Educators and concerned citizens from across the country gathered on the White House Ellipse Saturday to urge national leaders to focus on education reform that provides a high-quality education for every student.
The culmination of a week of conferences, Saturday’s Save Our Schools March included speakers such as Jonathan Kozol, an educator and author, and actor and philanthropist Matt Damon — whose mother was a teacher — taking the stage to share their commitment to public education. Despite blazing heat, participants finished the event with a march around the White House.
NEA members bused, drove, flew, or took trains from every part of the country to show solidarity with fellow educators and declare their dedication to fully-funded, world-class education system for all students in the United States.
The youngest generation of teachers was well-represented Saturday in student leaders. NEA Student Program President Tommie Leaders exhorted the crowd of public education supporters to take concrete actions to make a difference.
“Now is the time to call, email, tweet, Facebook your member of Congress and tell them that what works in Washington does not always work in our classrooms,” said Leaders, who was introduced by NEA Vice-President Lily Eskelsen. “We cannot test, label and punish our way to a better public education. We need to work together to give all of our students the foundation and the resources they need to succeed.”
Fellow NEA Student Program major Heather Keith, an elementary education major at Indiana State University who serves as president of the Indiana Student Education Association. Keith felt that the march was a good opportunity for her, and the three other student leaders attending from ISU, to become active in their profession on a national level.
“It’s important that we stand together and unite to show everyone that public education is here to stay,” she said. “We all need to become involved as students, so that we’re informed and fired up early on, and start out being active in our profession.”
Patrick White, a Language Arts Education major at Hastings College in Hastings, Neb., and the president of the Student Education Association of Nebraska, echoed White’s passion for student involvement in the education profession. He hoped that student participation in the SOS March will make an impact on an older generation of educators.
“It sends the right message to parents and grandparents and mentors: you don’t have to worry about us so much anymore. We can handle our own futures,” he said. “If we show volunteerism and a drive to help others, then it takes a load off of the older generation.”