National Day of Action to Defend Public Education
March 4 – GEM’s Message
GEM organizes in defense of quality and equal public education and we join in solidarity with activists in this struggle across the US. Public education, from kindergarten to college levels, must be fully funded and serviced with:
· Quality physical plants, furnishings and resources (no cutbacks)
· Small class sizes with full staffing (no-layoffs)
· Creative curricula, not scripted & test-driven
· Fully funded student services, such as health, daycare and transportation (e.g. metro cards)
· Democratic governance by parents, community and educators
· Improved wages, benefits and labor rights for all school workers
· Fair and comprehensive staff & school evaluation processes, not by discredited test-driven-data
Our Department of Education (DOE), through the dictatorial mayoral control of Bloomberg, has been hijacked by wealthy corporates who aim to take control of our public schools for the interests of their private sector via charters. This drive to privatize, not only our schools but all working class services, is being pushed throughout the US and globally by the likes of profiteers such as Bill Gates, the Walton Foundation, Robertsons & Eli Broad. This privatization campaign is in high gear now with Obama’s “Race to the Top” demand that more schools be closed and that state “private-charter school caps” be lifted.
The DOE drive to shut down public schools & replace them with charters has targeted primarily Black and Latino communities, which the government has historically failed to properly provide for. Instead of focusing on school improvement, corporate-government has today only offered charter schools as the alternative and they have proliferated in a blatantly racist pattern in our communities of color. These elite, separate and unequal charter schools (ala Eva Moskowitz HSA charters) use shameful “divide & conquer” tactics to invade, deteriorate and take over our public schools. Charters are wreaking divisions that only weaken all our struggles to improve all community services. Today West and East Harlem (El Barrio) are the epicenter in NYC for these insidious charter invasions.
Privatized charter schools serve to:
· Subject our children to discriminatory and highly selective lottery school-acceptance process
· Privatize school control by corporate boards that violate the right to democratic governance of parents, community & teachers
· Do not service higher needs students such as Special Education, English Language Learners and the poorest
· Seek to drive down school worker wages, benefits, pensions, and union rights
· Increase disparity as charters select the highest performing students and can force “undesirables” out
GEM continues to protest against all school closings and their subsequent takeover or invasion by private charter schools. At Chancellor Klein’s sham “school closing & charter co-location hearings” or at his rubber-stamp Panel for Educational Policy – PEP (Bloomberg controlled), GEM is there to speak about the futility of just presenting favorable data, pleading, petitioning and litigating to save one’s school. GEM urges our schools to use these “hearings” as places to network and organize our fight-back.
Unfortunately, the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has supported the charter-privatization agenda. The UFT thus will not truly mobilize and organize its members with our communities to effectively mount a necessary militant and massive campaign against privatization and charter union-busting. The UFT itself already manages two charters that have invaded public schools in Brooklyn. Through grassroots organizing, GEM aims to keep mobilizing and to fill that leadership void.
GEM urges students, parents, school workers, and community to organize school committees at their schools which will strategize collectively on how to fight back. School fight-back committees need to build vocal and militant union chapters, Parent Associations and student unions that will coordinate efforts. GEM works to support those united school committees and to network them on a citywide level. United we can democratically and creatively decide on how to protect, defend and promote the interests of all our students against Bloomberg, Klein and their corporate interests.