#WhyIMarch for Education

And on March 13 in Annapolis, you can too.

Educators are marching, rallying, and contacting their elected representatives like never before. “In my years as a public education advocate, I have never witnessed this level of public outcry,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

Educators right here in Maryland are getting involved, speaking up, and organizing to protect our schools from DeVos and others who share her pro-privatization agenda, like Gov. Larry Hogan. Read about the work educators Casey Grenier, Stephanie Masters, and Henoch Hailu are doing and come to MSEA’s March to Protect Our Schools in Annapolis on March 13. We’re marching to reduce testing, protect neighborhood schools, and stop public school funding from supporting for-profit charters and private school vouchers.

Casey and Dona Osteno at a January rally in Washington, D.C. opposing Betsy DeVos’ nomination. (Image courtesy Casey Grenier and Dona Osteno)

Casey Grenier, Calvert County

I’ve always been interested in government and politics, but prior to this past election had never truly taken a public stand. In the last few months, I’ve seen so many of our most cherished values and freedoms up in the air, as if they are not the bedrock that this country was built on, and I knew that I could not stay silent. I chose to attend the Washington, D.C. rally against Betsy DeVos’ nomination and confirmation with my six-year-old son. He was there to see democracy in action. I was there to support my fellow educators and to stand up for our students against a woman who has no experience in public schools, no understanding of our challenges, and no clear plan for our future.

We may have lost this battle, but this is not a one-time event. Now that Mrs. DeVos has been confirmed as our Secretary of Education, it is up to every teacher and every citizen to look at what is being proposed, evaluate the quality of the policy, and speak up. We have to let our elected officials know where we stand and why. We need to speak up for our students who are not old enough to vote and have no say in their own educational futures.

We are the highly qualified experts in this field, and we must not be silent. We have strength in our numbers and our convictions. All schools should be subject to the same oversight, and all schools need to follow our laws — such as IDEA — that are in place to protect our most vulnerable students. All students deserve the best education possible.

Over the last few months, a few friends and I decided to start an organization devoted to community involvement and the advancement of progressive policies in southern Maryland. We called our organization Together We Will: Southern Maryland. Our members are people from all walks of life, including many teachers, and any party affiliation is welcome. People are getting involved in local, state, and national politics, including our local school board. We felt that we were alone, but our organization now has over 2,000 members. We are not alone, we are strong, and together we will make a difference.

Stephanie speaking at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol the night before the Senate voted on DeVos’ nomination. (Image © NEA)

Stephanie Masters, Howard County

I decided to attend the rally because it’s important for educators to speak up on the issues that directly affect us. All too often decisions, like the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, are made by the top people in our government who have no idea how these decisions actually impact us in the classroom.

Educators need to be involved in marches, rallies, and protests because we are not only speaking for ourselves and other educators, we are also often the voice for children who do not have a voice for themselves. Now it’s more important than ever for educators to fight for the right to be a part of these policy discussions. Our voice is valuable, our voice is highly qualified, and our voice needs to be heard.

Henoch Hailu, Montgomery County

Henoch speaking at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol the night before the Senate voted on DeVos’ nomination. (Image © NEA)

I decided to speak at the rally the night before the DeVos vote because it was an opportunity for me to stand up for my students and for a public school system that accepts all students regardless of their backgrounds. I wanted to utilize the opportunity to spread word on the types of discussions that we should be having around improving our public schools, versus reducing their funding.

If educators don’t show up, we won’t be heard. It is as simple as that. I wasn’t big on politics a few years ago. The more dedicated I become to the profession, the more I realize just how political educational issues are. It is frustrating that there are individuals in various roles who have little to no experience in the public school system but who make decisions on how to run them. It is time for educators to stand up, share their creative and innovative ideas for progress, and advocate for our public schools.