Dora Goes to Washington: The Save Our Schools Rally and March

Cross posted at seattleducation2011

I’m going to start with the Save Our Schools March and Rally that I participated in on Saturday July 30th since that’s the big news and then describe my week in Washington D.C. when I had an opportunity to meet my Senators and discuss what parents are concerned about and what we want for our children as well as report on the SOS Conference which I attended on Friday.

But first the rally and march.

It was a hot and hazy day, and we were meeting on the “Ellipse” which is an elliptical expanse of grass on the mall side of the White House at noon. When we arrived there were tents for people to find refuge in the shade and a large stage with a band playing. The atmosphere was upbeat and people were glad to be there.

I was impressed by the amount of organization that went into this event. There was plenty of free water for all and a medical tent for anyone who needed medical assistance.

The number of participants continued to grow during the rally. The Park Services estimated early on that there were approximately 8,000 people in attendance including a contingent of Parents Across America members representing North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, California, Iowa, Colorado, Louisiana as well as our fair state and others. There were teachers, parents and students with signs and high spirits applauding the speakers and singing along with the rappers and musical artists.

The state of Washington was represented on stage as well with one of our own Seattle teachers Noam speaking on the effects of ed reform on his students as well as Linda and Greg Gower, two music teachers from Spokane, who led the crowd with the song “Test Teacher”.

Also in attendance was Jesse Hagopian, founding member of SEE. I reminded him of the fact that our first march together was in Seattle on a snowy day two years ago when about 300 students, parents and teachers marched against the school closures and demanding the ouster of the then Broad trained superintendent Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and now we were in DC, marching in opposition to the same agenda and for teachers but now we were 8,000 strong.

The speakers included Parents Across America Founding Member Rita Solnet who started out by saying:

“Why am I here? Seriously, why am I here?

I am a businesswoman. I’m not a teacher.
I am a Chamber of Commerce member, I’m not a Union member.
I am a volunteer obnoxiously raising funds from family and friends. I’m certainly not in anyone’s back pocket.”

You can watch her speech in its’ entirety at the Parents Across America website, Stop wasting our tax dollars on failed reforms.

One of my favorite superintendents in this country, John Kuhn of Perrin-Whitt School District in Texas, spoke the truth in his speech… Another favorite speaker that day was Taylor Mali and his speech on “What Teachers Make”.

Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University Education Professor and education advocate, spoke about why we were there in Washington, DC that day.

As she eloquently stated:

We are here to say it is not acceptable for the wealthiest country in the world to be cutting millions of dollars from schools serving our neediest students; to be cutting teachers by the tens of thousands, to be eliminating art, music, PE, counselors, nurses, librarians, and libraries (where they weren’t already gone, as in California); to be increasing class sizes to 40 or 50 in Los Angeles and Detroit.

The transcript of her entire speech can be read on Valerie Strauss’ blog,  The Answer Sheet, Darling-Hammond: The mess we are in.

Jonathan Kozol spoke and there was some comic relief thanks to the participation of Jon Stewart by video who was in Afghanistan over the weekend meeting with our troops.

Deborah Meier spoke as well as Diane Ravitch who talked about the issues of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top in a very clear and concise manner. Dr. Ravitch also touched on the fact that the US leads the developing world in child poverty and how poverty affects the ability of a child to be ready to learn.

She also reminded us that we are many, they are few in terms of those who want to privatize our public education system.

Matt Damon was introduced by his mother. Mr. Damon said quite succinctly, “None of the qualities that I have can be tested”.

After the rally, we were at least 8,000 strong and ready to march. There were rolling chants as we circled the White House, cars honked in support and we had many who cheered us from the sidelines.

This is what democracy looks like.

It was a great day for all and I am honored that I had the opportunity to march alongside dedicated teachers who were there representing hundreds and thousands of teachers back home who could not be there.

– Dora Taylor, Parents Across America – Seattle

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