Fighting the attacks on educationPublished 12:53am Thursday, April 26, 2012
Thousands gathered in front of of the Alabama State Capitol. Thousands gathered from far and near. Thousands gathered for the Save Our Schools Rally. Along with others, I spoke to these thousands gathered with a determined spirit to save our schools.
I tried to make the following four points in the two minutes allotted: the power of public education; the power of attacks on public education; the power of those gathered to counter the attacks; and how I will use my personal power to fight these powerful attacks. The following is an elaboration on what I tried to say in these two minutes.
- One — I came from a large family of 15 (13 children, a mama and a daddy) that was really poor (we lived in a three room house and food sometimes ran out on Wednesday with just bare grits to eat until Friday night). I rebelled in the wrong way against the demeaning poverty, racial prejudice and oppressive conditions. I should have been kicked out of school but public education kept me and pushed me along. I would have been kicked out of a charter school, not allowed in a private school and left behind by so called ability grouping. Because public schools were there for me in spite of poverty, prejudice and preference, I graduated from high school, college, law school and stand here today speaking as an Alabama State Senator. I know personally the power of public education.
- Two — The attacks on public education are broad, ongoing and powerful. They come in all kinds of proposals: charter schools; reductions in school funding; diversion of school funding; less teachers; less benefits for employees; higher cost of benefits to employees; gross flexibility; attacks on employee organizations; takeover of the retirement system; the Tim Tebow Act to permit home schooled students participation in sports at public schools; etc. To really understand the power of these attacks, we must see each attack as different fronts of one broad powerful attack.
The attacks come in disguise. They come in the guise of improving public education; in the guise of ethics; in the guise of transparency; in the guise of accountability; in the guise of helping other underfunded governmental entities; in the guise of choice; in the guise of competition; in the guise of every good sounding phrase conceivable. We must understand that the Devil is in the details and look beyond the brand wrapped around the proposals. I believe that you are here because you understand our schools are under attack. However, I share this so that you can more fully understand the depth and breath of these attacks and help forge means to counter them.
- Three — You are powerful. You have the power to defeat these attacks. You can educate your families and co-workers, your friends and associates, your local leaders and state leaders. Most immediately, you can challenge your state legislators on these attacks. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Don’t come in the same way all the time. Come in person at times. Come through writings some times. Come via the phone at times. Come alone at times and with groups at times. Do not take “No” for a final answer. Keep coming back until they learn the word “Yes.” Persistence is powerful.
We must understand that we all have power. We have persuasion power, moral power, persistence power, position power, organizing power, financial power, marching in the street power, praying power, and etc. However, the greatest power is a made up mind. Nothing in the world, except the divine, is more powerful than a made up mind. When we make up our minds, we find ways to overcome effectively that we did not know existed. When future children come along with no resources, little hope and consuming challenges, our public schools must be there for them just as they were there for you and me.
- Four — I have the power of a made up mind. I will use every ounce of power I possess to fight these attacks. I will speak against these attacks in Senate Committees and on the Senate Floor. I will vote against them in Committee and on the Senate Floor. I will speak against them in the media and to everyone else every chance I get.
I will write against them in Sketches and other writings. I will pray against these attacks in praying time. I will stand with you on the Capitol steps. When all else fails, I will march with you in the streets. We must use our full power to save our schools so future generations will have the opportunity to rise from whatever circumstances that would otherwise hold them down. We must save our schools.