Teachers are planning to gather on the Mall in D.C. on Saturday to march in support of public schools — and against the Trump administration’s efforts to slash federal education funding and expand private-school vouchers.
Organizers of the “March for Public Education” say they expect several thousand demonstrators at the D.C. event, which is set to begin at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. And they expect thousands more to show up for sister marches in 15 cities around the country, including Detroit, Austin, Miami and Lincoln, Neb.
They say they want to send a message that public education is essential to a strong democracy, and that the Trump administration’s proposal to cut federal funds by nearly 14 percent — while reinvesting in private-school vouchers and other forms of choice — is unacceptable.
“We’re educators that care about our profession, and we’ve just felt that public education is under threat,” said Steve Ciprani, a high school social studies teacher in West Chester, Pa., who is co-chairing the march.
Ciprani said he and other teachers were inspired to organize the demonstration after attending the Women’s March on Jan. 21, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. Two days later, he started a Facebook group dedicated to an education march, he said — and within a week, it had attracted 5,000 members.
The Women’s March took place just days after Betsy DeVos struggled through a rocky Senate confirmation hearing that turned her into an Internet meme and a household name. She was a target of critics then and has remained one since taking office in February, as the administration has rolled back consumer protections for student loan borrowers, narrowed its approach to civil rights investigations and proposed slashing federal funding for teacher training, after-school programs and work-study programs for college students.
“Months later, we still have the same concerns that we had in February about her leadership,” said Pavithra Nagarajan, a former teacher now studying for a doctorate at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
DeVos — who was most recently the target of protests in Denver, where this week she addressed a gathering of conservative lawmakers — has pushed back against the notion that she’s opposed to public schools. She supports ensuring a range of choices for all families, she says, dismissing critics of her push for school choice as “flat-earthers” and “defenders of the status quo” who are content to perpetuate a system that has failed too many struggling students.
Saturday’s march was planned to coincide with a national meeting in D.C. of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union. Expected speakers include AFT Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, as well as representatives of the NAACP and the immigrant youth advocacy group United We Dream.