Posts tagged "Occupy the DOE"
October 12, 2012
A year ago, Brian Jones and other education activists crowded into a standing-room-only auditorium where city Department of Education officials were supposed to present new curriculum standards to parents.
Just moments after Chancellor Dennis Walcott began to deliver his opening remarks one member of the crowd stood up.
“Mic check,” he called out.
So began the first offensive of Occupy the DOE, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street movement intended to wrest authority over the city’s schools out of the hands of the “1 percent” and into the “99 percent” of education stakeholders who are teachers, families, and students.
Minutes after the first interruption, Walcott and the other officials called off the meeting, retreating to smaller sessions in other parts of the building.
Supporters of the movement hailed the disruption as a victory and would soon stage protests at meetings througout the winter. But the demographic profile of the activists and their raucous tactics also alienated groups that had similar gripes about the city’s education policies.
A year later, the broader Occupy movement is in disarray, but the Department of Education is largely unchanged. Walcott remains in charge, mayoral control is still in place, and tests geared to the new standards are in development. But even though Occupy the DOE’s website has not been updated since May, activists say that, for better or worse, the movement has had a lasting impact on education advocacy in the city. (more…)
April 26, 2012
Chancellor Dennis Walcott is so ready for yet another raucous Panel for Educational Policy meeting tonight that he has reserved the Prospect Heights Campus auditorium until 9 a.m. Friday.
“We’re prepared to stay all night and into the morning,” Walcott told Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly, the “Good Day New York” crew at Fox 5 during an appearance this morning.
But there’s a chance that tonight could actually be much less heated than some of the panel meetings that have taken place over the past school year.
That’s because two key organizers behind the protests, rallies, and theatrics at those meetings are taking a backseat tonight. The teachers union is largely staying away and Occupy the DOE protesters who have disrupted previous meetings say they plan to keep a low profile. Only a new group, Students Activists United, which grew out of the Alliance for Quality Education and the Coalition for Educational Justice’s efforts against school closures, has plans for an organized protest.
The groups cite political and practical reasons for stepping back, and seasoned activists also say they are suffering from protest fatigue after shouting themselves hoarse at panel meetings whose outcomes seem predetermined.
“After witnessing so many bad PEP meetings, no one has any hope that this will not be another rubber-stamp approval across the board,” said Kevin Kearns, a teacher at Lehman High School in the Bronx. (more…)
February 9, 2012
Boisterous protests against school closures have long been accused of lending a circus-like atmosphere to the annual meetings where the Panel for Educational Policy votes on closures. This year, though, the opposition will actually have three rings.
Three separate groups are planning protest actions during tonight’s PEP meeting, where the citywide school board is set to vote on — and presumably approve — 23 school closures and truncations. (Changes to two schools were taken off the table yesterday.)
City officials have vowed not to let the protests disrupt the panel’s proceedings, suggesting that panel members and protesters alike could be in for a long and potentially combative night. Last year, the panel approved 22 closures in two separate meetings that each lasted well past 1 a.m. In 2010, the panel’s vote on 20 school closures took place just before 4 a.m., after more than 10 hours of protests and public comment.
Tonight, the United Federation of Teachers, which has orchestrated the most substantial protests in the past, is planning to start its protest outside Brooklyn Technical High School but then constitute an alternate event, a “People’s PEP,” at P.S. 20, an elementary school with a 600-seat auditorium six blocks away that the union has rented for the evening. Union officials said teachers from the schools up for closure would be invited to give presentations about their schools at the P.S. 20 meeting.
Another group that has been active in opposing the closure proposals, the Coalition for Educational Justice, is taking a different approach: Instead of walking out from the meeting, CEJ members and those active in affiliated groups, including the Alliance for Quality Education and the Urban Youth Collaborative, are marching in protest to it. After a 5 p.m. rally, they’ll walk five blocks east on Dekalb Street to Brooklyn Tech, where they will continue to protest against the city’s proposed closures.
A press advisory for the CEJ event warns that protesters will use the “people’s mic” to amplify their voices during the panel meeting. And they won’t be alone using that strategy. A third protest set for tonight is by “Occupy the DOE,” which grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement that popularized the human microphone tactic. (more…)
February 9, 2012
This week, the subject of Justin Wedes’s regular after school meeting with Paul Robeson High School seniors was part lesson on activism and social media, and part strategy session.
Meeting in the East Brooklyn school’s first-floor student lounge, which in the past year has served both as a place to unwind at the end of a long school day and a place to strategize ways to challenge the city’s school closure policy, Wedes detailed the plans to protest at the meeting where city officials will vote on which schools to close.
