It’s that time of the year for Top 10 lists. Today is also the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, and the day when we celebrate the return of light. In 2012 we continued to see real threats to public education, and plenty of frustration and disappointment, but it has also been a year full of light – the kind that shines when people pull together and work for equity, social justice, our children, and the public good. This is a good time to remember our successes and achievements, a year when our grassroots movement:
- Saved $100 million from being cut in this year’s state education budget. [“A Vampiric Budget”] This was a true state-wide victory and a clear demonstration of the power of our grassroots voices when we work together. And by saving that money, we preserved early childhood and Kindergarten programs.
- Prevented vouchers, Governor Corbett’s much coveted legislation. This is a particularly big deal when you consider how desperately the corporate-reform-movement wants this key privatization bill, which would send public dollars to private and religious schools: some of the wealthiest people on the planet poured millions into our state trying to secure vouchers. [“The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”] But we prevailed.
- Rallied 250 people outside in a February snowstorm … and then just kept growing. [“250 Rally in a Snowstorm”] Strong voices have been speaking out for public education for some time, but this year saw the real birth of a movement, with hundreds and then thousands of people throughout Southwest Pennsylvania coming together to fight for our schools. We held sidewalk parties to call our legislators [“Yinzer Nation is on the Phone”]; mock bake sales to protest budget cuts and corporate giveaways [“Our (Grass) Roots are Showing”]; and candlelight vigils for the teachers lost to those budget decisions [“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”]. Yinzercation is proud to be a part of this movement, and we now regularly reach over 1,200 blog subscribers and Facebook users.
- Gained national attention. When we broke the news that the Pittsburgh Opera planned to give Governor Corbett a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to education, our protest went viral, garnering media coverage from coast to coast. Our Operatic Rally also received wide media attention, including not one but two political cartoons by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Rob Rogers. [“Encore! Encore!”] And many of our pieces have been published in the national media and re-blogged on websites across the county, allowing our voices to join the broader conversation. [See the “Media” tab.] Just two days ago, our article on “Teacher Heroes” got picked up by AlterNet.org, where it has already been shared on Facebook over 1,800 times.
- Defended democracy. The Governor and far too many Pennsylvania legislators tried to pass a “state-authorizer,” which would have removed control from local, democratically elected school boards and allowed the state to charter schools. This legislation, which centralizes power with state political appointees, has been introduced in other states as part of the corporate-style reform agenda and blocking it here was a real win. We also successfully fought back against efforts to exempt charter schools from our state’s Right to Know Laws: these were blatant attempts to hide charter school operators from public scrutiny. [“A Victory”] These achievements were in the policy weeds, and we should be especially proud of energizing our networks around such seemingly dry issues – that wind up having a huge impact on us all.
- Sparked a Manchester Miracle. We filled empty school library shelves with thousands of donated books and launched a community movement to create a beautiful new space for Pittsburgh Manchester K-8, while calling attention to persistent equity issues. The Miracle received widespread media coverage, including a front-page article in the paper, and continues even now as volunteers work to fill more empty school library shelves. [“The Manchester Miracle.”]
- Engaged student voices. When kids talk, adults listen; and when students advocate for public education their voices are empowering. Students traveled to Harrisburg with A+School’s TeenBloc program to talk about equity [“Valentines & Love for Public Schools”]; others worked with Carlow University’s Youth and Media Advocacy Project to design billboards and bus shelter ads protesting state budget cuts [“A Sign in Harrisburg”]; and a “WriteNow!” event sponsored in partnership with the Western PA Writers Project at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum attracted hundreds of children with their parents to engage in advocacy for public education [“Writing Back”].
- Exposed the money trail leading from extraordinarily wealthy, out-of-state donors to political campaigns here in Southwest PA. [“It’s Raining Money”] We linked that same money and agenda to state policy efforts, such as the push for parent-trigger laws brought here by the ultra-right makers of the film, “Won’t Back Down.” [“We Won’t Back Down, Either”]
- Built networks with community partners. Our movement succeeds because we work closely with organizations such as the ones mentioned above, as well as groups of advocates in places like the Steel Valley and South Fayette. We’ve partnered with the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) and OnePittsburgh at the local level; joined forces with other grassroots groups across Pennsylvania; and worked at the state level with Education Voters PA. Nationally, we’ve connected with Parents Across America, United Opt Out, and others. [See the “Resources” tab.]
- Earned recognition from the White House, with two invitations to meet with the President’s senior policy advisors. [“The Elephant at the White House”] From testimony before County Council [“UPMC’s Fair Share”] to talking with the chief power brokers in Washington, D.C., we are making our voices for public education heard.
Yinzercation is going on a brief winter break to hibernate with some cookies, but we’ll be back in the New Year, ready to start on a new Top 10 list of achievements in this incredible grassroots movement for our public schools.
Help grow our grassroots movement for public education: join other volunteer parents, students, educators, and concerned community members by subscribing to Yinzercation. Enter your email address and hit the “Sign me up” button to get these pieces delivered directly to your inbox and encourage your networks to do the same. Really. Can you get five of your friends to subscribe? Working together we can win this fight for our schools.