Rallying for Texas schools
AUSTIN, Texas--Some 4,000 people gathered at the state Capitol March 24 to protest the continuing attack on public education in Texas. Among the demonstrators were teachers, students, parents and ordinary people from all over the state, united in their concern for the future of public education in Texas.
Although the general theme among the speeches was about holding elected officials accountable through voting, there also was a growing militancy among the crowd that made an impact.
Even some administrators were willing to go on stage and lament how the state had failed students, while encouraging pressure from below.
John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, decried the continued encroachment of for-profit schools, budget cuts and the general lack of representation for the people of Texas in the decision-making process. He stated that the government of the state of Texas has:
called on our children to become technicians instead of humans, regurgitators of math and science facts, who produce well-rounded bubbles in place of well-rounded souls; it has sought to make our children quantifiable shells of people, their guiding light of curiosity snuffed out by an idiot's opinion of what constitutes a human education.
Kuhn continued by saying that these and other grievances have created a situation for teachers in which "patience is no longer a virtue."
John Folk, the superintendent of Northside Independent School District, explained how he was told at a legislative session that he "needed to get used to the new normal"--the "new normal," of course, meaning larger class sizes and dwindling resources.
This is occurring at the same time that property taxes are being lowered, and the Texas House of Representatives passed an egregious resolution lowering the sales tax on yachts--eliminating approximately $1.4 million annually in tax revenue.
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THE FIERY speeches on display at the rally are the result of the deep anger felt by those who are bearing the brunt of this attack.
One protester, Mike Espinoza, came to the rally on a charter bus with about 200 other people from the Edgewood Independent School Sistrict in San Antonio. He is the parent of a special needs student, and he explained the root of the problem very clearly: "We're under attack from politicians who want to privatize public education."
Espinoza stated that this was the result of the politicians' allegiance to the rich. He also noted that lower quality education gave them greater amount of social control. Like many others at the rally, Espinoza favored taxing the rich to pay for the education crisis.
Rebecca Boukhlif, president of the Spring Branch local of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said she attended the rally "because I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." She noted that as a social studies teacher she had seen tests where the questions were harder on the eighth-grade-level tests than they were on the eleventh-grade-level tests. It was evident, she said, that "corporate profit is destroying public education."
Another inspiring moment at the rally occurred in a speech by University of Texas student Lucien Villaseñor, who connected the attack on public education to the attack on higher education:
We students came to the legislature during the session and asked them nicely not to cut us. Instead, we saw $90 million in cuts to [the University of Texas]. Meanwhile, Texas is giving Apple, who has $100 billion in cash on hand, $35.5 million in tax cuts. That's why we can't pay for anything in this state--because we aren't taxing the businesses and the rich, who we build all the wealth for.
Villaseñor then called on everyone to take the fight to the streets, schools, campuses and workplaces.
Ken Zarafis of Education Austin said that it was wonderful to see so many people at the event, especially since it wasn't during a legislative session. As he pointed out, however, "one rally isn't enough"--the solution requires "consistent pressure."
While the movement to apply that kind of pressure is still yet to be created in Texas, if this rally is any indication, the possibility for such a movement is very real, and is becoming more so with every new cut.