The following is the speech I gave as a (very honored to be included) speaker at the International Women’s Day Rally & March in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 8th, 2017, on a very windy day at Willard Park.
International Women’s Day March & Rally Cleveland, Ohio, 2017
Thank you so much to all of you for being here today.
My name is Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith, and I am here today representing 100s of local education activists, 1000s of education advocates statewide, and hundreds of 1000s of education activists & advocates across this nation who are fighting for the schools ALL our children deserve.
When government officials and the business community attack teachers and public schools, you better believe that it is an attack on women, who make up over 75% of the teaching profession. It is an attack on our children. It is an attack on our democracy.
We know that education is essential to human liberation.
In this spirit of liberation, we fight to dismantle oppressive practices in schools; practices placed upon us by legislators and corporate interests without any regard for what is best for our children.
We demand that curriculum and classroom practice be culturally relevant, comprehensive, engaging, challenging, and promote critical thinking, and that these practices be based on research and the input of educators, not based on the whims of politicians or the profit margins of corporations.
We call for an end to harsh zero tolerance policies and the policing of our children, and instead call for the implementation of restorative practices that do not disproportionately put children of color on the school-to-prison pipeline.
We support local democratically elected school boards. Because if you can vote to have your taxes raised to support a school district, then you should be able to vote for who is on the district’s school board.
We demand an end to high stakes standardized testing, a system rooted in eugenics and racism that has done nothing to improve teaching and learning for our students, but has created a false narrative about “failing public schools” and “bad teachers.”
We want community schools that are provided with funding and resources to offer the wrap around services that families surrounding those schools need.
School reforms should meet the needs of children in classrooms, not corporations.
All children deserve prepared, experienced and fully licensed teachers.
And all children and all schools must have equitable access to resources and adequate funding.
I plead with all of you today to remain vigilant and diligent in the fight for our public schools.
Until the government ends the test and punish system, tell your child’s school that your student will not be participating in the state’s punitive system of high stakes standardized testing. Refuse the tests!
No more of our tax dollars to millionaires and billion dollar corporations, so that they can sell our kids developmentally inappropriate tests and then call our kids failures.
Hold public officials accountable. Budget bills must equitably and fully fund education – not mass incarceration.
We must fight this battle not because education is called a civil rights issue, but because education is an inalienable human right.
Our children need us too much to get tired of being in this battle.
They may have demolished and neglected the buildings we use for education, but they cannot decimate our desire to educate & be educated.
They will continue to wage this political and corporate war on educators: the Liberators.
But they cannot liquidate our aspirations for liberation.
Education is liberation. Education. Liberation. Education. Liberation.