People involved in education as parents, teachers and even students have been so outraged at the actions of BloomKlein and the Tweed Toadies, and their anger has barely been contained. In recent weeks an outlet for these passions has opened up with the idea that a rally at Bloomberg's residence on Thursday afternoon from 4-6:30 pm would be an excellent way to a) demonstrate to the city and the nation that there is a growing resistance to the education deform movement, with a focus on the school closings and the charter school invasion of public school spaces and b) give participants a sense of unity and purpose for future struggles by having one big party in the streets near Bloomberg's residence (17 East 79th St).
And future struggles there will be, with the next one coming just days later on Jan. 26 at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting where all 22 announced school closings will be voted on. The meeting will be held at Brooklyn Tech HS.
One major difference in the two rallies is that the UFT is organizing the PEP rally and ignoring and actively discouraging the Jan. 21 event, which has groups like the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the Concerned Advocates for Public Education (CAPE), the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) and Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) amongst a growing list backing the rally at Bloomies.
In addition, schools are signing on. Parents and teachers at PS 15 in Red Hook and Jamaica HS have endorsed the rally and some of the closing schools may form committees to support it - if they don't get scared off by the UFT, which has the ability to use less than subtle blackmail - "we won't help you fight if you support this." But people have seen the UFT do nothing, absolutely nothing to save schools from closing in the past, though this outrage of throwing 22 schools in their face by the DOE seems to have forced them to act. My guess is the UFT's strategy is to try to save 2 or 3 schools and pull a Bush by having Mulgrew land a jet, exit and declare, "Mission accomplished."
The Jan. 21 rally is significant in that people often waited for the UFT, the elephant in the room to act first. This time parents and teachers have been saying, "Screw the UFT. They hold their big, boring rallies with boring speakers and then go home without accomplishing anything other than use the event for narrow PR purposes" instead of building a strategy to fighter over the long run.
CAPE, GEM, ICE, and TJC are also organizing around the Jan. 26 PEP rally, but felt that something had to be done in advance of the PEP meeting when the rubber stamp panel will undoubtedly vote in favor of closing the schools. Bloomberg's residence as opposed to the same old City Hall/Tweed rallies seems to be capturing people's imagination. As Jamaica's chapter leader James Eterno told me, "The students want to go to Bloomberg's house."
That students are getting involved can turn out to be BloomKlein's biggest nightmare. You have to watch them react when students get up at meetings (see the video I put up of BCHS student leader Chris Petrillo) and criticize them (as opposed to the disdain they show to teachers). They sit up and pay rapt attention in an attempt to demonstrate that they are interested in "children first." A famous power house attorney is providing legal assistance since the police are violating First Amendment rights by trying to shift demos at Bloomies' to 5th Ave by Central Park where there might less people impacted. Some people worry about numbers. The organizers are not. They see this as a start, the first in a series of actions that may begin to make the case against the education deformers.
What can you do?
BE THERE. And not alone. Bring every teacher and parent and student you know who is plain fed up.
Download the pdf below and hand it out in your schools. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Note: Come to the GEM organizing meeting for both the Jan. 21 and Jan. 26 rallies today at CUNY at 4:30, rm 5414 or 5409.Bring id.
Jan 21 Rally