Is Parents’ Rally in Boston a Harbinger of Wider Protests?

Stephen Soldz

rallyIn Boston today we had 700 or so parents rallying at the State House and lobbying the legislature to protest the budget cuts that threaten to do serious damage to public education in the city. The rally had an amazing energy, as parents throughout the city sacrificed their lunch hour to protest.

The movement started among parents at Boston Latin School, an elite “exam school,” with many middle-class parents. BLS was originally scheduled for an 18% budget cut, which would remove all music, physical education, and many Advanced Placement classes, while replacing one subject with yet another study hall each day.

Rather than simply fight for their kids and their school, the BLS parents wisely decided to reach out to parents throughout the system, many of whom aren’t as privileged. The rally today, while disproportionately white, did represent parents from throughout the school system. One State Representative said it was the largest rally he’d ever seen there and made quite an impact among his colleagues. My representative, Angelo Scaccia, however, ran for a hiding place and disappeared, along with all his aides, when 50 parents from his district tried to meet with him.

The rally got some press attention, but Boston.com, the website of the Boston Globe, appears to be downplaying it:

Parents of children who attend the Boston public schools rallied at the Statehouse this afternoon, hoping to convince the governor and the Legislature to send more money to the city to avert budget cuts that could result in the loss of more than 500 school jobs, including those of many teachers.

The parents advocated for a larger share of federal stimulus dollars. They also voiced support for the Legislature to pass measures that would enable communities to raise more revenue, such as increasing the local meals and lodging taxes.

“What we are interested in is keeping more teachers in the classroom,” said Karina Meiri, a Boston Latin School parent and one of the organizers, in an interview before the event.

They are giving much greater play to a vampire rumor at Boston Latin than to hundreds of outraged parents. Neither their article not the picture they chose gives any sense that more than a few dozen parents participated. Our other paper, the less-respected rag, the Boston Herald, did a far better job conveying the spirit of the rally:

Hundreds of boisterous Boston parents packed the State House today to protest the governor’s move to cut the city out of $168 million in state stabilization funds to schools.

“We have bare bones and now the bare bones are being cut and all we have are teachers and now they are being taken away,” said Bonnie Manzi, a mother of a 15-year-old girl attending Boston Latin Academy [a separate “exam school” from Boston Latin School].

The West Roxbury mom was joined today by scores of other parents chanting “Do the right thing” and wearing T-shirts reading, “Save BPS arts,” while amassing inside the State House.

It was a show of Boston-baked outrage over the future of the schools.

One wonders if movements like this are occurring across the country, as parents and other citizens fight back against the massive cutbacks accompanying the economic meltdown. If so, perhaps these movements will gradually unite, taking on a wider agenda while bringing together people from diverse geographic regions. After all, the cutbacks, like the economic crisis, are occurring at a national, indeed an international level, and they affect us all. A successful fightback will take more than people in one city. And the damage to public education is only one aspect of the damage that will be caused by the destruction of government budgets while trillions are spent paying off the banks to “resume lending.” If citizens unite to resist, democracy in the country could be revitalized as we cease to let the politicians, the bankers, and their ilk decide our fate.

PsySR member Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. This essay is cross-posted at his blog Psyche, Science, and Society. Steven can be reached at ssoldz@bgsp.edu.

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