By Zack Mazrimas, EduMom contributor
Last Friday, something amazing happened at the Massachusetts State House.
The Boston media was so anxious to localize the national teachers strikes and were clamoring at the idea of capturing a sea of red at the statehouse — but instead were met with a wave of black and brown.
Parents. Up to the rafters.
From across the state. All wearing black and ready for justice.
No one expected us.
No one knew what to do with us.
We’re the ones you say don’t care about our kids.
We’re the ones you say just won’t show up and won’t “engage”.
We’re the ones whose kids you end up shoving into the school to prison pipeline and whose kids end up suffering in underperforming schools because “what do you want us to do with THESE people and THESE kids.”
Yet, we came. And we were ready to be heard.
We got on buses at 6am from Springfield. Holyoke. Lawrence. Lowell. New Bedford.
We took the T in from East Boston, Mattapan and Hyde Park.
Some of us spoke English.
Some of us made the effort to testify in English instead of Khmer.
Some of us testified in Spanish.
We were nervous. We were joyful. We were here to fight for justice for our kids.
Unlike other special interest groups like the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Parents United doesn’t have a million dollar education funding campaign budget — we have something much more valuable.
We have the parents and families of the Commonwealth.
What do parents want?
An End to Trickle Down Education Funding
Trickle down economics doesn’t work. Neither does trickle down education funding. Our education system needs consistent and reliable funding — spent in ways that directly hit the classroom and our kids. We cannot hand over a blank check to school districts and expect them to spend the money where it matters most — instead of in administrative offices.
Transparency and Accountability
Families deserve to know how all new education funding will be spent. Measures must be put in place to hold superintendents, principals, and other stakeholders accountable for making sure as much money as possible is spent in the classroom and on our children. And our schools need the autonomy to make the right decisions at the school level.
End the Achievement Gap
We believe that every child can succeed regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Schools need as many resources as possible to ensure that low-income students and students of color are receiving the high-quality education they deserve. Teachers must be given proper supports to ensure they’re equipped to educate all students.
Students coming from low-income communities, children of color and other high-needs children should have access to the highest quality educators.
Recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers of color must be a priority through the allocation of sufficient resources to keep them in the classroom and in front of the children who need to see themselves reflected in the classroom, school and district leadership.
More Learning Time
Our children need access to extended time in the classroom with high-quality teachers of color through the expansion of the school day and the school year.
21st Century Buildings and Equipment
Students in every community across the Commonwealth should have access to state-of-the-art school buildings, modern technology, and resources to keep our children safe.
End the School to Prison Pipeline
We believe that schools should be places of joyful learning that set our children on the path to their dreams and not into the criminal justice system.
MPU was there to make certain that legislators know that the money coming for education needs to be spent strategically, and for the benefit of the most valuable part of every school – the children.
We waited to testify for four hours.
During the testimony, we stood. Together.
The pictures in the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald? Some folks from the New England Patriots. Folks who admitted when pushed by the committee that they haven’t done their homework on the education funding proposals.
And a shot of the red t-shirts that represent the national teachers campaign — featuring a Massachusetts Teachers Association staffer from their office in Quincy.
(She’s a purchasing agent for the MTA. I’m sure she’s a nice lady. But I don’t know how you ignore a crowd filling half the auditorium and end up with a shot of a union staffer as the photo that captures the day, but here we are.)
We didn’t get angry when the red shirts sneered at us about having the audacity to offer boxed lunches for our members and then snatched them off the table and away from low income families.
(It’s cool. EduMom has an AMEX and we just got some more.)
We won’t be intimidated. And we’re not going away.
*Our* children are the Black, Brown, low-income kids everyone loves to use as excuses — but then fail generation after generation.
*Our* children are English language learners and some even have special needs and disabilities who have been vilified as the source of all our “funding issues”.
*Our* children attend district AND charter schools — because different schools work for different kids.
All of our children have a lot to lose due to the education equity crisis in Massachusetts. And it’s out of the tremendous love we have for our children that we will continue to ask serious questions about what real, tangible outcomes we can expect for the $1-$2 billion investment we plan to make.
And how we plan to pay for it.