A few weeks ago, we reported on a campaign set forth by the Students for Education Reform chapters at NYU and Columbia. The mission was simple: to urge the Bloomberg administration and teachers union to settle on a teacher evaluations deal that would satisfy the pre-requisites to acquire $300 million in federal funding for New York City. Last night, a rally was held in Lower Manhattan was held for the cause. And, needless to say, it was loud.
The chapters met around 6pm at 52 Broadway, outside of the United Federation of Teachers’ headquarters, wearing red and green hats that dawned the slogan ‘”Get It Together.” However, across the street, a counter-protest held by the International Socialist Organization and others raged on as well. Regardless, the rally made its way up to City Hall, past the Occupy encampment that remains outside of Trinity Church, culminating outside of the very office that Mayor Bloomberg calls home.
Led by members from both schools, the parade of students made its way down Broadway, with chants of “Let’s keep it real – the kids need a deal” and others along the way. It was a mixture of students from both schools and even the notorious Hipster Cop from Zuccotti Park fame made an appearance. The fluidity of the crowd was an accolade that Benji de la Piedra, head of Columbia’s SFER chapter, attributed to the situation: “It’s a city-wide issue; any kid that goes to school has a stake in this. This is a cut that will be across the board so we need students from across the board.” NYPD officials followed suit and kept the crowd contained to the sidewalk.
Behind them, a yelling match broke out between the two parties over voluminous chants. The opposing side, though lacking in number compared to SFER’s turnout, aimed its attention at the SFER national organization, highlighting accusations of corporate ties and misleading information about how the $300 million would be spent.
“Less information comes with where the Race to the Top money is going. It’s a pretty bad deal for students because it’s not heading towards the classroom,” said Claire Baldi, an ISO member and NYU student. Continuing on that notion, another member argued that the “$300 million would help implement No Child Left Behind,” which was the Bush administration’s dose of standardized testing for schools across the country. Resulting chant: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, high stakes testing has got to go.
Once on Duane Street, the two groups approached the government building. The SFER students lined the steps of City Hall, hearing speeches made by high school students and organization members. The counter-protest group stood on the side, voicing lines in the air to compete with their counterpart. After twenty minutes or so, the organizations began to slowly disperse after adding their final thoughts on a conversational dilemma that’s about to hit its boiling point.
The deadline for the $300 million’s fate is January 17th, 2013. We’ll see what happens until then.