An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 educators, parents, and students converged on the Texas State Capitol on Saturday, February 23, for the second annual “Save Our Schools” march and rally. The organization pulls together a variety of education advocacy groups, educators, parents, and students from across the state to urge the legislature to fully fund education.
Two years ago, Texas schools were shorted $5.4 billion by the legislature, and the organization is urging those cuts to be restored. Speakers also referenced other issues the state faces, like pending bills on school vouchers and school choice, reducing the state’s “4×4″ curriculum (four math and four science courses in high school), lessening the number of tests given, and the issue of equitable school finance—which a Texas court recently struck down as unconstitutional.
Educators (both teachers and librarians) were in attendance from key districts across the state, including some from the Hutto Independent School District, whose librarians were cut during the 2011–2012 budget cuts, and from the Austin Independent School District, whose board in December voted to dissolve its contract with charter school operator IDEA—just a month after it began—after a community outcry.
Those who addressed the crowd included two superintendents, State Senator Kirk Watson, ministers, education activist Diane Ravitch, and former Texas Education Agency director Robert Scott, who resigned from his post last spring in part due to the overemphasis on testing in the state.
Perrin-Whitt Superintendent John Kuhn encouraged the audience to register their kids to bring the legislature’s attention to the number of children waiting for adequate school funding in the state, while Lufkin’s Superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker shared the story of her recent repudiation of testing in her district, in which she had all banners and signs referring to test results banned from the district’s buildings.
Ravitch spoke on the importance of all school personnel, including librarians and counselors who help balance the socioeconomic inequities that many students face.
“The Save Texas Schools rallies are important because they show that many people care passionately about education issues and are willing to show up and be counted,” Sara Stevenson, librarian at O’Henry Middle School in Austin, told School Library Journal.
“It’s especially important for librarians to attend because we are first in the firing line for budget cuts,” she said, noting that she worries that colleagues in the state have gotten worn down or feel disenfranchised by the budgeting process. Nevertheless, she says, “It’s important for us to stand up, not only for our career, but for our teachers and students who depend on us.”
Bonnie Hauser, librarian at Akins High School in Austin, agreed. She attended the rally not only because her local elementary and high school have been affected by the charter school controversy in Austin, but because “high stakes testing has gotten out of control and we all have to stand together to bring sensibility back to education,” she told SLJ.