Kids to Admins: Charter Schools Have Got To Go
Students across the nation join their parents and teachers to protest charters—and public school budget cuts.
In nearly 75 cities across the country, students, parents, and teachers marched at their public schools on Wednesday, protesting inadequate funding and charter school takeover, issues that especially impact Black and Latino students in urban areas.
The organization Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is behind the "walk in" demonstrations, and is made up of large scale organizations such as teachers unions, and local community groups. The "walk ins" began last spring and have doubled in size since February.
The Alliance's executive director, Keron Blair, said when charter schools replace public schools, parents lose their ability to vote on school board members, something, he argues, hurts society at large. "We have to invest in public education if we want to fortify our democratic society," he said. "The two go hand-in-hand."
Charter schools have exploded in popularity since the 1990's; data show that today nearly five percent of all public school students attend one. Charters receive funding that many educators feel should go only toward traditional public schools.
"People are seeing and hearing and saying, 'We want to walk in,'" Blair said. "Resources are being pulled out of the public sector and privatized...the very people they're supposed to help have no say," Blair said.
Little Rock students walk in chanting 'Whose schools? Our schools' #ReclaimOurSchools #standup4lr @lrsd #LittleRock pic.twitter.com/ALPGsKh8Bf— Concerned Parents (@LRSDParents) May 4, 2016
Although the general theme of the "walk ins" revolved around charter school takeovers, the demonstrations also allowed students and parents to voice their own local issues. Educators and parents from Oakland Unified School District protested an enrollment policy that has public schools and charters grouped together when parents sign their kids up for school; some parents and educators are concerned the policy favors charter schools. Organizers from San Francisco Unified School District protested the rising cost of living that has pushed teachers out of a city where a 2-bedroom apartment typically runs upward of $2,000 per month.
"The affordability crisis in San Francisco is raging out of control and turn-over is happening at a breakneck pace," said Matthew Hardy, the communications manager for Unified Educators of San Francisco. "This is pushing too many educators out of the city and out of the school system."
For Detroit, a city continually plagued by public education budget battles, Wednesday's "walk in" came on the tail-end of more teacher "sick outs" earlier this week. Since it is illegal to strike in Michigan, frustrated educators have been using their sick days to protest unpaid work days. Education advocacy groups like 482 Forward, a city-wide education organizing network, used the national momentum against charters to present a list of demands that includes manageable class sizes and more multi-cultural curriculums. Nearly 84 percent of the public school student population in Detroit is African American.
"There's not a lot in the curriculum where kids can self identify," said Wytrice Harris, a parent and school activist. "It doesn't reflect the lives that they see everyday."
Keron Blair of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools said small changes are being seen across the country and that the organization will plan more "walk ins" for the fall of the coming school year. Kids to Admins: Charter Schools Have Got To Go | Mother Jones:
Big Education Ape: Join the May 4 National Walk-Ins! | Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools http://bit.ly/1q1Xudg