Thousands of people were willing to make the trip from all over the country to stand together in the DC summer heat and humidity to stand up for public education. What a great feeling there was in that heavy air.
As many people have already said, it was a pleasure to see teachers, parents, students and activists united in support of our embattled public schools. It was a personal thrill for me to finally put faces to names such as George Schmidt, publisher of Substance in Chicago. Meeting School Gal for the first time was also a pleasure. Also, it's always fun to hang around with the New York GEM crowd and of course parent activists such as Leonie Haimson and Khem Irby.
We met educators who are willing to stand up for themselves from places like Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, the state of Washington, Washington DC, Louisiana and other areas. I recall Randi Weingarten telling the UFT Executive Board just a few short years ago how there was not much happening around the country. She couldn't say that now.
It was also exciting to see the leaders of Save Our Schools turn down an invitation to the White House during the four days of activities. In addition, we know we have support from celebrities like Matt Damon and Jon Stewart. Now that we have left DC we can't allow the momentum of the SOS march to stop.
People have asked what's next and even though we couldn't stay to plan for the future, there are ideas worth pursuing. Since the number of public educators is in the millions and most of us are completely at our wits end because of high stakes testing, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, we might want to start contemplating using the economic power that we have to our advantage.
I believe we need to hurt the people who want to destroy public education (Koch brothers, Waltons, Gates, etc...) in the only place that they care about: their wallets. Collectively, this national movement of educators, students and parents can do it.
After reading NYC Educator last week, I listened to urbane folk singer Billy Bragg's appearance on Democracy Now. Bragg recently wrote a song called Never buy the Sun about Rupert Murdoch's troubles caused by the newspaper phone hacking scandal in England. The only heroes he found in the Murdoch affair are the people of Liverpool who have been boycotting the Sun (daily edition of the weekly News of the World paper that Murdoch recently shut down) for two decades after the Sun printed lies about a football tragedy. Many of the rest of us willingly buy up Murdoch's garbage. We do have the power of the purse if we choose to use it. As I found out last Saturday, there are many of us out there who can spread the word to many others.