July 30 – Save Our Schools Rally calls for end to teacher bashing
“Millions of us are behind you. We love you!” actor Matt Damon told public school teachers at the national “Save Our Schools” march and rally in Washington, D.C., July 30.
Damon joined thousands of parents, students, teachers and education advocates who gathered to stand up for public education and send the message that the nation’s public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy.
Speaker after speaker at the called for less teacher bashing, less emphasis on standardized tests and more support for education reforms that work, such as smaller class sizes and improved teacher preparation.
Damon took aim at standardized tests. “My teachers were empowered to teach me because their time was not taken up by silly test prep,” recalled Damon, who attended public schools in Massachusetts.
As he gets older, the actor said, “I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up.”
Education historian Diane Ravitch also spoke. A former supporter of charter schools, Ravitch now speaks out passionately for public schools and teachers. “We’re here tonight to protest No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top, which are the same thing,” she said. “We protest punishing schools simply because they enroll large numbers of high-needs children.
“We insist, when children have low test scores, they need help. They need attention. They don’t need to have their schools closed. We protest the billions and billions spent on tests. Education is a right, not a race. Races have one or two winners and everyone else loses. Our goal is to prepare all children to be winners in their own lives – no losers.”
Listen to Diane Ravitch:
Education reform, Washington (D.C.) Teachers’ Union president Nathan Saunders said, “must come from communities, parents, students and teachers. We must restore their influence over education policy and practice.”
Linda Darling-Hammond, long a leading voice in the effort to reform schools, warned that
teacher layoffs and cuts in school funding are widening the gap between those schools attended by students from well-to-do families and those schools that serve low-income kids and families.
“We are here to protest policies that produce segregated and underfunded schools,” said Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University. “We are here to challenge the aggressive neglect of our children.” Read her fabulous speech.
Rally participants included members and leaders from NEA and AFT, MEA-MFT’s two national affiliates.
A large contingent of educators from Wisconsin, where public employees are fighting to restore the bargaining rights taken away from them earlier this year by Gov. Scott Walker and the state Legislature, also attended the rally. The Wisconsinites received loud applause and shouts of support when they were introduced.
Comedian and television host Jon Stewart sent video greetings to the crowd.