Movement Seeks to Reclaim the 'Promise of Public Education'

Dec 9, 2013

Small groups of parents and education activists gathered in Pittsburgh and across the country Monday to mark a “National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.”

“The promise of public education is how we help and actually do our collective responsibility to ensure every single child can dream his or her dreams and achieve them,” said Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president.

The movement is using the “Principles That Unite Us” document created in October by a collection of more than 500 teachers, parents, community organizers, civil right activists and faith leaders as its basis.

Weingarten said at the heart of that document is a desire to create great neighborhood public schools that are safe, where the joy of learning is created while at the same time providing deep instruction.

“There are certain things that we know we need,” Weingarten said. “We need well-funded schools. We need to actually focus on equity and helping kids who have the least.” 

Weingarten said that includes offering arts education and wrapping services around schools. And she notes that there is no one size fits all solution, especially when it comes to what services needed to be offered in which schools. However, Weingarten said it all comes from a basic principal and truth that all parents want their kids to learn.

Deciding who is learning and which schools are providing the proper type of education is fodder-heated national debate. Weingarten thinks the answer to the debate should not come from the top down.

“We need a new direction of education in this country, not one that is fixated on testing, but one that is fixated on the whole child and we need to listen to people in communities across America,” Weingarten said.

Rally-goers throughout the day pushed for more funding for education and wrap around services. But Weingarten said just increasing spending is not the answer. She said the focus needs to be on finding programs that work, and then finding the funding to support them. 

Weingarten called on everyone to get involved with community groups and their local school boards, especially in Pittsburgh where four news board members were sworn into office this month.