THE DISTRICT

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - THE DISTRICT BY EL­LIE SIL­VER­MAN el­lie.sil­ver­man@wash­post.com

Hun­dreds of peo­ple ral­lied at the Mall to protest the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ed­u­ca­tion agenda.

As peo­ple be­gan trick­ling onto the Mall in Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day morn­ing, Mas­sachusetts teacher Jeff Maxwell looked around and told those nearby that he felt like the day would be his­tory in the mak­ing.

Nolan, his 10-year-old son, had bragged to his friends when his mom at­tended the Women’s March af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, and then he had asked his dad when he could go to a march, too.

So the fam­ily of four drove down Fri­day night to join those seek­ing to be heard at the “March for Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion,” a rally and protest of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to cut fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing and ex­pand pri­vateschool vouch­ers.

“I love a good road tip, but this one’s spe­cial,” said Maxwell, who was sport­ing a “School­house Rock!” T-shirt while stand­ing next to his wife, Melissa Maxwell, 41, who was wear­ing a “Nasty sci­en­tist” T-shirt, and their two sons, Nolan and Gar­rett, 7.

Teach­ers, cur­rent and re­tired, par­ents, stu­dents, and their fam­i­lies be­gan con­verg­ing about 10 a.m. near the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment to march in sup­port of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Sim­i­lar marches took place in 11 cities na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing Detroit, Austin, Miami and Lin­coln, Neb., ac­cord­ing to the march’s web­site.

Or­ga­niz­ers say they are march­ing for eq­ui­table ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing, in sup­port of col­lege af­ford­abil­ity and against the nearly 14 per­cent cuts to ed­u­ca­tion that Trump has pro­posed. Hun­dreds of peo­ple joined the march in Wash­ing­ton de­spite tem­per­a­tures climb­ing into the 90s and a heat ad­vi­sory from the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice.

Dur­ing a morn­ing rally, pro­test­ers heard from stu­dents and na­tional ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates be­fore march­ing to the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment of­fices about noon. Satur­day’s protest was planned to co­in­cide with a na­tional meet­ing in the District of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, the na­tion’s sec­ond­largest teach­ers union.

“It’s a march for ed­u­ca­tional jus­tice,” said march co-chair Pavithra Na­gara­jan, a for­mer teacher now study­ing for a doc­tor­ate at Columbia University’s Teach­ers Col­lege.

Na­gara­jan and co-chair Steve Ciprani, a high school so­cial stud­ies and Latin teacher in West Ch­ester, Pa., said that in ad­di­tion to ad­vo­cat­ing pol­icy change and en­cour­ag­ing at­ten­dees to reach out to their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, they hope stu­dents and young chil­dren not yet in school be­come “lit­tle ac­tivists in train­ing.”

“Cre­at­ing so­cially con­scious young peo­ple are at the heart of this march,” Na­gara­jan said.

Pa­trice Kelly, 37, is not a teacher, but she brought her 10-yearold daugh­ter Niya Har­rod along to the march in hopes that she would see that the poli­cies she over­hears her mother com­plain­ing about af­fect oth­ers, too.

“If she’s go­ing to be­lieve in some­thing, I want her to be ac­tive and be an ac­tivist,” Kelly said of her daugh­ter, who stood next to her in front of the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment build­ing hold­ing a sign that said “Make Amer­ica Smart Again.”

As pro­test­ers marched along In­de­pen­dence Av­enue from the Mall to the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment, call­ing ed­u­ca­tion a “hu­man right” and chant­ing that Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary “Betsy DeVos has got to go,” ve­hi­cles honked in ap­proval and buses of tourists cheered in sup­port.

DeVos has long been as­sailed by some teach­ers and par­ents for her sup­port of school vouch­ers and char­ter schools, which they see as tak­ing away re­sources from pub­lic schools. DeVos has pushed back, say­ing she sup­ports pub­lic schools but wants par­ents to have more choices in the schools their chil­dren at­tend.

Re­becca Cok­ley said it is de­press­ing to see the un­rav­el­ing of the progress she helped make while work­ing in var­i­ous roles at the Ed­u­ca­tion and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices de­part­ments and the White House un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Cok­ley told the crowd she has watched the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion “pry the teeth out of civil rights statutes one by one like a de­mented sort of den­tist.”

“I adamantly protest the idea that vouch­ers and choice are good for dis­abled stu­dents. Vouch­ers and choice are seg­re­ga­tion,” Cok­ley, the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Na­tional Coun­cil on Dis­abil­ity, said to cheers.

Or­ga­niz­ers said ear­lier that they hoped the march would send a mes­sage that pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is es­sen­tial to democ­racy. But 10th-grade teacher Laura Brown was think­ing about how the di­vi­sive­ness of the demo­cratic process dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign had seeped into her class­room in ways un­ex­pected.

The so­cial stud­ies teacher from Liver­pool, N.Y., had come to the march with her 8-year-old daugh­ter Ruby. She re­called how one of her stu­dents had turned to a class­mate of In­dian de­scent and said he wished he could tell for­eign­ers to get out.

“They were sur­rounded by all this in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage, and they didn’t know how to han­dle it,” Brown, 44, said. “It was our job to help them fig­ure out how to nav­i­gate this brave new world.”

Af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, Sanaa Abrar said she was bul­lied in mid­dle school for be­ing Mus­lim and Pak­istani. One day, she fi­nally cracked and cried to her mom about never want­ing to speak to those stu­dents again. When the 25-year-old mas­ter’s stu­dent study­ing at Amer­i­can University took the stage Satur­day, she re­mem­bered what her mom had asked her that day: If you don’t talk to them, how are they go­ing to learn?

So Abrar, who is a se­nior pol­icy fel­low for the im­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy group United We Dream, stood in front of the mi­cro­phone and told the crowd, “I am proud to be an im­mi­grant, and no mat­ter what Don­ald Trump or the ex­trem­ists have to say, I am here to stay.”

The crown later joined her in chant­ing, “Here to stay.”

“It’s a march for ed­u­ca­tional jus­tice.” Pavithra Na­gara­jan, co-chair of the “March for Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion” demon­stra­tion

BILL O’LEARY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Pro­test­ers — some with their chil­dren — head to­ward the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment build­ing in South­west Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.