This Week in Education Organizing - September 22, 2017

.Over 20 cities took action against the Trump/DeVos agenda on September 20th.  Here is a round-up of reports we're getting from the field.   

Washington, D.C

On Tuesday night, AROS lit up the U.S. Department of Education with our messages for Congress and BetsyDeVos.  Check out the video we created here, and please share it widely through Facebook, Twitter!

On Wednesday, Resist HERE held an informational picket action in front of the offices of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Fund – DC’s federally funded voucher program. The group passed out information sheets about privatization and budget cuts, while creating a mock gym class to symbolize programs that could be lost under the Trump/DeVos budget slashing.

Dallas, TX

Our Communities, Our Schools – the labor/community coalition in Dallas, headed to the regional office of the U.S. Department of Education, only to find that the office didn’t exist anymore.  OCOS carried with them a letter to Betsy DeVos calling on her to be “a solution driver and not a stumbling block.” They pointed out that the Dallas schools could lose $14 million in Title I and Title II funding if the Trump/DeVos budget were enacted.  After a press conference and rally, a “light brigade” spelled out their message to the Secretary of Education.  While Secretary DeVos has not responded, Texas Congressman Marc Veasy did, in a press release the day after the protest. “The Department of Education needs to continue ensuring that no child, no matter their economic background, has to jump over additional hurdles to reach their academic potential, and cutting public education funds does

not meet that goal. Rather than crippling our potential to be the best and brightest, I believe we should be investing, heavily, in our nation's future. No cut to education is acceptable.”  Nice.

Grand Rapids, MI

Secretary DeVos herself was in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, speaking at a ribbon cutting for a new research center affiliated with Michigan State University.  The DeVos family had contributed $10 million towards the center in DeVos’ home town.  Students at Michigan State organized a protest, and connected with AROS as well as student organizing groups in Michigan.  While DeVos was hustled to a tent set up in the back of the new research center, protestors were barred from the area. But they made their voices heard with spirited chants and amazing signs and statements. There was plenty of media – here’s a particularly good video from the day.  Protest organizer Sarah Kelly reports, “we had students from GVSU, MSU and Central Michigan University as well as concerned parents and even teachers that drove over two hours to be there! While we weren't able to get close to the event, we know Betsy could hear us from inside her tent on the back lot! We chanted and picketed for over two hours throughout the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting. 

ew York City, NY

Parents, students, and community members affiliated with Make the Road, NY, New York Communities for Change and the Alliance for Quality Education rallied at the Trump Building in New York City to make their voices heard about the Trump/DeVos' education cuts.  Several friendly members of New York’s Congressional Delegation turned up or sent supportive statements. The group then walked over to the regional offices of the U.S. Department of Education building.  Not surprisingly denied access, a rally was held in front of the building, as leaders called on Congress to choose sides: are they with public school students and families, or with the billionaires like DeVos and NY hedge-funders, who are trying to privatize public schools?


Chicago, IL


The Journey for Justice Alliance, Chicago Teachers Union and other groups held a press conference outside the regional offices of the U.S. Department of Education.  Their efforts to enter the building were “interrupted” by police officers, who told the group that the building was private.  Protestors demanded that their letter of non-confidence in Secretary DeVos be delivered to the DOE offices.  While the stand-off continued, word came down that DOE staffers were refusing to come down to accept the letter for fear of being disciplined from the Washington office!  The rally continued with chants and spirited testimony. 


Staunton, VA

Ten members of Virginia Organizing converged on the offices of Representative Bob Goodlatte.  They held signs, spoke to the press, then went into the office to carry in their message and leave the signs with office staff. Actions were also held in Fredericksburg, Lynchburg and Norfolk, VA.


Pittsburgh and Reading, PA


OnePA, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and other groups held a rally at the regional DOE offices on Wednesday night, projecting messages such as “Protect Public Schools” and “Dump DeVos” along with an image of Betsy DeVos on the side of the building and demanding that there be no cuts to the education budget.  PFT president Nina Esposito-Visgitis charged up the crowd, saying, ““We will not let them line the pockets of private corporations and billionaires at the expense of our students,” she said. “We will not let them dump money into vouchers and charter schools at the expense of our public schools.”  See some coverage here.


Also in Reading, Pennsylvania, protesters gathered outside the venue for a debate on charter schools, hosted by PennCAN – a pro-charter organization.  The debate was truly two-sided, with California State University professor Julian Vasquez-Heilig and Network for Public Education director Carol Burris speaking against privatization, and PennCAN director Jonathan Cetel and Alyson Miles with the American Federation for Children promoting charters and vouchers.


Albuquerque, NM


The SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) mobilized young people by creating youth-led media. Three of SWOP’s service learning youth created signs, recruited volunteers and took pictures. Staff and community members were informed about the proposed cuts and how they would impact New Mexico students. The youth offered community members one pagers around the issues. Our pictures feature various youth, organizers, and community members holding signs showing solidarity with students.



ProPublica on the Latest Charter Scheme and the Trouble with Voucher Laws

 ProPublica Reporter Annie Waldman has written an amazing piece about how failing charter schools are finding new life by converting to private schools and accepting vouchers.  As private schools, they are less regulated and not threatened with closure when they fail to perform academically.  As state voucher programs expand, this is a trend to watch for!  It’s a must-read. 




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