Counting the Dots
So how many people really tried to Save Texas Schools
By Richard Whittaker, 1:01PM, Fri. Mar. 30, 2012
Every time any group meets at the Capitol, there's always a big argument about how many people were really there. The organizers go high, detractors go low, and the cops try to stay out of it. Knowing this, Save Texas School have taken a novel approach. Case in point: Last weekend's second annual rally on the South Steps. Hint: It involves stickers.
Chatting with organizer Allen Weeks, he explained that they don't try to estimate a maximum head count: Instead, they go for a minimum total. The way they calculate it is pretty simple. Everyone that attends is given a little sticker to put on their shirt. Count the number of stickers given out and you have a minimum headcount (after all, there could be lots of people that attend but don't get a sticker.)
Weeks estimates that, at the high point, between 2,000 and 2,500 people in attendance, but that ebbed and flowed over the afternoon. However, counting the dots it seems that around 4,500 people attended either the march, the rally or both for at least some of the time. That's a lot higher than the 1,000 estimate by the Associated Press and the 500 guesstimate by professional anti-public education advocate Peggy Venable.
It is undeniably lower than the 11,000 from last year's rally (again, calculated using the dot system) but, contrary to the BS being spread by right wingers, no-one expected the same numbers this time around. The 2011 rally happened in the middle of the legislative session and right at the beginning of Spring Break.
No session and no Spring Break this time, but Weeks was still very happy with the numbers, especially about how many folks came from out of town. Hundreds of copies of the Building Support for Public Education: A Guide for Small Group Meetings were given out, and Weeks said that he hopes they will lead to lots of small, local gatherings.
That's the number he's really counting on: That a thousand coffee klatsches have far more impact than one big rally.