Richard A. Fowler
WASHINGTON—Tens of thousands of parents, teachers, students and community members took action in more than 200 cities and towns today as part of the #ReclaimOurSchools National Day of Action. The day of action was spearheaded by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools with support from the American Federation of Teachers.
Community members took to the streets on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration to draw a stark contrast between his destructive agenda to undermine public education and the growing movement to fulfill the promise of public education. AFT President Randi Weingarten and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) joined the historic day of action at an event in Washington, D.C., and Weingarten also joined community members in Newark, N.J., earlier in the day.
“This is really a tale of two movements. We are a movement of educators, parents, students and neighbors, standing up to make sure every child has access to a great neighborhood public school—a school that is safe and welcoming, that is focused on the well-being of kids, and where there is powerful learning,” said Weingarten. “That’s the opposite of the agenda being pushed by Donald Trump and his inexperienced and unqualified education nominee, Betsy DeVos, who simply want to privatize, defund and destabilize public education.”
Today’s mobilization took place at more than 2,000 sites from New York City to San Francisco to Cincinnati to Detroit, and included schools, hospitals, college campuses and government buildings. The events included rallies, marches, demonstrations, “walk-ins” and community forums, and mobilized around three national demands:
- That all schools and campuses be named “sanctuary spaces” free from the threat of deportation, racism and bullying.
- That the U.S. Senate support public education and reject Betsy DeVos as the secretary of education.
- That policymakers invest in high-quality public schools; make billionaires and Wall Street pay their fair share; and protect Title I, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other federal funds directed to at-risk students.
In Washington, D.C., hundreds of community members were joined by Ellison and Weingarten at Anne Beers Elementary School, where they held hands around the school—a symbolic action to show the community’s commitment to public education and the well-being of all the district’s students. Beers Elementary is a thriving public school with deep community ties that has suffered funding cuts due to the unregulated expansion of charters and a congressionally mandated voucher program that has siphoned off the limited educational resources in the District of Columbia.
“Day after day, public schools help educate our children and prepare them for a brighter future. And so, the work that AROS and the AFT are doing could not be more important. Through ‘walk-ins’ and days of action, they’re getting parents, community members and students to voice their support for public schools and a high-quality education,” said Ellison. “That’s exactly the approach we’ll need to fight back against Donald Trump and his secretary of education nominee, Betsy DeVos, a notorious anti-public schools crusader.”
During the day of action, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson stood with Baltimore educators and parents in their struggle to increase the number of community schools and fight back against Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s attempt to open more charter schools. In St. Paul, Minn., AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker stood alongside community members in their fight to ensure that all students, no matter their race, religion or neighborhood, have access to safe, high-quality public schools, free from discrimination.
This is the third national day of action organized by AROS in the past year.