Press Release

Parents, Students and Teachers “Walk-In” at 900+ Public Schools in 30 Cities to Demand the Kind of Education that All Children Deserve
Call for Adequate Funding Too Long Denied to Public Schools Serving African American & Latino Communities

Decry Role of Wall St. & Corporate
Billionaires in Attacks on Public Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2016
CONTACT:
Ira Arlook
202-258-5437, ira@fenton.com

Thousands of parents, teachers and students staged “Walk-Ins” at over 900 public elementary and high schools in 30 cities this morning (Wednesday, February 17) as classes begin. They gathered, placards in hand, thirty minutes before the start of the school day, then walked into their public school buildings to show support for an adequately funded approach to public education called “community schools,” now implemented in systems serving five million students. The largely African American and Latino parents and students want the benefits afforded by community schools for their children. In some cities, Walk-In participants focused their concerns on issues including adequate tax revenues for their public schools, opposition to over-testing, an end to school takeovers, and other local issues.

These Walk-Ins are the opening salvo in a major battle–a national campaign–to ensure that the country that invented public education as an essential feature of a democratic society continues to offer it. Here are the basic demands, followed below by comments from participants in today’s Walk-Ins.:

· We demand a world class public education for all children—the kind of education that all children deserve and the very kind that has often been denied to Black, Brown and poor children. Our country has the resources to fully fund our schools and the obligation to our children to do so.

·  We demand accountability and transparency for charter schools and operators. Every school that receives public funds is held to the same high standards of transparency and student success, including schools serving students of color, students with special needs and low-income students. And we want to stop the growing efforts by billionaires, like the Walton Family, to privatize public education.

· We demand revenue to fully fund our schools. We want those Wall Street and corporate titans who claim to be education reformers to contribute their fair share of the tax dollars needed to ensure adequate public school funding for the low-income African American and Latino communities that need it most.

Public schools and public education are under attack and most aggressively by Wall Street and hedge fund billionaires—many of whom nearly brought down the entire U.S. economy in 2008—and companies like Walmart, infamous for the mistreatment of its employees and low wages that harm communities that need the most help. Wall Street and Walmart lobbyists continue to press for unaccountable charter schools and other dubious approaches that promise much but so often fall short in practice, while siphoning off taxpayer dollars that our public schools need to succeed. These are the people who have received the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth over the past several decades but who continue to resist paying their fair share of the taxes needed to fund our public schools adequately.                                 

We know that our public schools can provide tools, time and support that students need whatever their zip code to inspire their natural curiosity, imagination and desire to learn. But only if they are funded to offer relevant and challenging curriculums, emphasize high quality teaching rather than constant high-stakes testing, more one-on-one instruction time, positive discipline, needed support services like vision testing and food banks as well as parent involvement in planning and decision-making.

Schools that incorporate these features produce better results than other approaches and do so without closing schools – a problem that now plagues so many neighborhoods where insufficient or misallocated resources have failed our students. This effective approach to educating our children, embodied in community schools, is much needed in low-income African American and Latino communities. See link below:

http://populardemocracy.org/news/publications/community-schools-transforming-struggling-schools-thriving-schools

​​It is a bitter irony that so many of those Wall Street billionaires and corporate CEOs who have ​acquired almost all of the new wealth created over the past several decades continue to deny and deflect attention from what African American and Latino communities know only too well, that our public schools have been sabotaged by consistent, long-term underfunding. These moguls foist upon us failed, undemocratic alternatives including school takeovers and for-profit control of our schools rather than pay their fair share of the tax revenues needed to provide the education that all our children deserve. Over the coming months, and however long it takes, we will fight to reverse this state of affairs and ensure that public schools in low-income communities of color survive and flourish.

