Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in a wonderful rally for “Save Texas Schools” in Austin.
It was a beautiful, clear, crisp spring day, and a great day to be outdoors with thousands of students, parents, and educators.
The city closed the main street leading to the Capitol, and the marchers stepped cheerfully along the dozen or so blocks and massed in front of that majestic building.
There were thousands of marchers. I am no good at crowd estimates but I would guess this one was more than 10,000, there was a wonderful marching band from a Houston high school, bedecked in their beautiful blue uniforms. They were accompanied by a few dozen cheerleaders in spangled tights. There were drummers and singers.
And what a magnificent display of handwritten signs!
Two years ago, the legislature cut the public schools by $5.4 billion, while managing to find nearly $500 million for Pearson. Meanwhile, charters are expanding, and State Senator Dan Patrick wants vouchers. Turns out the state actually has a surplus of more than $8 billion, but there’s no talk of restoring the cuts. The current test regime is called STAAR, the latest in a long line of acronyms. Texas now requires students to pass 15 tests to graduate, the most of any state.
Thus the signs:
A student from Houston held up her handmade “Puppets of Pearson.”
Another: “Money for schools, not fools.”
“”STOP overtesting our students.”
“Our schools, our kids, our future.”
“Kids are more than test scores.”
“STAAR has gone too far.”
“”Your STAAR does not shine.”
“Education is a public good, not an opportunity for corporate gain. Stop privatization.”
“Are you looking out for just your child or all children.”
“No STAAR. We need a Supernova.”
“Invest in Schools, not prisons.”
“Education is a right. Not just for the rich.”
“Can the legislature pass the tests?”
“We’ll remember in November.”
“No higher priority for surplus than our children.”
“Our schools are not broken. They are broke.”
“4-Star Education, Not STAAR-Driven Education.”
“I am a parent, and I vote.”
“Don’t mess with Texas children.”
Most impressive was the energy and enthusiasm of the students. They cheered their teachers and their schools. They created a sense of energy that enlivened the day.
Superintendent John Kuhn was electrifying as he spoke about the dedication and selflessness of educators.
An articulate Superintendent Mary Ann Whittaker described how her schools had taken down the banners exhorting the students to work harder for the tests and instead were emphasizing the arts and creativity.
A Baptist preacher, Dr. Frederick Haynes, brought roars from the crowd when he said, “Educate children now, so you won’t incarcerate them later.”
Former Commissioner Robert Scott explained why he could no longer support the high-stakes regime over which he was presiding.
There was much more, but the bottom line was that parents, students, educators, and others concerned about the schools joined to support them in a spirit of joy, commitment and energy.
It was a well-planned thrilling event.
Allen Weeks, the director of Save Our Schools, put together a tremendous show that displayed the energy that is ready to be tapped to change the conversation, not only in Texas, but across the nation.
You might want to reach out and get some tips from him about how to organize similar events in your state Capitol. The only way to beat Big Money is with big numbers of informed voters.