Originally published on Approximately 8,000 Words.
Thursday, I participated in a ‘MIC CHECK’ confrontation with Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, at a town hall meeting at Austin Community College. Duncan is criticized for many reasons, but he came under fire from Occupy Austin for his support of charter schools and privatization which puts teachers out of work, puts taxpayer money and our students in the hands of 1% corporations with little accountability.
Occupy AISD (a.k.a. Occupy Education) is one of our most effective working groups. They’ve engaged in amazing outreach to schools, teachers, parents, and activists. They led a successful rally earlier this month bringing many non-occupiers on the march. They’ve also had a real effect on our schools, supporting the efforts to oppose IDEA Charter that resulted in only 5 students asking to attend the controversial east side charter school.
I felt honored to support their efforts today with the help of four other occupiers who attended the town hall meeting. Here’s what our mic check sounded like:
Because we did not know how many we had present to support us, we read it more as a speech than a traditional call & response, but near the end you could hear students & others joining in. The crowd applauded and many came up afterwards to ask us questions or to thank us. As for Duncan himself, he’s obviously used to being mic checked and responded calmly with a stock answer about the importance of the “public-private partnership.” The campus police lined up but when we sat down again left us alone.
Later, during the question & answer session, the last question was a pointed one from another occupier:
After the meeting, we had a pleasant & positive chat with Brette Lea, a member of ACC’s Public Information & College Networking department. We talked about how the occupation supports efforts by colleges like ACC to educate the disadvantaged, but opposes the 1% infiltration of education. We also heard from Timothy John Tuten, Director of Special Projects for the US Department of Education. He thanked us for being nonviolent and urged us to contact him to share our concerns. But not everyone reacted calmly, as James explained in a brief interview:
Participating in such a successful action thrilled me — and then I got another thrill to see my video online at the Washington Post website.
If you’re coming to Austin for South by SouthWest (SXSW), be sure to check out Occupy Austin.
The full text of our mic check, written by Amanda Michelle of Occupy AISD, is below.
This message comes from teachers, parents, & education activists.
We are aware of your attempts to privatize public education.
We are aware of your agenda to corporatize public education.
Our schools are not for sale!
As Secretary of Education
Your job is to discover a way to provide schools & teachers
PUBLIC resources & funding
NOT from private charters & corporations
We refuse to allow
The continued push by the 1%
To infiltrate our public education systems!
OUR SCHOOLS ARE NOT FOR SALE
OUR STUDENTS ARE NOT FOR SALE
OUR TEACHERS ARE NOT FOR SALE