Home > Uncategorized > Reclaim Our Schools, Arguably an Astroturf Movement, Fighting for Right Principles

Reclaim Our Schools, Arguably an Astroturf Movement, Fighting for Right Principles

February 18, 2016

I read with a mixture of enthusiasm and dismay about the “Walk-In” movement that is occurring in a number of cities around the country sponsored by an organization called “Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools”.

I was enthused because I am in complete agreement with the principles the Alliance stands for and the approach they are using. As described by Common Dreams writer Nadia Prupis, the Alliance is protesting privatization, relentless state budget cuts, state takeovers of education, and high-stakes standardized testing… all issues I have written about extensively.

“The future of public education in the United States stands at a critical crossroad,” a statement from the Alliance reads. “Over the past two decades, a web of billionaire advocates, national foundations, policy institutes, and local and federal decision-makers have worked to dismantle public education and promote a top-down, market-based approach to school reform. Under the guise of civil rights advocacy, this approach has targeted low-income, urban African-American, Latino and immigrant communities, while excluding them from the reform process.”

“These attacks are racist and must be stopped,” the statement continues.

Among the list of topics the Alliance is demanding are:

  • Full, fair funding for neighborhood-based community schools that provide students with quality in-school supports and wraparound services
  • Charter accountability and transparency and an end to state takeovers of low-performing schools and districts
  • Positive discipline policies and an end to zero-tolerance
  • Full and equitable funding for all public schools
  • Racial justice and equity in our schools and communities.

These demands mirror ones that I, too, would place on a short list. Why, then, would I be dismayed? Two reasons: the groups who form the Alliance are arguably self-interested and, consequently, their claim to social justice may be undercut by those who oppose the movement; and the relatively small numbers who participated in the “Walk-in”.

As Prupis reports, the members of the Alliance coalition are “…the American Federation of Teachers, the Journey for Justice Alliance, and the Center for Popular Democracy, among other organizations and unions.” One reason the opt-out movement got the attention of the public was that it was truly a grassroots movement of parents whose leadership intentionally kept their distance from unions who are, unfortunately, a convenient target of politicians who want to engender resentment among taxpayers. When a union is funding a “movement” it appears to conservative minded individuals the way anything funded by the Koch brothers appears to Progressives.

The numbers who participated in these various “Walk Ins” are evidently not that substantial as compared to those who opted out or those who participate in North Carolina’s Moral Monday gatherings. Instead of giving a precise number with, say, five digit, Prupis describes the number of participants as “thousands”. When a well planned event (which this presumably was) is held in a multiple cities (i.e. Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Diego) a major grassroots movement would hope to engage tens of thousands of people.

Despite my misgivings about the funding for the movement, I hope that it gains traction and gets the crowds their principles deserve because children raised in poverty and children whose parents do not advocate for them need someone to speak for them… and I DO believe the union members serving those children DO have the interest of children at the forefront.

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