jose were among the California contingent at the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C.
Whether they traveled to Washington, D.C., or to the state Capitol, CTA and Student CTA members found plenty of like minds at the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action on July 30. Education supporters throughout the U.S. joined together in publicly protesting federal education policies that they feel are destroying schools with drill-and-kill instruction, ruining the morale of both students and teachers.
It’s just the beginning of an effort to raise public awareness of how federal policies are hurting schools, says Oakland Education Association member Anthony Cody, a blogger for Education Week, who served on the SOS Organizing Committee.
Despite the distance to Washington, there was a strong showing from California of teachers who “plunked down their own money” and got on a plane to attend the history- making event. He described the spirit in Washington as a “mixture of defiance and determination” to change the future of education. Teachers, he says, have been blamed for problems in public education that are beyond their control, and the SOS March was a way of fighting back against continued attacks on public schools and NCLB policies that punish schools instead of helping them.
“There was a lot of excitement about pushing back these phony reforms that are really hurting our schools,” says Cody. “And there was a fresh interest on the part of the media to see a grassroots effort where ordinary teachers and parents are taking it upon themselves to get organized and do something about what is happening. Of course, we got extra coverage with the presence of Matt Damon, who made a very inspiring speech.”
Damon, a well-known actor, was one of dozens of speakers at the event, including education experts Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Kozol and Diane Ravitch. According to the Washington Post, 8,000 teachers, parents, administrators, school board members and other education activists stood for hours in higher than 90-degree temperatures near the White House to protest the testing mania, then marched to the White House to let President Obama know they were disappointed in his education policies.
For those unable to make the trek to D.C., a parallel rally in Sacramento was sponsored by California Save Our Schools activists and organized by Student CTA.
“A lot of us here in California didn’t have the means to get to Washington, so we brainstormed and ended up creating our own rally,” says organizer Amy Mayfield, president of the Student CTA chapter at CSU Chico. “It was fantastic! The people who came were excited and full of energy, and we appreciated having them there.”
“We definitely felt a kinship with those who were in Washington,” adds Mayfield. “We are all fighting the same battle. It’s time legislators stopped pushing their bottom line and began listening to ours. If we don’t speak up for our classrooms, who will? We need to start demanding change in our classroom.”
Of the hundreds attending the Sacramento rally, about half were teachers and half were students. Among attendees were Assembly Member Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) and CTA Board member Toby Boyd.
“My hat goes off to Student CTA and the members who put their hearts and a great deal of enthusiasm into this,” says Boyd, who addressed the crowd. “It was really nice to have something on the West Coast to represent teachers and students. We may not have had Matt Damon, but we had representation from our members. And hopefully what happened will be used as a springboard to continue fighting for schools.”
Cody says SOS March organizers plan to build on the momentum, and are working on a “transition process” to turn it into a movement with representatives from different constituencies throughout the U.S.
Visit www.saveourschoolsmarch.org to stay informed about the next steps.