Save Our Schools: Time To March Again This Summer

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In 2011, the Save Our Schools March was the first-ever national protest focused on K12 education. In 2016, we are going back to DC again.

The 2011 rally and march was a seminal event for the movement to resist corporate education reform. This protest resulted in the launch of many of the groups that are active today. And many of those groups are coming together once again in the Save Our Schools Coalition.

This time the rally will be on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, July 8This is the day after the National Education Association Rep Assembly ends, so several thousand teachers will be in town. We will hear from Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol again, but there will be new voices as well. New York principal Jamaal Bowman, professorDenisha JonesRuth RodriguezBishop John Selders, the Youth DreamersJesse HagopianGus MoralesBrett BighamUnited Opt OutJulian Vasquez Heilig, and Yohuru Williams will all be there.

On Saturday, July 9, there will be a conference with exciting workshops and discussions, gathering activists from all over the country. Then on Sunday there will be a sort of “movement summit” to share ideas an make plans for the coming year.

There is something magical about gathering with thousands of others to protest. It takes the abstract idea of solidarity into something tangible, visible, that cannot be ignored or forgotten.

If you were there in 2011, you heard Matt Damon say this:

This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

That speech was one of the highlights of the event. The five years since 2011 have not been any better for teachers and students. But the national movement that the SOS March started has made a real difference. Last year we saw the opt out movement grow to such an extent that it threatens the ability to control our schools through tests – and United Opt Out will be in DC. We have seen community activists like the Dyett Hunger strikers take on school closures – and they will be there. We have seen vocal principals like Jamaal Bowman show how to lead schools that nurture children rather than pressure them to perform on meaningless tests – and he will be there.

The fight for democratically controlled public schools that serve our communities goes on. This is an election year, and more than ever, candidates and leaders need to be reminded that schools ought not to be profit centers, students are not commodities, and test scores are not valid indicators of learning.

So mark you calendar NOW and make plans to be in DC for the second historic Save Our Schools March! If you were there in 2011, you want to be there again. If you missed out five years ago, this is your chance to be part of history.