Thousands of people are taking part in the first-ever nationwide "school walk-in" action on Wednesday, rallying at more than 800 public schools in 30 cities to protest budget cuts, state takeovers of education, and high-stakes standardized testing.
Walk-ins are expected to take place in at least 100 schools in Chicago alone, where the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is embroiled in tense negotiations with the district over fair contracts and budget cuts and is poised to hold a massive citywide strike in the coming weeks if a deal is not reached. Rallies are also expected to take place in Boston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Seattle, and San Diego, among other cities.
Teachers, students, and community members are gathering in front of their schools for half-hour rallies to picket, talk about the issues facing their schools, and share stories of how budget cuts have impacted them, and then "all walk in to their schools together." On Twitter, the actions are being updated under the hashtag #ReclaimOurSchools.
The movement is being organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a coalition that includes the American Federation of Teachers, the Journey for Justice Alliance, and the Center for Popular Democracy, among other organizations and unions.
"The future of public education in the United States stands at a critical crossroad," a statement from the Alliance reads. "Over the past two decades, a web of billionaire advocates, national foundations, policy institutes, and local and federal decision-makers have worked to dismantle public education and promote a top-down, market-based approach to school reform. Under the guise of civil rights advocacy, this approach has targeted low-income, urban African-American, Latino and immigrant communities, while excluding them from the reform process."
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"These attacks are racist and must be stopped," the statement continues.
The movement is demanding:
- Full, fair funding for neighborhood-based community schools that provide students with quality in-school supports and wraparound services
- Charter accountability and transparency and an end to state takeovers of low-performing schools and districts
- Positive discipline policies and an end to zero-tolerance
- Full and equitable funding for all public schools
- Racial justice and equity in our schools and communities.
In Milwaukee, where Governor Scott Walker in 2015 gutted public education funding despite widespread outcry, walk-ins are expected at dozens of schools. The rallies "send a strong message that we love our public schools and we stand united against any attempt to turn our public schools over to private operators who don’t serve all children and are not accountable to parents, voters, or a locally elected school board," said Kim Schroeder, a teacher and president of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.
Betsy Kippers, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, added, "If we’re serious about improving schools, we need to invest in the public schools that provide opportunity for all children, no matter what their ZIP codes. Time and again, Americans have said they prefer improving public schools to spending scare tax dollars on voucher schools or lining the pockets of independent charter schools."