School Beat: Save Our Schools March & National Call To Action

by Lisa Schiff on April 7, 2011

Exon Mobil, $156 million. Bank of America, $1.9 billion. General Electric, $4.1 billion. Chevron, $19 million. These highly profitable companies, and many others like them, received these extraordinarily large amounts of money back as tax refunds. Yes that’s right, Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels are trying to convince the American public that we need to decimate critical services like Medicare and public education so that we can hand over our money to these companies.

In the most intense ideological battle since Newt Gingrich was in office, Republicans at state and federal levels are holding fast to plans to extend tax breaks and implement drastic cuts to a variety of social services, including education. In California, the health care community, K-12 public schools and public institutions of higher education are steeling themselves for unknown levels of losses.
But for public school supporters the challenge is doubly difficult. Not only do we need to fight more forcefully than ever for the minimal, insufficient funding that schools currently receive, we must also fight for a totally revamped approach to education. Education activists across the nation have made the painful realization that President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are no friends to the project of providing a quality education to all children. If anything, the programs and proposals of this administration have set schools back even further than under the Bush regime. Certainly they have only reinforced the approaches established by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and their destructiveness has been extended through the outrageous Race To The Top (RTTT) competition, that attempts to pass for policy.

We have no choice but to face facts–public education is under attack from all sectors of elected leadership, regardless of party. There is no one now to turn to other than ourselves, which may in fact be the best position to be in. Asking to be invited to the conversation about improving our schools for all kids has only resulted in a controlled pacification of parents, a grinding down of educators, and more sophisticated means of covering up where are schools are failing our students.
Parents and educators across the country now understand that asking for permission is just not getting us where we need to go. With that new understanding has come new types of action, including a tremendous effort this summer for the Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action in Washington D.C. July 28-July 31, 2011.

The Save Our Schools March has endorsers that include parents and educator from across the country who have been deeply involved in challenging test-driven, corporatization of our schools and who are committed to seeing rigorous, engaging, well-rounded, education provided to all children. The guiding principles of the event capture the goals and dreams so many of us have been arguing for these past years:

“For the future of our children, we demand:
Equitable funding for all public school communities

• Equitable funding across all public schools and school systems
• Full public funding of family and community support services
• Full funding for 21st century school and neighborhood libraries
• End to economically and racially re-segregated schools

End high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
• Use multiple and varied assessments to evaluate students, teachers, and schools
• End pay per test performance for teachers and administrators
• End to public school closures based upon test performance

Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
• Educator and civic community leadership in drafting new ESEA legislation
• Federal support for local school programs free of punitive and competitive funding
• End political and corporate control of curriculum, instruction and assessment decisions for teachers and administrators

Curriculum developed for and by local school communities
• Support teacher and student access to a wide-range of instructional programs and technologies
• Well-rounded education that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential
• Opportunities for multicultural/multilingual curriculum for all students
• Small class sizes that foster caring, democratic learning communities”

This may be the moment we’ve been working towards, when enough of us, from enough communities throughout the country have reached the same level of frustration, fueled by the knowledge of what is both possible and necessary for the education of our kids. We’re the only ones we can count on to make it happen.

Lisa Schiff is the parent of two children in the San Francisco Unified School District and is a member of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco and the PTA.

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