Parents, teachers and students came together for “walk-ins” at schools across the country Wednesday morning, rallying for more funding for public education and against harsh discipline policies, overtesting and the expansion of charter schools.
Thousands of people were expected to participate in events at more than 2,000 schools in more than 200 cities, according to the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, which organized the event. The alliance is a coalition of groups including the nation’s two largest teachers unions.
In Chicago, the walk-ins served not only as a way to call for more funding but also as a way to rally support for teachers, who plan to strike next week if their union does not reach a contract deal with the school system. In Massachusetts, it was an opportunity to speak out against Question 2, a ballot measure that, if approved, would allow state officials to approve up to 12 new charter schools per year.
In New York, more than a dozen parents and advocates — and one 15-year-old student — are walking from New York City to Albany to press state officials to increase school funding by billions of dollars to comply with a decade-old court ruling that found that the state’s education funding is inadequate. And in Ohio, where the adoption of Common Core-aligned tests in 2015 sparked a broad backlash against standardized testing, teachers protested “high-stakes” testing.
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine joined a walk-in at the K-8 Spring Garden School in Philadelphia, using the opportunity to speak about his running mate Hillary Clinton’s priorities for K-12 education, including providing teachers with stronger professional development, bringing community services into schools to help students with issues from hunger to health care, and bolstering computer science classes and career and technical education.
Kaine’s attendance at the walk-in was the latest evidence of a close relationship between teacher unions — who have been sharply critical of the Obama administration’s approach to standardized testing, charter schools and other issues — and the top of the Democratic ticket. He echoed Clinton’s promise that teachers would be integral to shaping a Clinton administration’s policies. “We’re going to have teachers around the table to make sure we have policies that work,” he said, according to a video of his remark posted on Facebook.
Speaking in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Kaine also used the opportunity to take shots at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying that Trump’s record on education is limited to Trump University, a series of real estate workshops that sparked several lawsuits accusing Trump of defrauding students.
Kaine was joined at Spring Garden by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a friend and adviser of Clinton’s who said she thinks that the walk-ins are evidence of widespread support for investing in public schools. She said she sees a limited role for charter schools, but they must be accountable and transparent, she said — and they must complement, not replace, traditional public schools.
She pointed to a recent national poll by Phi Kappa Delta that found 84 percent of people think that failing schools should be kept open and improved rather than closed. “Everybody knows we need changes,” she said. “But it starts with a commitment to public education, which is the only commitment that America has had to all of its children.”