A multicolor sea of homemade picket signs and the sound of marching bands and protest chants flooded Congress Avenue on Saturday as thousands of concerned students, parents, educators and advocates marched to the Capitol in support of enhanced public education in Texas.
The third annual Save Texas Schools March and Rally, organized by Save Texas Schools, a statewide volunteer coalition demanding an end to financial cuts and a reevaluation of standardized testing, began at the Congress Avenue Bridge and converged at the steps of the Capitol.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, Diane Ravitch, former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush, and other guests delivered lively disaffected speeches on the benefits of quality public education, the state’s negligent management of its funding and standardized testing procedures.
Chief among the day’s concerns was the Legislature’s $5.4 billion budget cut to public education in 2011. The crowd demanded the Legislature tap into the state’s Rainy Day Fund to replenish the budget.
“[The Legislature is] sitting around like some litigious, deadbeat dad, waiting for an even higher court to force them to meet their responsibilities,” Watson said in his speech. “When our kids have a test, we expect them to show up and do well. It’s time to demand as much from this legislature as we demand from a child.”
The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, also called the STAAR exam, was a hot topic among the participants and speakers.
At the rally, protesters framed standardized testing as an instance of squandered funds on behalf of the Legislature, citing the $500 million contract between the state and Pearson, the creator of the exam. Several protesters described it as discriminatory toward minority demographics and a hindrance toward legitimate classroom instruction.
Many in attendance waved signs with slogans like “STAAR Wars” and “Enough STAARS in the sky.”
Ravitch said standardized testing is a monstrous idea and noted that the national shift toward standardized testing began in Texas. She petitioned those in attendance to fight back.
“Now the thing that is exciting about this rally, aside from the fact that you have [so many people coming together], is that Texas is the place where the testing madness started,” Ravitch said, “Texas is the place where the vampire gets garlic in its face, a mirror waved and a stake in its heart.”
According to early estimates, the event drew in roughly 10,000 participants. Allen Weeks, director of Save Texas Schools, deemed the rally a political success.
“I was overjoyed [by the march and rally],” Weeks said. “We had tons of people here. Everyone knows why they’re here. We’re going to change this. We’re going to get funding back in and testing out.”
Published on February 25, 2013 as "Texans protest for school reform".