Save Our Schools

Ruth Rodriguez (center) with Linda Nathan (left) and Ann O'Halloran at Occupy the D.O.E.

A Sandinista laborer once asked, “¿Si el luchar porque todo ciudadano tenga el derecho y la oportunidad a una educación es comunismo, entonces en nombre de Dios, explique que es la democracia”? Translation, “If fighting to ensure that every citizen has the right and the opportunity to get an education is communism, then in God’s name explain what democracy is?” Our public education system is being challenged, and the ramifications can threaten the very existence of our democracy.

Public education as we know it is the last bastion of democracy, and it is plain to see that its very existence is threatened. The present day threat is promoted by a club of mostly greedy billionaires, without the courage to admit their real intentions, which is to dismantle democratic public education for their own economic greed. Pretending to promote education reform, and pretending that they care about our children, they have designed such a diabolical scheme that the damage created will take decades to undo. We must not fool ourselves into believing that this is for the common good. We have witnessed the devastating effects these so-called reforms have had on mostly communities of color, but also on society as a whole.

The honorable Leslie Harris of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court admonishes, “The United States spends more money locking up children than educating them, and this country holds the distinction of locking up more people than any other country in the world.” After seeing scores of youths appear before his court, he continues to say, “It is an uphill battle against a mindset focused on the test score bottom line, just one of many fights worth waging for our public school children.” We must insist in breaking down the school-to-prison pipeline. Those that have hijacked our public school system have neither the moral ground nor the fortitude to provide our children the quality education they so deserve. The already crowded public prisons are looking at the test scores of 3rd graders to determine how many beds they will need in ten years. If anyone with a decent heart is not outraged by this, then we have as a society reached its lowest moral ground.

This fight against the “Corporate takeover” of our public institutions must be one of relentless fortitude, incorporating every sector of our society, families, teachers, and students; and those with the moral fiber to stand up to the 1% must come to the front lines. Mark my word; this is a diabolical scheme, masquerading as education reform, one that is well financed and well supported by Wall Street and the political machine. It is a plan that began long before the education reform of the 1990s. It is interesting to note that a century ago, public education in the United States faced similar corporate takeover, but today’s takeover is better financed and much greedier. We have to understand this scheme, and families must understand it as well if we are ever going to have a chance of overthrowing these moguls. Corporate intentions must be exposed if we are going to save our future generations from the sector trying to prevent them from living out their dreams.

Shame on those who are exploiting our precious children only to satisfy their bottomless greed! If these so-called education reformers truly believed in the reform they are promoting in our communities, then why is it that we don’t see them rushing to enroll their own children in the test-prep factories to which they are subjecting our children? Why don’t they wait in line for a lottery for a chance in the for-profit charter schools, with Teach for America interns? No, because their children attend great schools that are not tied to high stake tests; schools that have state-of-the-art gymnasiums, art and music, cafeterias that serve healthy meals, full-time nurses and counselors, fully equipped libraries, science labs–need I go on? Instead, our children must attend schools with plenty of testing, test consultants, and little time for real learning and growing. The schools our children must attend are subjected to inadequate resources, fear of closing down, with local media advertising the names of schools that are not meeting AYP, and all in the name of high-stakes accountability. While schools are being closed across the country, test companies and for-profit charters schools are reaping huge profits and families in the neediest communities are being told that their schools are closing because of the state of the economy.

As the Saturday Night Live saying goes, “Really?” Is this the type of reform that will leave no child left behind? Is this the race to the top? I don’t think so, and neither should you. Now more than ever I believe that our struggle to Save Our Schools is the one civil rights cause of our time. Unfortunately, those we battle, who have designed such a scheme, have so much money and so much power, coercing powerful people into their plot that it has made our struggle so much harder. The biggest stumbling block facing us is the marriage between Wall Street and Washington D.C./local governments, and to top it all this union has the blessing of the Supreme Court. But, as we all know they are the 1%, and we are Davids, the 99%. We have the experience and the history of struggle behind us, so today I have faith that combining all of our energies, remembering that these are our precious children that we are fighting to save and that in the end we will defeat the giant Goliath.

! El Pueblo Unido Jamás Sera Vencido! The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

Ruth Rodriguez

Save Our Schools/United Opt/Out

Washington, D.C.

March 31, 2012