Education International
Education International

USA: Education workers demonstrate against privatisation

published 9 August 2011 updated 27 February 2012

Thousands of students, teachers and education advocates from across the USA have gathered in the capital, Washington DC, for the ‘Save Our Schools’ march and rally to demonstrate against privatisation and to stand up for public schools.

Teachers at the march, which was endorsed by both of EI’s affiliates  in the USA, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), called for less teacher bashing, less emphasis on standardised tests and more support for education reforms that work, such as smaller class sizes and improved teacher preparation.

President of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, Mary Cathryn Ricker, told the rally, “I’m marching for every child who deserves a well-prepared and effective teacher, and that’s every child.”

Many protesters called for a change in the direction of schools policy, which includes the acceleration of privatised charter school programmes, the withdrawal of union negotiating rights in some states, attacks on pensions, cuts in public school budgets, increases in high stakes testing and the linking of pay and tenure to testing.

President of the Washington Teachers’ Union, Nathan Saunders, said: “Education reform must come from communities, parents, students and teachers. We must restore their influence over education policy and practice.”

Teachers’ Solidarity also reported that there was a large delegation of teachers from Wisconsin who have been facing particularly vicious attacks from their state government. The rally was addressed by teachers from around the US, as well as the Hollywood actor, Matt Damon, whose mother is a teacher, who spoke movingly of his commitment to public schools and the debt he owed them.

Leading education scholar and writer, Alfie Kohn, told Education Week: “We are living through what future historians will surely describe as one of the darkest eras in American education. At a time when teachers, as well as the very idea of democratic public education, came under attack; when carrots and sticks tied to results on terrible tests were sold to the public as bold ‘reform’; when politicians who understand nothing about learning relied uncritically on corporate models and metaphors to set education policy; when the goal of schooling was as misconceived as the methods, framed not in terms of what children need but in terms of ‘global competitiveness’. That is, how US corporations can triumph over their counterparts in other countries.

“There will come a time when people will look back at this era and ask, ‘How could they have let this happen?’ By participating in this march, by speaking out in our communities, we’re saying that we need to act before we lose an entire generation to this insanity. The corporate-style school reformers don’t have research or logic on their side. All they have is the power to impose their ignorance with the force of law. To challenge their power, therefore, means we need to organize. We must make sure that the conversation about the how’s and why’s of education is driven by educators.”

To read more about the march visit: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2011/07/alfie_kohn_we_have_to_take_bac.html

To read more about NEA's and AFT's campaigns, visit: www.educationvotes.nea.org and www.aft.org/election2012/electionsmatter.cfm