AFT President Randi Weingarten and Rep. Keith Ellison join community members on Jan. 19 at Ann Beers Elementary School in Southeast to protest Donald Trump's pick for education secretary. (Demetrious Kinney)

Tens of thousands of parents, teachers, students and community members took action in more than 200 cities and towns across the country the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration to protest the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools with support from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) spearheaded the day of action, tagged “#ReclaimOurSchools,” on Thursday, Jan. 19 at Ann Beers Elementary School in Southeast.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) joined community members for the event.

“This is really a tale of two movements. We are a movement of educators, parents, students and neighbors, standing up to make sure every child has access to a great neighborhood public school — a school that is safe and welcoming, that is focused on the well-being of kids, and where there is powerful learning,” Weingarten said. “That’s the opposite of the agenda being pushed by Donald Trump and his inexperienced and unqualified education nominee, Betsy DeVos, who simply wants to privatize, defund and destabilize public education.”

The nationwide mobilization took place at more than 2,000 sites from New York City to San Francisco to Cincinnati to Detroit, and included schools, hospitals, college campuses and government buildings.
The events included rallies, marches, demonstrations, “walk-ins” and community forums, revolving around three national demands:

• That all schools and campuses be named “sanctuary spaces” free from the threat of deportation, racism and bullying;

• That the U.S. Senate support public education and reject Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education; and

• That policymakers invest in high-quality public schools; make billionaires and Wall Street pay their fair share; and protect Title I, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other federal funds directed to at-risk students.

Rep. Ellison, Weingarten and hundreds of supporters held hands around the school, a symbolic action to show the community’s commitment to public education and the well-being of District students.

AFT claimed that Beers Elementary, a thriving public school with deep community ties has suffered funding cuts due to the unregulated expansion of charters, and a congressionally mandated voucher program that has siphoned off the limited educational resources in the District of Columbia.

The AFT represents 1.6 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and health care workers; and early childhood educators.

“Day after day, public schools help educate our children and prepare them for a brighter future. And so, the work that AROS and the AFT are doing could not be more important,” Ellison said. “Through ‘walk-ins’ and days of action, they’re getting parents, community members and students to voice their support for public schools and a high-quality education.

“That’s exactly the approach we’ll need to fight back against Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos, a notorious anti-public schools crusader,” he said.

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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