Wedes, who is a former city teacher, vocal opponent of school closures, and high-profile Occupy Wall Street organizer, is marshaling activists from within schools to join the Occupy movement in commandeering the evening PEP meeting, effectively prohibiting the agenda proceedings.
Wedes said he has spoken with students and teachers at a handful of city schools this winter in preparation for the event, including Herbert H. Lehman High School and Legacy High School for Integrated Studies.
On Thursday, the city’s Panel for Education Policy is scheduled to vote on half of this year’s controversial slate of school closures. In past years, protesters have delayed the evening vote until the early hours of the following morning. Wedes said the goal is to prohibit the vote from happening at all.
“We’re going to occupy it. We’re going to shut it down,” he said to the gathering of a half-dozen students and staff from Robeson. The PEP “won’t be able to vote.” (more…)
November 17, 2011
It’s been two months since anti-inequality protesters first settled in at Zuccotti Park in a movement that became known as “Occupy Wall Street.” To commemorate education’s unique role in the activism, protesters chose the Department of Education’s headquarters, Tweed Courthouse, as a meeting point for a much larger rally taking place tonight in Lower Manhattan.
Just as many of the DOE’s top officials were leaving Tweed to head to the department’s monthly Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Queens, a small and quiet group of 25 protesters milled about outside. Behind a heavy backdrop of police security that kept people away from the building and off the steps — which an “Occupy the DOE” rally filled 10 days ago — the group created signs, spoke through the echoing and iconic “people’s mic,” and eventually swelled to more than 50. But in the cold, wet evening, there was little of the festival-like atmosphere that organizers advertised.
“There’s less people than there were supposed to be,” said one of the teachers who attended. Then the group joined thousands of other protesters in converging on to Foley Square.
November 17, 2011
The city stepped in this afternoon to stop Occupy Wall Street protests from derailing the school day.
Fueled by a message posted on the protest movement’s website, rumors spread earlier today that the schools would be dismissing students early. “National Day of Action” protests in Lower Manhattan, which have grown increasingly tense over the course of the day are timed to the movement’s two-month anniversary and come soon after a city crackdown. The protests are set to spread to subway stations across the city at 3 p.m. and to the steps of the Department of Education’s headquarters at 4:30 p.m.
City officials quickly acted to quash the early-dismissal rumors. On Twitter, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and the DOE’s official account both sent messages assuring followers that the school day would proceed as planned. Wolfson said early dismissal was “never discussed.” And Chancellor Dennis Walcott emailed principals to tell them not to dismiss students early “as a result of any protests.”
“Rumors indicating that school will be closed early are false,” Walcott wrote in an email with the subject line “Today is a full school day.”
Middle schools, which have long been scheduled to dismiss students early because of parent-teacher conferences, did end classes early as planned.
November 8, 2011
The Occupy Wall Street movement spawned another education protest spin-off today, this time led by parents and held at the steps of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in midtown Manhattan.
The new coalition of parents, many of them from Brownstone Brooklyn and accompanied by young children, assembled to voice opposition to the governor’s plan not to extend a tax on the state’s wealthiest residents.
“Occupy the DOE,” another education protest staged last night at Tweed, featured mostly teachers and veteran education activists.
Today’s event, dubbed “Occupy for Education,” was not affiliated with any previous Occupy protest, organizers said, but they borrowed heavily from them, including a human mic and many of the same chants: “We are the 99 percent” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
The protest also featured symbolic ballot boxes for people to vote in support of the so-called “millionaires’ tax,” an income surcharge for individuals who make over $200,000 or families who make over $300,000. Cuomo has repeatedly said he wants the tax to expire at the end of the year, despite voter polls showing widespread support for a newer version that would only tax millionaires. His argument is that the tax threatens to chase away the state’s wealthiest residents, which would, in effect, result in less job creation and less tax revenue, not more.
But parents today said that revenue from the tax, estimated to be $2.8 billion next year, could help restore funding to schools after years of budget cuts that have caused class sizes to rise.
“The short term job creation or protection that he claims will be the result of repealing the tax on millionaires does not justify jeopardizing or not supporting education,” said Liz Rosenberg, a Park Slope parent who helped organize the event. (more…)
November 7, 2011
More than 100 activists took to the steps of Tweed Courthouse shortly after 5 p.m. today to repeat the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest-style that cut short an October Panel for Education Policy meeting.
Calling themselves “Occupy the DOE,” the protesters included a Baruch College professor, a trio of high school students from Paul Robeson High School, a Brooklyn College graduate student, and teachers from across the city. They mingled with veteran education activists from the Grassroots Education Movement and Occupy Wall Street organizers in front of the Department of Education headquarters for two hours while more than one dozen police officers looked on. (more…)