Music teachers are writing songs, art teachers are making posters, and educators, students and community members are busting out their true colors to wear for Monday’s national Day of Action.
Right now, those true colors are blue. Teachers, administrators, staff, school health care professionals, retirees, parents and students will be showing up at schools from Pre-K through college with their blue on. They will be addressing policymakers and the public. They want to let the nation know they are blue from the shortage of funding for schools, and the emphasis on testing not teaching. They want a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing.
“The minute they walk in the door in September, they’re greeted with a test,” said 28-year middle school Spanish teacher Maria Pacheco, president of the Mohanasen Teachers Association in Schenectady County. “They are overwhelmed and stressed out.” Her colleagues are putting fliers on classroom doors, asking students to complete the sentence “I am blue because….” Students, who will be wearing blue shirts, hats, shoes, dresses or jackets, will meet at the end of the day for a group photo, holding up their fliers.
The National Day of Action, on which NYSUT is partnering with the AFT, the NEA and other organizations, has been set up to reclaim the promise of public education.
New York is stepping up and stepping out with actions across the Empire State.
In Nyack, where NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and AFT President Randi Weingarten are scheduled to speak, music teacher Barbara Anderson is teaching students a new version of the hallmark holiday song “Jingle Bells.” The chorus will go like this: “Data This, Data That…”
Donna Ramundo, president of the Nyack Teachers Association, said rallies will also be taking place at the high school, middle school and three elementary schools in the Rockland County district. School board members, community members and legislators will be adding their voices here to the growing chorus calling for change in the classroom across the country.
In Valley Stream, on Long Island, guidance counselor Patrick Naglieri is hoping the forecast of harsh rains holds off. He will be outside, joining at least several of the “demonstrations of concerns” being planned at 14 schools in the district. He’ll be wearing a blue suit and tie and blue shirt, and he’s hoping to avoid rain because, after the demonstrations, he has to dash to a conference.
As a guidance counselor, he said he sees the stress on teachers and students. “A lot of lessons and activities that make school pleasurable are no longer a choice,” he said.
Here at the state capital in Albany, union leaders, parents and others will be speaking at the Legislative Office Building to request an investment of $1.9 billion in funding for New York’s schools over the current school aid total. Speakers will include Maria Neira, NYSUT vice president, and Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions, representing higher education staff and faculty at the State University of New York.