APPR/Teacher Evaluation, Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards
May 04, 2014

Roaring in the rain at Lake Placid: 'Public education is not for sale!'

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
picket in the pines
Caption: "Picket in the Pines felt more like Maid of the Mist," said one activist in a tweet, "but everyone left today with big smiles!" Photos on this page by Karen Miemis and Steve Jacobs.
  • STORIFY: There was so much Twitter activity for Sunday's Picket in the Pines that the hashtag #picketinthepines was trending by late afternoon (running just behind #StarWarsDay!). It was hard to keep up with, but we managed to curate the best of your tweets and photos over the course of the day. Relive it all at storify.com. SEE THE TWEETS AND PHOTOS.

Umbrellas didn't matter much. Ponchos helped, but the water ran off the edges, soaking the bottom of everyone's pants. Wind gusts blew sheets of rain into the faces of the more than 500 people who stood strong and steadfast on a hilltop overlooking Lake Placid, rallying there in response to NYSUT's call to protect public education.

As a Wall Street anti-union crowd met inside to plot top-down education "reform," teachers and parents chanted outside: "Public education is not for sale!" NYSUT members and parents came from Cobleskill, Yonkers, Long Lake, Binghamton, New Paltz, Saranac Lake, Kingston, Western New York, the Capital Region and beyond.

The crowd roared its support of NYSUT President Karen Magee (pictured above), who marked her first month on the job by leading the NYSUT-organized statewide protest in the North Country. Social media was abuzz with comments about the closed door Wall Street privatization agenda, vs. the defenders of public education who picketed outside.

"I have three children and I always told them: who you hang around with is how you are judged," Magee told the crowd. "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, odds are you're a duck!"

The crowd started chanting: "Don't be a duck! Don't be a duck!"

karen magee 

"The true education reformers are teachers," said Magee. The size and determination of the crowd - including some who traveled seven hours to picket in the 39-degree weather - shows "how teachers feel," said Magee. "It shows our anger and frustration."

IN THE MEDIA

NYSUT organized the "Picket in the Pines" to "put the public back in public education." NYSUT officers Andy Pallotta, Paul Pecorale and Martin Messner were on the picket line along with AFT President Randi Weingarten, who came from Washington to show her support.

honk for public schools 

As they marched, behind them tucked discreetly behind some trees, was the elite Whiteface Lodge, where limousines were bringing wealthy corporate stakeholders to the private retreat - "Camp Philos"- for Wall Street "reformers." Sponsored by the anti-union group Education Reform Now and its PAC, Democrats for Education Reform, the retreat's agenda includes for-profit charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, student data collection, testing by for-profit companies and removing classroom educators from shaping curriculum.

picket in the pines 

"Every time DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) says something about education, they say they're representing the people," said Weingarten (pictured above). "If they represent the people wouldn't they want us inside if they really wanted to have a conversation about public education?"

These groups want to "privatize, de-professionalize and starve our schools," she said.

"Can they hear us in there?" Weingarten shouted. "Use your teacher voices. Can they hear us in there?" The crowd yelled back and passing cars honked in support.

picket in the pines 

As speaker Sabrina Stevens of Integrity in Education explained before the pickets began, the corporate reformers use their relationships to consolidate power, while true reformers use relationships to energize people and distribute power.

"We can figure out what's best for education better than the folks behind closed doors," said Don Carlisto, Saranac Lake TA, one of the NYSUT local leaders who helped organize the rally.

picket in the pines 

And closed doors they were. Gail Richmond, retired music teacher from Kingston, worked extra jobs and saved $1,000 to attend Camp Philos.

"I pretty much devote 24/7 to public education," she said. "I felt it was really important. I wanted to understand what we were up against."

She sent in her application and payment and received two confirmation e-mails. But someone must have noticed she put "retired teacher" under occupation. Suddenly her reservation was cancelled. She made phone calls and they weren't returned. Alas, an email finally informed her it was overbooked.

She came anyway. She stood out proudly in the rain.

The signs on the wet hillside said it all: "Public education is not for sale!"