Our voices have been heard. Whether we are listened to remains to be seen.
Parents, educators, and students from across the state marched to the Capitol Saturday for the Save Texas Schools rally to express their concern over what could amount to a $10 billion reduction in state funding for schools.
Initial estimates put attendance around 4,000. But during the event, organizers said they had to stop counting — they had volunteers marking people with stickers — at 11,000. Capitol police were more conservative, putting the number at around 8,000. Representatives from over 300 school districts were in attendance, according to Save Texas Schools. The crowd spanned several city blocks as it marched up Congress to the Capitol and participants filled up most of the building’s south lawn when they arrived.
During the two-hour event, speakers included Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, and Perrin-Whitt CISD superintendent John Kuhn. Bill Hammond, the president of the Texas Association of Business, was also slated to speak, but sent a text message Saturday morning saying he would be unable to because he had sprained his ankle, said Save Texas Schools spokesman Jason Sabo.
In addition to tapping the Rainy Day fund, rally-goers urged Gov. Rick Perry to sign the application for the $830 million currently tied up in a political fight in Congress from the federal Education Jobs fund. They also asked lawmakers to fix the state’s public education funding mechanism.
Most lawmakers were not in the Capitol on Saturday but will be in their offices on Monday when teachers plan to use their spring break to make the point again.
Rob D’Amico, spokesman for the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, predicted more than 3,400 teachers, school employees, parents and school board members would flood the Capitol, “a great way to continue the momentum from Saturday.”
For this to be a success, it cannot be a one-day, or one-week occurrence. Everybody needs to keep up the pressure throughout the legislative session, and then into the election season. We’re obviously not going to get everything we want out of this, but even if we get something approaching an acceptable amount, it will mean nothing if current officeholders don’t lose their jobs over it as well. It’s not just about the policy, it’s about the politics. The message is that not funding education is not an option, and anyone who isn’t on board with that is part of the problem. We’ve delivered part of that message now, but it’s just a down payment on what must come next November. EoW and Juanita have more.