Join the March on Washington 50th Anniversary Events


march on dc3

 August 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, a demonstration organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others in 1963. It was at this event that Dr. King gave his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech.

The theme of the March in 1963 was Jobs and Freedom for African-Americans. The huge turnout and powerful message helped bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Unfortunately, the promise of that era has yet to be fulfilled. Strong efforts are being made to erode many provisions of the Voting Rights Act. And full civil rights for African-Americans – including equal access to quality education – still seems like a dream.

Thousands of people will converge on Washington D.C. in the next few days to commemorate this ground-breaking event, and there will be local observances all across the nation, many of them focused on the struggle in public education. Here are some examples:

• Save Our Schools will have a contingent at a commemorative rally on August 24th in Washington D.C. Public Education is a Civil Right! Save Our Schools calls all teachers, families and students to join with the 50th Anniversary March for Civil Rights, A Continuation of the Battle for Jobs, Justice and Freedom! Meet at Farragut Square at 8:00 a.m. Look for the Save Our Schools banner, pick up your signs, and march to the starting point at the Lincoln Memorial at 8:30.

• Thousands of Chicago-area students, parents, advocates and community representatives are expected to join in a one-day boycott of the Chicago Public Schools and will rally on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in front of the Chicago Board of Education and march to City Hall, where they will hold a 1 pm press conference. The event is being organized by local affiliates of Journey 4 Justice Alliance. August 28th is the Board of Education’s monthly meeting and the third day of school for all students including those from 47 elementary schools just closed by the district.

• To commemorate the March on Washington, North Carolina’s “Forward Together” movement will be holding simultaneous events in all 13 of North Carolina’s Congressional districts. The “Taking the Dream Home” events will all start at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 28. For the location in each district, see the “Taking the Dream Home” Facebook page. North Carolina educators are also asking all North Carolinians to “Wear Red for Public Ed” on Monday, August 26, the first day of school for most of North Carolina’s public schools.

• Other events in Washington D.C. are listed here. The NAACP is asking people who can’t be at the march in Washington D.C. to participate virtually by sending statements of support via Facebook and Twitter on Saturday.

PAA’s Helen Gym makes national news

PAA Founding Member Helen Gym
PAA Founding Member Helen Gym

In last week’s newsletter, we shared several local news clips featuring PAA founding member Helen Gym, leader of Philadelphia PAA affiliate Parents United for Public Education, speaking out on the crisis in that city’s school system.

This week, Helen and the Philadelphia schools story made national headlines, including this front page story in the New York Times and a story on

Here’s what Helen said in the NYT, which explained that the problem is so severe that the city agreed at the last-minute on Thursday to borrow $50 million just to be able to open schools on time. Even with that money, schools will open Sept. 9 with a minimum of staffing and sharply curtailed extracurricular activities and other programs.

“The concept is just jaw-dropping,” said Helen Gym, who has three children in the city’s public schools. “Nobody is talking about what it takes to get a child educated. It’s just about what the lowest number is needed to get the bare minimum. That’s what we’re talking about here: the deliberate starvation of one of the nation’s biggest school districts.”

And in Salon:

“It’s indescribably insane,” says Helen Gym of the advocacy group Parents United for Public Schools, who has three children in the public school system. “It’s unbelievable that it’s come to this.” The group put out a statement Thursday reemphasizing that $50 million was far from enough to have effective schools.

“I don’t send my child to go to a shell of a building, I send my child to get an education,” Gym says. “They can’t do that with $50 million.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer posted a story, 10 questions with Helen Gym, which included this answer from Helen:

“A lot of people have said let education become like the housing or health care market — great opportunities for those who can afford it, dramatic inequity for the rest. We are moving very rapidly away from the notion of what it means to have something be a quality public good. There are those who stand to profit by promoting the idea that everything is for sale — that children are customers, clients and commodities to be bought and sold.”

For more on the Philadelphia schools crisis, read Parents United’s full statement here.

Helen and the Gallup/PDK poll

Helen was also tapped to be an analyst and commenter for the newest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on the public’s opinion on public schools, which was released this week.

The 2013 poll showed some of the strongest public support in decades for public schools and teachers while rejecting many of the current education reform practices like high stakes testing, vouchers, and de-funding of schools.

Helen wrote, “Parents overwhelmingly believe in public schools. We want financial support and smaller class sizes. We want a focus on teaching and learning, not just test scores. Since education policy makers say parent support is a top indicator of school success, they would do well to act on what parents are saying.

