This is a guest blog by Kathy Newman, who helped lead the Yinzercation charge to Harrisburg on Tuesday.
What do you do when you realize that thousands of teachers and staffers in the City of Brotherly Love are going to lose their jobs, and that come this fall Philadelphia school children won’t have administrative assistants, music, art, sports, library and basic supplies? What do you do to support the people who are now on their eleventh day of a hunger strike to protest this calamity? What do you do when you are MOVED to act?
You get on the bus to join the Philadelphia activists for a massive rally in Harrisburg! Our day started out with the unfurling of the new Yinzercation banner and some matching Yinzercation t-shirts at the PFT headquarters on the Southside. Seven boisterous Yinzercators boarded the bus with more than 150 boisterous members of our new coalition, Great Public Schools, which includes Yinzercation, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT), PA Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN), One Pittsburgh, SEIU, and Action United.
After we arrived in Harrisburg we found hundreds of teachers and school workers who had come to protest the destruction of their school district on the Capitol steps. They wore signs that said, “I’m a teacher and I buy my own paper,” “Education should not be for sale,” and, “There is nothing left to cut.” They had also prepared thousands of signs that showed the “faces of the layoffs,” the names, faces and school affiliations of each of the nearly 4,000 teachers and staffers who are about to be unemployed.
During the rally we listened to speakers from Philadelphia, like PA State Senator Vincent Hughes (who had seen our banner and gave a shout out to the “Yinzers” in the crowd), and even our own Pittsburgh area Representative Ed Gainey, who spoke powerfully about the education budget disaster in Philadelphia and across the state. We also checked in briefly with our wonderful representative Dan Frankel and his staff. Frankel is one of the great public education champions in Harrisburg—just yesterday he drew attention to education cuts on his facebook page and reiterated his support for revenue raising solutions such as “a reasonable Marcellus Shale drilling tax, closing the corporate tax Delaware Loophole and freezing a corporate tax rather than letting another scheduled big-business tax cut take effect.”
During the rally we were also incredibly moved by the testimony of the Philly school workers and parents who are on their 11th day of a hunger strike to restore the cuts to the Philly school budget. (You can follow their journey on Twitter at #Phillyfast.)
After the rally we spread out around the Capitol Dome and made a human chain around the Capitol—a feat based in sheer numbers no other recent activist group has been able to do. We were MOVED to make our voices heard in Harrisburg!
Believe it or not, yesterday was a “moving day” for Governor Tom Corbett. After the Great Public Schools coalition added our voices to the chorus at the Capitol building, we navigated our busses a few blocks away to the front the Governor’s official state residence. We brought with us the People’s Moving Company, a few activists dressed in moving jumpsuits, some bull horns and our naturally boisterous voices. We chanted “One term Tom,” and “Hit the road, Tom,” and “What do we do when education is under attack? Stand up fight back!”
We headed back to Pittsburgh as real-life storm clouds gathered above us in the sky. We were tired, hot and hungry, but re-energized, too, by the passion and the fighting spirit we saw in our Philadelphia brothers and sisters. Their fight is our fight. Our fight is their fight.
At the end of the day were moved by each other, but as the song proclaims, we SHALL NOT be moved by the forces that want to privatize, monetize, standardize and downsize public education. Public education is a public good. Call your legislator before June 30th and remind him/her to restore Philadelphia’s education budget and put $270 million back into the budget for all of the Commonwealth’s beautiful, brilliant school children.