by Colleen Flaherty and Brian Washington
The December 9 Day of Action — a day when parents, students, educators and community leaders will hold events in more than 30 cities throughout the country to support public schools — got an early start in Austin, Texas, today with a rally outside the state Capitol building.
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More than 300 supporters gathered together to hear speakers address the most pressing issues in Texas schools, including education equity and comprehensive immigration reform. While the rally was mostly comprised of local supporters, many traveled from out of state to show their support.
“I think it’s important for all of us to come and stand together,” said Terri Jackson, a sixth grade teacher in California who joined the rally. “I know we’re here in Austin away from California, but these same issues about immigration, about voters’ rights, about great public schools, those are themes that are in California and across this nation.”
It’s great to stand together no matter where you are.
While the events across the country have many different causes — whether its smaller classrooms, high-stakes testing, or corporate “reform” draining school budgets — activists are all gathering behind the idea that providing great public schools is a civic duty and that reform strategies should come from the people who know our students best: parents, educators, community members and the students themselves.
Nick Mitchell, a medical student and activist, came out to show his support for the Day of Action.
“I just know that public education is what got me where I am today, and it’s changed my life in a lot of really great ways. I just want people from the next generation and the next generation after that to have the same experiences and opportunities I had,” said Mitchell.
“Public education should be every single person’s concern.”
Sheridan Lagunas, a Texas DREAMer, attended the rally to show support for students and families that are struggling with a broken immigration system.
“For me, it’s very important to find a way to have a pathway to citizenship in order to secure protections for myself and my family and to stand alongside our educators who inspire us to pursue education and not fear our undocumented status.”
Lagunas also attributes much of his success to great public schools and encourages all Americans to support them.
“Even now, not everybody has the same opportunities for access to higher education, but nearly everyone goes through public education. That’s where a lot of the dreams are instilled and that’s where the fear begins to slowly become erased and where the power to voice one’s self becomes inspired.”
This Monday, December 9, dozens more of these events will take place in cities from coast to coast. Here are just a few:
- In Des Moines, Iowa, parents, educators and community organization are going to hold a coat drive for students in need. Arizona teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and many other leaders will help with the drive and discuss the need for equity in education funding.
- In New Mexico, there will be a multi-city bus tour, “Reclaim the Promise: Our Community’s Vision for Public Education.” People will be encouraged to sign a resolution developed from town halls where thousands of New Mexicans from different regions, backgrounds and cultures agreed on one common goal: see public education in New Mexico thrive.
- In Milwaukee — home to the first voucher school program where taxpayer money is taken from community schools and given to unaccountable, for-profit schools — parents and educators will gather for holiday caroling and deliver a giant holiday card to let elected leaders know it’s not too late to get off the naughty list and do what’s right for Milwaukee students by not supporting public school privatization.
- In Lake Charles, Louisiana, educators will host a public forum, “Our Community, Our Schools.” Five legislators will be in attendance to listen to the concerns of parents, teachers and administrators from across Louisiana as they discuss the implementation of Common Core.
- In Minneapolis/St. Paul, activists are organizing for school safety legislation to protect Minnesota students. Participants will collect signatures in Minneapolis and St. Paul high schools to support a Safe Schools bill in 2014, and then they will hold a press conference with community groups calling on public officials and organizations to rally behind school safety.