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Thousands Sign New Education Declaration Calling For New School Policies
People like Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, union leaders Randi Weingarten and Dennis Van Roekel; parent activists, such as Rita Solnet; authors Jonathan Kozol Dave Eggers, support this effort.
By Jeff Bryant
As a populist wave of discontent with top-down education mandates continues to sweep the country, more than 25,000 concerned citizens have coalesced behind an Education Declaration to Rebuild America.
A Declaration With Broad Support
Released last week by the Education Opportunity Network, in conjunction with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign and the Institute for America’s Future, the Declaration received widespread attention from national and local outlets.
Reporting from her blog at The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss wrote, “The document offers a progressive approach to school reform that includes ensuring that teachers are properly trained and respected, that opportunities to learn for all students are paramount and that learning must be ‘engaging and relevant.’”
The Chicago grassroots parent activist group PURE said the Declaration “demonstrates that the message of true education progressives is becoming clearer and more unified.”
At the progressive blog site Daily Kos, long-time classroom teacher Kenneth Bernstein wrote, “Increasingly people are coming together to oppose what has been the thrust of educational policy, and to try to reclaim and reinvigorate public education.” Bernstein called the Declaration “an important step in that direction.”
From the website of the Tucson Citizen, local blogger called the Declaration “an answer to the conservative ‘education reform’ movement,” and the document “signals the growing strength of progressive educators at a time when the public is growing skeptical of the endless high-stakes testing.”
At The Huffington Post, Richard Eskow said the Declaration was an answer to “the Wall Street crowd” that “wants us to think of education in terms of means – which usually means finding ways to spend less – rather than ends. But when it comes to education, the ‘ends’ are our children.”
Eskow, who is affiliated with one of the sponsors of the Declaration, noted, “A lot of well-intentioned people get taken in by cynical agendas like this, especially when the other side isn’t being heard. That’s where the “Declaration” comes in. It says that ‘Education is a public good.’ A public good is something that is, or should be, available to all without exception, like clean air, drinkable water, and the national defense.”
Eskow’s words resonated throughout the progressive blogosphere as his post was quickly picked up by the websites Nation of Change and Truthout.
Despite the waning of the school year, the Declaration comes at an opportune time.
America’s Education Spring Rolls On
As The Nation’s John Nichols recently said on MSNBC, what is transpiring in the nation’s public schools “is a mess.”
Huge rallies protesting governance of public schools have taken place in the state capitals of New York and North Carolina.
In Michigan, supporters of public education will rally on June 19 to “reject the corporate, profit-motivated takeover of public schools, massive school closures, and meaningless high-stakes testing.”
In Pennsylvania, a rally is in the works at that state’s capital to protest massive education cuts, including a “Doomsday Budget” in Philadelphia that prompted layoffs of nearly 4,000 school staff.
The fight for public education is flaring in rural areas as well – at least in Tennessee, where families and students are fighting school cuts and consolidations.
And in Texas, a parent-led movement against out-of-control standardized testing came to a head last week when governor Rick Perry signed a bill reducing the amount of testing.
These protests against education mandates are not going away. At the website for The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, there is a running timeline with the latest news on the movement, and new links are added every week.
A Positive Way Forward
The Education Declaration to Rebuild America comes at a time when lawmakers in Washington, D.C. continue to fret over education legislation – the rewriting of No Child Left Behind – that will likely go nowhere and please no one.
Writing at The National Journal, Kevin Welner – the director of the National Education Policy Center and a signatory of the Declaration, wrote, “Perhaps our senators haven’t yet noticed, but their constituents don’t much care for No Child Left Behind. Perhaps they haven’t noticed all the protests against excessive testing and school closings.”
Noting that the Declaration he signed had “in just one day … garnered more than 10,000 signatures,” Welner concluded, “Let’s hope that during the summer recess [the senators] have a chance to speak with parents, students and teachers – people who will ask the fundamental question: Why continue failed policies?”
There is a more positive way forward. Sign the Education Declaration to Rebuild America and help advance that.
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