Tonight, tens of thousands of parents and teachers will gather in homes, church basements, schools and community centers–nearly 4,000 meetings in all. The largest mobilization for public schools ever has one simple demand: that the President and Congress keep their broken promises on educating the next generation of Americans.
President Bush promotes his education reforms like he does the occupation of Iraq, painting a fantasy world in which the mission is accomplished, everything is getting better; we need merely stay the course. So, the goal of the campaign is to directly challenge this Administration that has broken faith with America’s children.
In reality, our schools are battered by a virtual perfect storm. More kids than ever are flooding into our public schools. More than one in five will grow up in poverty. An increasing number won’t speak English in their homes. We know that adequate nutrition, health care and preschool are essential for children to come to school ready to learn. Yet, Head Start doesn’t even reach 40 percent of those eligible and in need.
The flood of children pours into schools that are already overcrowded and badly in need of repair. One in three now use trailers or portable classes of some sort. The poorest children endure the worst facilities, the most crowded classrooms, the most outmoded equipment and, too often, the least skilled teachers.
We’re facing the largest wave of retirements of experienced teachers ever, while young educators are leaving the profession at alarming rates. As the Economic Policy Institute reports, teacher’s pay simply is not keeping pace with other occupations that require similar credentials.
With most parents working these days, after-school programs have been shown to produce better classroom performance and less crime. Yet, these programs were among the first to be cut in the recent budget crunch. Fifteen million kids now go home alone after school.
At the same time, states are failing to keep college affordable, according to the recent study of the nonpartisan National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. While college tuitions have soared 30 percent in the last four years, scholarship grants have been cut back.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Republicans in control of Congress and the White House break their own promises. The current education bill shortchanges the promise on funding No Child Left Behind by more than $9 billion. It stiffs the Congressional mandate on special education by more than $10 billion. And it breaks Bush’s pledge to increase Pell grants, the leading college scholarship program. Moreover, the President’s new budget calls for cuts in education across the board starting next year, right after the election.
Can citizens stop this folly? The organizers of this evening’s mobilization–led by the Campaign for America’s Future, the National Education Association, MoveOn.org, ACORN, the NAACP Voter Fund and the Hispanic Institute–vow that tonight is just the beginning.
You can help. Join tonight’s participants in signing a petition calling on the Congress and the president to keep their promises by clicking here Sign up to join the Congressional call in scheduled for September 29 to tell your representatives directly. Get your friends to join the effort.
Next year, the White House and Congress will start dealing with the record deficits that can’t be sustained. President Bush promises to “invest in schools” on the campaign trail, but his budget would cut education to help pay for his top-end tax cuts and war in Iraq. We can stop that outrage before it happens. Let the President and your legislators know that you’ll hold them accountable for keeping their promises to our children. Click here to sign up today.