Standing atop a box at the podium Saturday so she can take in the massive throng of rally-goers gathered on the Empire States Plaza, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten waves a Baldwinsville Teachers Association towel and whips up the crowd of several thousand into a frenzy.
“We are here to reclaim the promise of public education …and to stop this craziness of disclosure, testing and budget cuts,” she yells to applause. “If we do not speak with one voice … then we cannot fight against this growing inequality and inequity.”
Weingarten’s call to arms is one echoed repeatedly Saturday by United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and Joyce Powell of the National Education Association, all three of whom make it clear to the parents, students, families and educators who attended the “One Voice United” rally that: We are in a fight for the very future of public education.
“I would rather take on that [fight] with people like all of you,” Mulgrew (pictured above) declares, because we “are the people who have decided to make a difference in the lives of children.”
Powell says Saturday’s rally is important to effect change on both the state and national levels, as teachers across the country are being subjected to unfair evaluations based on a barrage of standardized testing.
“As teachers, we know tests are used for learning, and not as weapons of punishment,” Powell said.
“We must stop this unnecessary testing and protect the privacy of students from test profiteers,” she said. “Our students are not for sale.”
Joyce Powell, NEA
Weingarten says the AFT, which along with the NEA is a national affiliate of NYSUT, is in favor of Common Core standards. But, she says, the rush to implement unfair testing will be the Common Core’s death.
“That’s why we are calling for a moratorium,” she said. “We have an obligation to give all our kids the skills they need for tomorrow.”
Mulgrew says the relentless push to privatize and profit off public school students through testing is private-sector assault that must be defeated.
“They see us as a marketplace. They don’t see us as a learning place,” he said. “We are in a war for the soul of this country’s education system.”