What is a Momma Bear to do when she only has 2 minutes to talk? Some bright Momma Bears find a way to get their message across:
I'm a frugal Mom who is frustrated with all of the changes going on in my children's school district. It is overwhelming seeing the glowing articles in the local newspaper about school reform, but knowing it is just more twisted data, with cute pictures of children, published to make politicians look good. The truth is: Our schools are starved of funding while profiteers are getting rich. I follow many education blogs and news across the country, so I read what is really happening across the nation to public school districts. I see what is heading our way to Memphis, TN. Will we end up bankrupt like Philadelphia? Will we close 50 neighborhood schools like Chicago? Will 70% of our students fail the PARCC like in New York? Will charter vultures take over our district like New Orleans, Los Angeles, & in Florida? Memphis is high poverty and ripe for the picking. Infuse it with money from out-of-touch-with-reality billionaires, and our school district is prime for profiting everyone but the children.
I've talked to my elected school board member for my area. He listens and understands. He is a great guy, but he is just 1 of 7 on the school board, and he has other issues to deal with. Ugh, I hate politics. These are children, and they shouldn't be used as negotiation! How can get my point across to the 6 other members on the School Board? I'm just a Mom.
Diane Ravitch has a powerful voice. If only she were here... If only I could talk like her... She just published her brand new book, Reign of Error. She says everything I want to say. There's no way I can read it aloud in the 2 minutes I'm allowed to speak at their meeting. I get a crazy idea... What if I got Diane Ravitch's book for each of the school board members?
I had a birthday a few weeks ago, and I got a little birthday money to spend however I want. I was going to buy myself a new purse since my old one is getting worn out, but instead, I go to a local bookstore. They have Diane Ravitch's new book in stock, but they are nearly $30 each. Gulp. My birthday wasn't that profitable. I can afford to buy 3 books if I also take a little out of our grocery envelope (We're loyal Dave Ramsey followers in our household. I can make our groceries stretch a little farther this month.)
I mentioned my idea to a few friends, and before I know it, they've each gone to bookstores in their area of town and purchased books, too. One friend used a gift certificate that her fellow PTA board members gave her as a gift of appreciation; she said she couldn't imagine a better use for it! Another friend's husband spent his lunch break going to 2 different bookstores to get more copies; bless him, he's a Daddy Bear!!! Together, we Momma & Daddy Bears had 8 books: enough for the 7 school board members + the Superintendent, too.
I worried all afternoon about what to say during my 2 minutes at the School Board Meeting that night. Here is what I said:
Surveys show that parents and citizens want excellent NEIGHBORHOOD PUBLIC schools. We want our elected school board to represent our students… not business interests. We have elected YOU to govern our schools, not charter operators who seek to profit, not charter operators who seek to recruit the brightest and best students, and exclude those with disabilities or low test scores. Our public schools should always be public.
We teach our children not to bully and not to tolerate bullying. Do not let those who were appointed to their position in Nashville bully you into approving charter schools. We did not elect them, we elected you. The appointed TN BOE, the appointed Commissioner of Education, Kevin Huffman, and Governor Haslam who appointed them all, clearly do not have our students’ best interest at heart. Do not let them, or the businesses that fund and profit from them, make decisions that are not in the best interest of our children.
I'm not too proud to admit that I then played the guilt card. I told them how I sacrificed my birthday money on these books, and how other parents pitched in to get copies for them, too. I tell them that his book expresses what we, as parents, want them, as our elected school board, to know. I beg them to please read the books, and I stress how important it is to us.
My 2 minutes are up. I take a seat in the audience and stay for the next few hours. The meeting drags on, and they take a crucial vote regarding a charter school moratorium. I want to cry because it fails. Did they hear what I said one bit?!?!? I shouldn't be surprised, the majority of the board members are funded by Stand for Children (Note: Stand For Children is a non-profit lobbying group funded by corporations & Bill Gates. They stand ON children, not for them. Anywhere money can be made in education, you'll find greedy Stand for Children there in the midst of it, along with an equally greedy group called "Students First" that just came into our town last year). Money speaks louder than parents and students. Parents are going to have to scream at the top of our lungs to be heard, and even then, I'm not sure that it will outweigh the dollar signs stuck in their ears.
I am a wishful optimist. I have hope that the board members will read the books we gave them... Maybe Diane will get it past their pocketbooks and through their thick skulls? That is my birthday wish. Every child, rich or poor, black or white, should be able to attend their their neighborhood school that is well-funded and well-staffed. They should have excellent music, art, sports, & extra-curricular programs. Librarians and guidance counselors are a must. Students, especially those who are academically behind, should have small class sizes taught by certified, experienced teachers. Testing should be a minimum, and not full of stress and anxiety as it is now for students. Our children's test scores shouldn't be used to hurt teachers and close schools in poor, starving areas. Those with profit motives should be banned from our schools. I could go on and on, but Diane Ravitch says it better than I do. Read her book and you'll know exactly what I mean.
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