QUOTATIONS FROM WALK-IN PARTICIPANTS FROM Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Hazelwood MO, Dallas, Los Angeles, American Federation of Teachers, and National Education Association                       

Chicago, Brighton Park neighborhood

This is our education. Our future depends on the type of education we get right now. Kelly High School has struggled with budget cuts that have left the school with fewer extracurricular opportunities and fewer teachers. Alongside our teachers, it’s up to us as students to raise our voices and demand the education we deserve, said Evelyn Solis, a senior at Kelly High School on the Southwest side of Chicago.  

There is no need for new charter schools in our neighborhood. We already have amazing options and we want the public, neighborhood schools we already have to be able to thrive, said Stephanie de Leon, a senior at Kelly High School and President of its Student Council.

In Brighton Park, we see no evidence of a long term plan for the future of sustainable, high quality, public education in Chicago, other than the privatization of and systematic disinvestment from public education that is destabilizing communities in our city. I am walking-in because it is time for an elected school board in Chicago that will invest in sustainable, community schools, said Anita Caballero, a Brighton Park resident and President of the Board of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

Philadelphia

I’m doing the walk in to bring parents together, and bring to light the injustice the School Reform Commission has committed, Kenya Nation Holmes, a parent at Wister Elementary School who has led the fight against a charter takeover of the school.  (The state imposed School Reform Commission recently overrode the recommendation of the Philadelphia District Superintendent and voted to turn the school over to a charter operator.)

They are stealing our public schools from our communities, and they have taken away our right to choose, as parents, who we want to educate our children, so I’m walking in for justice, justice for our families, to end the SRC (School Reform Commission) and their reign of terror in Philadelphia Public Schools. Walk with me, Our school today, your school tomorrow,” said Gail Tarver, a Wister grandparent.

Milwaukee

I am a Milwaukee public school special education teacher and I’m proud  to be walking in with thousands of educators, parents and students on Wednesday for public community schools that welcome and serve all of our students in Milwaukee. Milwaukee wants public community schools not takeovers. We love our public schools,”  said Amy Mizialko.

Hazelwood MO

I am a band alum. I started playing in 4th grade at Russell until I graduated from West. There is no reason these should be cut. Kids need PE to help burn off excess energy so they can focus better in the classroom. Music stimulates the minds just as much, if not more than math and science, said Andrea Till Scarborough Class of 2008 Hazelwood West High School. Hazelwood MO school district (racially diverse, working class area in North St. Louis County with 34 schools that announced this week cuts of 28 teaching positions in music and PE).

I’m walking in to stand up for public schools and the students at Cold Water Elementary, said Connie Steinmetz, Hazelwood reading specialist.

 Dallas

Strong public schools are the backbone of strong neighborhoods. That’s why I am walking into Dunbar Elementary with my son on February 17 and fighting for community schools in Dallas. Our kids deserve the best education we can provide them, said Cristina Lopez, a Texas Organizing Project parent-leader with a son in Dallas ISD.

Los Angeles

As educators, there is nothing more important than engaging meaningfully with our students, our parents and our community.  On Wednesday, in 170  LAUSD schools, we will celebrate and stand together to show our strength and demand well-funded public education for every student in Los Angeles, said Mike Ramirez, 1st grade teacher, 20th Street school.

American Federation of Teachers’ President

All across the country, people are speaking up for racial and economic justice—and a high-quality public education is key to both of those goals. Today, we’re walking in—parents, educators, students and communities—to demand that policymakers invest in public education. We demand  rich curriculum, programs that support the whole student, multiple pathways to college and career and a fair wage and voice on the job for educators and staff. We’re walking in to demand full and fair funding of all schools, and to reclaim the promise of a high-quality public education for every student in America, said Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers.

Today, NEA educators will walk-in with students, parents, and community members to proclaim loudly that every child, regardless of zip code, deserves the support, tools, and time to learn. A child’s opportunity for success should never depend on winning a charter lottery, affording a private school, or living in the right neighborhood. If we’re serious about every child’s future, we must get serious about resourcing all public schools so students have the kind of support they need: more one-on-one attention, inviting classrooms, well-rounded curriculum, health and nutrition programs for those who need it, and schools that serve as hubs for the entire community, said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President, National Education Association.

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