See her full statement on the PAA blog or on p.23 of the PDK/Gallup poll report.

School funding is the primary concern of public school parents, according to new Gallup poll”

Helen was also quoted in a U.S. News and World Report story on the poll, which found that few parents knew anything about the Common Core:

“The discussion around Common Core is so far removed from our reality…. In the Philadelphia public schools, where they’ve stripped out almost everything, you can’t have a conversation about the Common Core,” Gym says. “It’s almost laughable to talk about kids being college and career ready when 60 percent of high schools may not even have a guidance counselor.”

Charter school debate with PAA affiliate HispanEduca’s Lourdes Perez!

hispaneducaNew affiliate member Lourdes Perez, leader of PAA Florida-based affiliate HispanEduca, shared the transcript of an Education Week webinar she recently participated in on the topic of facilities funding for charter schools.

The discussion was apparently supposed to center on ways charter schools can access more capital funding (it was subtitled: “The Pursuit for Equity”…) but as you read the transcript, you will see that the participants, led by our own Lourdes, took the discussion in a far more critical direction.

Here’s a sample of the dialogue:

Lourdes Perez: Look at KIPP. They get the money from the government to serve “economically-challenged” or “at risk” communities, but when they weed out students who are not performing (and therefore “impact their statistics”), they send those children back to public schools but don’t return the money. What a great business deal!

Linda Cannady-Balom: And it’s about losing local control.

Melissa Westbrook: KIPP gets those good numbers from their attrition. They do reach many at-risk kids but get rid of the ones they don’t want to serve.

Lourdes Perez: Joshua, you are so right about the testing industry. I used to work for ACT, which far from a “not-for-profit” is a money-making machine with their “suite” of tests.

Joshua Jordan: Right…so does that seem like the purpose of education for the people?

Lourdes Perez: Spot-on, Melissa!

Joshua Jordan: Seems to me that education is supposed to adequately prepare everyone for democratic participation in a social and digital world…how does having a fancy building improve my ability to navigate this digital environment?

Lourdes Perez: The student population that the organization I preside represent, Hispanics, are not necessarily doing better in charter schools.

Joshua Jordan: Neither do any minorities.

Kind words for PAA

I missed sharing this article written by Janelle Scott and posted on Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post Answer Sheet blog a couple of weeks ago. The article critiques the market-based school reformers’ misuse of civil rights language to promote their strategies, and contrasts them with PAA and a number of other progressive public school advocates:

Groups like Rethinking Schools, as well as other organizations such as the Education Opportunity Network, Parents Across America, Class Size Matters, New York Collective of Radical Educators, Forum for Education and Democracy, Coalition for Essential Schools, and A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education are examples of organizations advocating for an alternative vision of good public education. These organizations promote public schools that are open, nested in communities, have excellent teachers and school leaders, and are well resourced, diverse, and democratic. Despite a lack of funding and political support, they have the potential to reorient current efforts toward more democratic, high-quality, and representative public education. Their task is to build networks that bridge communities, as the civil rights movement did decades ago.


Update on this week’s North Carolina Moral Monday from PAA affiliate Mecklenburg ACTS co-chair Pam Grundy


A great crowd turned out for Charlotte Moral Monday this week, according to PAA founding member Pamela Grundy, co-chair of Charlotte, North Carolina PAA affillate As part of the event, Pamela addressed the on-the-ground effects of recent budget cuts, and the need for parents to speak out. She said:

Step by step, our legislators are following the ALEC education blueprint, which aims to undercut our public education system in order to open the field to private, often highly profitable alternatives that will not prepare our children for the future.

As parents, we need to speak out. No one has a greater stake in a strong public education system than we do. It is crucial to our children as individuals, and to the state and nation that they will inherit.

We need to join with teachers in calling for a rational, research-based approach to education that includes decent teacher pay, appropriate class sizes, a rich and engaging curriculum and assessments based on work done throughout the year, rather than on high-stakes tests.

We need to enlist our PTAs and PTOs, call on our state representatives, send e-mails, write letters and make calls. We need to fight for our children and their future. Forward together. Not one step back.

You can read Pamela’s full statement here.

PAA-square-logo--300x225If you share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policy making, we invite you to affiliate with us if you are an existing group, or to form a new PAA chapter. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. Here’s how!

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