New York City march for schools
By Michele Showman | May 19, 2009
NEW YORK–About 75 New York City public school teachers, students and parents rallied in lower Manhattan on May 14 to urge the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to resist school closings and control of the schools by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The protest was organized by Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), a coalition of dissident caucuses within the union, as well as parent and community groups. GEM seeks to unite teachers and parents in pressuring the UFT to resist mayoral control and school privatization.
They also came together to support the 1,700 teachers who have lost their jobs as a result of school closings, as well as the hundreds of teachers in temporary re-assignment centers (“rubber rooms”). Their demands include eliminating high-stakes testing, reducing class sizes and no to merit pay. GEM held a conference on charter schools earlier this month at Pace University that built momentum for the protest.
Protesters went to UFT headquarters, where protesters picketed and chanted, “DOE [Department of Education]! Open your eyes! We don’t want to privatize.” The protest continued to the offices of the Department of Education, where a number of speakers spoke to the importance of union resistance to mayoral control, and to democratic control of the schools.
“Over 20 schools have been closed, and more are on the chopping block,” said Angel Gonzalez. “We must oppose principals who behave like centralized dictatorships.”
Marchers cheered when Brian Jones, a middle school teacher in East Harlem, said, “President Obama’s charter schools represent an attempt to do education on the cheap. Billions are available to bail out the banks: we need that money to bail out the schools!”
By connecting teacher union activists with community forces, GEM is mobilizing the kind of force that can stop school closings, and put control of schools in the hands of teachers and parents.