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Nationwide, the events were meant as a call for equitable funding for all public schools, an end to high-stakes testing, education policies informed by parents and teachers and curriculum responsive to community needs.
In Utah, the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action events focused on all that but also actions by lawmakers and school board members that have grabbed headlines in recent weeks.
A crowd of about 50 people gathered at the Salt Lake City Main Library Friday to rally around elected leaders and activists who talked about taking back schools from politicians and corporate interests. The group then marched to the nearby State Office of Education.
They also used the event to rail against the Ogden School Board's decision to ask teachers to sign a take-it-or-leave it contract. And several condemned state lawmakers' decision to study whether to eliminate collective bargaining for certain public employees and whether to implement tuition tax credits.
At a teach-in earlier on Friday, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss urged teachers and parents to take a more active role in improving education and fighting harmful reform.
"I believe it's time for teachers and parents to organize and reclaim our schools as places of learning, joy and democracy," the Holladay Democrat said.
At the afternoon rally, Tom Nedreberg, Utah Education Association vice president, said the middle class is under attack. He and other speakers also said teachers' interests, such as small class sizes, are the same as students' interests.
"Ensuring teachers have a voice in their schools is key to ensuring quality public schools," Nedreberg said, also decrying what he called "continuous attempts to privatize entities like public education."
Doni Faber, an event organizer and a former public school teacher, said resources are being taken from public schools in an attempt to lower their performance as an "excuse for corporations to take over."
Now a tutor for Valley Mental Health, she added: "Our collective bargaining rights are being attacked, our funding is being cut, and policy is interfering with our ability to teach."
Teachers carried signs saying, "Teaching is an art, not a business" "Schools for all, not for some" and "Flunk Howard Stephenson," the Draper senator who is co-chairman of the Education Interim Committee planning to study collective bargaining and tax credits.
Stephenson, contacted after the rally, said it's "preposterous" to think that there's an attempt to starve schools of resources so they fail and can be privatized.
"It's quite amazing that the union is saying that competition will make public schools perform worse," Stephenson said. "That is an outrageous conclusion. In every place competition has been used, it has always improved the results."
He also said union interests are not students' or teachers' interests. "This is purely about saving the union, not about saving schools, not about saving students," Stephenson said.
But Elinda Bean, a teacher at Central Davis Junior High and a school representative for the Davis Education Association, said the rally showed her that teachers need to stand up and take action.
"This is scary," Bean said, pausing to keep tears at bay. "They scare me, the charter school situation and the situation with Sen. Stephenson, when all I want to do is teach my kids."
Save Our Schools events
On Thursday night, an audience of about 50 gathered to watch and discuss the movie "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman," which rebuts the recent documentary "Waiting for 'Superman.' " Go to http://tinyurl.com/4yjsc6v to read about that event.