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Back by Popular Demand: Save Texas Schools

Public schools march and rally set for March 24

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 23, 2012

Last year's Save Texas Schools rally drew more than 11,000 people.
Last year's Save Texas Schools rally drew more than 11,000 people.
Photo by Jana Birchum

Last year, Save Texas Schools put more than 11,000 students, families, teachers, and education advocates on the front lawn of the Capitol (see "Keeping Texas Smart – and on the March," March 18, 2011.) Now the group returns on March 24 to take its pro-schools message back to the Capitol. Advisory committee chair Allen Weeks explained, "I said at the rally last year, this is the beginning of a movement."

Founded last year to fight back against school budget cuts, the fledgling organization went on to become omnipresent during the legislative session, testifying at committee meetings and demonstrating in the lobby. Unfortunate­ly, it couldn't stop lawmakers from passing a devastating $2 billion a year cut to public education. However, Weeks said that as the organization matures, it will have more of an impact on legislative actions. After the 2011 rally, the group established local chapters and has run multiple conferences around the state. Weeks plans to keep up the pressure with this weekend's demonstration and is getting some big-name support. Journalistic legend Dan Rather has been confirmed as a speaker, and there are plans for lawmakers to attend this year. But for Weeks, the most important attendees will be those hit so hard by the cuts that they will travel across the state to protest. He said, "We've got 20 teachers from Alpine and people from El Paso coming in." His biggest hope remains for a large local showing, and that means "getting the Austinites off their couches. We take it for granted that [the Capitol's] five minutes away."

Ultimately, the plan is to build what Weeks called "a pro-education, pro-public schools Legislature." Last year, it was all about lobbying sitting lawmakers. This year, the group's energy is going into the elections. It is already running candidate forums, which Weeks said are about "making sure that challengers and incumbents are challenged the right way, so they can't just say, 'I love babies, and I love public schools.'" The group is taking a distinctly nonpartisan – or rather, bipartisan – role in the primaries: Weeks said, "It doesn't matter the party – you get the right people in there, and they can do this."

Weeks hopes the group can counterbalance the electoral influence of conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity, whose Red Apple Project regularly issues hyperbolic screeds against school districts. Weeks said, "There are people who have decided that they don't want to educate other people's kids." However, he argued that such groups ignore that society needs and values public schools. "Eighty percent of Texans don't question that," he said. "It's just getting that 80 percent of Texans to understand the issues and go to the polls."

The 2012 Save Texas Schools March and Rally

Saturday, March 24

The march on the Capitol begins at 11am at 12th & Trinity streets, followed by a rally on the south steps of the Capitol from noon to 2pm.

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