Save Our Schools

By Anthony Cody

Illustrator: Randall Enos

Illustration: Randall Enos

Washington, D.C.
March and Rally
 • Sat., July 30

Pre-March Conference • July 28-29

Post-March Next Steps • July 31

If America needs to reform its public schools, why aren’t public school teachers, students, and families leading the education reform movement? We are the ones most familiar with the problems with our current school system. Why aren’t our voices being heard?

These questions, posed by education blogger Sabrina Stevens-Shupe, lie at the heart of Save Our Schools (SOS). As teachers, parents, and education activists, we have asked to be heard and been ignored. So this summer we are bringing a protest focused on education issues to our nation’s capital. This is a grassroots movement united around these principles:

  • Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • End high-stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • Teacher, family, and community leadership in forming public education policies
  • Curriculum developed for and by local communities

SOS, which has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, has generated exciting developments nationally. For example, this summer is the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, when anti-racist activists risked their lives to desegregate public transportation in the South. To honor those heroes, a new Freedom Ride, organized by the Plessy and Ferguson Foundation, will bring education activists to SOS.

Phoebe Ferguson is the great-great-granddaughter of Judge Ferguson, whose 1896 ruling legalized segregated facilities. The plaintiff in that case was Homer Plessy, Keith Plessy’s great-grandfather. Two years ago Phoebe and Keith joined forces to form the Plessy and Ferguson Foundation for Education and Reconciliation to support public schools in New Orleans. Plans for this summer’s Freedom Ride include having participants from the original Freedom Rides launch the buses and greet them at historic sites along their way to Washington, D.C.

Two days before the SOS march and rally, a conference focused on connecting and educating grassroots activists will take place at American University. Speakers will include Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss, FairTest Executive Director Monty Neill, and education activists and authors Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol. There will be panels and workshops on defending and transforming public education, including one led by Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp. (Attendance at the conference is limited.)

A film festival will screen Race to NowhereAugust to JuneAmerican TeacherThe Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, Granito de Arena, and other alternatives to Waiting for “Superman.

Speakers at the rally will include Texas school superintendent John Kuhn, poet Taylor Mali, and education leaders Deborah Meier, Pedro Noguera, and Jonathan Kozol. A special session focused on next steps in building this movement will take place on Sunday, July 31.

We hope to see you in Washington. But if you can’t make it, there will be local and regional events around the country, too. Check out the SOS website for more information; to see what’s happening in your area; to make plans to come to the conference, march, and rally; and to see how you can get involved:

Anthony Cody is the science content coach for the Oakland, Calif., public school district and one of the organizers of SOS.