Organizers of Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C., have declined an invitation to meet today at the White House with education advisers to President Obama, saying they would instead be available after the march.
The march, to protest the Obama administration’s corporate-driven education-reform policies, has been in the planning stages for about a year. Some of its organizers have tried for months to get the attention of the White House through letters and blogposts. Suddenly, a few days before the march itself, an invitation was issued for a meeting today.
The executive committee of the march met late Thursday and decided that march organizers would not go to the White House today (some of them are already committed to a conference at American University) but would talk with any administration officials at the protest march if any attend, and would be available for a meeting after the event is over.
Here is the response from the executive committee:
“We sincerely appreciate the interest of the White House in the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. We’d be pleased to host any White House or Department of Education personnel on the Ellipse on Saturday so they can hear firsthand what teachers, students, parents and community members from around the country have to say about public education. Thousands of concerned citizens will be sharing their experiences and their thoughts on the future of our schools. July 30th is your opportunity to listen to us. After the March, we will be open to meeting with White House or Department of Education leaders to further discuss our specific proposals.”
On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with three march participants who had been protesting outside the Education Department.
It seems fair to wonder if the White House’s sudden interest is similar to the administration’s efforts last summer to blunt criticism by a coalition of civil rights groups, who released a framework for education reform that skewered administration policies. Before the framework was released, administration officials met with some of the leaders of the group in the coalition, and afterward some backed off their criticism.
We’ll see just how interested Obama’s education advisers really are in talking to leaders of the march by watching whether they set up a meeting when the event is over.
Justin Hamilton, spokesman for the Education Department, said some department officials would be attending the march, though Duncan would not, and Hamilton probably wouldn’t either.
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