Education International
Education International

USA: EI affiliates Unite for Quality Education - Successful national Day of Action for public education

published 11 December 2013 updated 13 December 2013

EI’s US national affiliates, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) participated in a hugely successful National Day of Action for public education on 9 December. This was the largest coordinated action to reclaim the promise of public education in the US, under the banner of the EI Unite for Quality Education campaign.

Parents, teachers, students and community members took part in this Day of Action because they know that the market-based ideologies of privatisation, austerity, division, and competition are failing children. They want to reclaim US schools and improve public education for all.

The Day of Action was truly nationwide, as thousands participated in over 100 events across the country, and hundreds of thousands more showed their support online.

Targeted events

Issues that were highlighted across the US included school funding, student poverty, school safety, and community-led ideas for great public schools:

•             In Maine, there was a food drive for students and families in need this holiday season.

•             In Des Moines, Iowa, where more than 70 per cent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, organisers highlighted the importance of school funding and equity in education. The event included a press conference and a collection for hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, and boots for families in need in the Des Moines Public Schools.

•             In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, community leaders, elected officials, Broadway actors and “Cat in the Hat” visited the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School to promote literacy.

AFT: Market-based approach has failed

“On this Day of Action, we call upon our leaders to listen to those closest to the classroom about what is best for our children,” stated AFT President Randi Weingarten. “While we agree on the overall goal to prepare students for life, career and college, we also must be clear that the market-based approach has failed. We need a new path paved with early childhood education, project-based learning, wraparound services, teacher autonomy, professional development, parent and student voices, fair funding formulas, and more. We must reclaim the promise of public education.”

She added that communities from coast to coast are experiencing injustices in public education that have become all too common—scarce funding and resources, deep-rooted inequities, hyper-testing, school closures, and lack of local control. But while ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and others are trying to diminish public education, parents, teachers, students and community groups are taking their schools back.

MSNBC interview with AFT President Randi Weingarten:

NEA: Community driven solutions better

“On 9 December, parents, students, educators and community leaders across the country raised their hands and demanded more for America’s children,” said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President. “On the National Day of Action: Raise Your Hand for our Schools and our Solutions, communities demand that those who know students best devise and implement community-driven solutions to tackle the opportunity gaps in American education.”

The Day of Action arose from ongoing collaboration among the NEA, the AFT, and several key community partners to mobilise support for public education. They are pushing back against the corporate takeover of public schools in the US and raising the voices of practitioners and communities about what is best for students, he stressed.

Van Roekel added that the National Day of Action will be followed by multi-city and multi-state campaigns and larger actions in the spring.

EI: Quality public education everybody’s concern

“We welcome this mass action by US educators and civil society at large,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Quality public education is of concern to everybody, and governments in the US and worldwide must take up their responsibility to invest and provide free quality public education systems.”

An infographic about this Day of Action can be downloaded here

You can sign AFT’s petition asking Congress to support “The Principles that Unite Us” by going to http://bit.ly/ReclaimIt! So far, more than 20,000 individuals pledged to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education: Our Schools, Our Solutions, but more are needed!

You can also go to the NEA webpage about the Day of Action by clicking here