From Massachusetts to California to Virginia and Colorado and every corner of the United States, parents, students, educators and community leaders arrived at school early on Feb. 17. They gathered outside at 800 local schools in more than 30 communities and walked into school buildings together in a show of solidarity to reclaim the public schools and colleges our kids deserve.
On March 3, locals all over New York State will follow up that national effort and take their own action on issues that mean the most in their communities. It is all part of a concerted effort coordinated with coalition partners under the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which includes NYSUT, the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizens Action, and the AFT and National Education Association, NYSUT's national affiliates.
A day of action "sends a strong message that we love our public schools," said elementary school teacher Kim Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.
Now, New York public school and college supporters must send that same message to the state Legislature and the governor.
"Our public schools and colleges belong to all of us — the students, the parents, the educators and staff, and the communities they anchor," Pallotta said. "No longer will we allow ourselves to be divided."
The corporate-style reforms of recent years have disregarded the voice of these stakeholders in an attempt to impose a system of winners and losers, he said. That must end now.
"None of our students deserve to be collateral damage," he said.
The March 3 events around the state aren't limited to walk-ins. They will take different shapes and focus on specific issues afflicting communities:
- In Buffalo, members will stress the attacks on autonomy and fairness in the current receivership law.
In the Southern Tier, participants will wear union T-shirts to show how they "Respect Public Education."
On Long Island, one local will opt for picket signs during rush hour traffic.
In the Hudson Valley, a community plans a candlelight vigil.
A Capital District local will host a walk-in in the morning and a letter-writing campaign at night.
In Rochester, the day will feature a large scale march from a city elementary school to the Monroe CC downtown campus for a rally.
"Get creative! Have fun!" said Billy Easton, AQE executive director. "Whatever your local action, make sure it emphasizes our core priorities for the state budget."
NYSUT's budget priorities include:
- Fair and adequate school funding through a school aid increase of $2.9 billion with a priority on ending the inequality in schools. It has now been a decade since the final Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision and schools are owed $4.8 billion to fulfill every child's right under the state constitution to a "sound, basic education."
Affordable and quality public higher education through a $717 million increase in state funding for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges, including a real maintenance of effort for four-year campuses and increasing funding for the Tuition Assistance Program, opportunity programs and enacting the DREAM Act.
Modify the undemocratic tax cap to ensure schools and students can be adequately supported by their local communities.
An end to receivership which is yet another top-down, damaging intervention imposed on communities. Let's demand adequately funded, high-quality community schools that are redesigned with full engagement of parents, teachers and other school staff, administrators and communities.
Full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds. In 2011, the state promised full-day pre-K to all 4-year-olds, yet 90,000 4-year-olds are still waiting for full-day pre-K.