In Texas and across the United States, 100,000 people in more than 200 cities took part in the latest—and by far the largest to date—wave of “walk-ins” to promote educational opportunity so that every child can attend a high-quality public school or university. At most events, occurring on or near October 6, supporters gathered outside their schools in the morning and engaged the community in dialogue, and then, in a show of strength and common purpose, parents, students, and educators walked into the schools together.
The events were sponsored by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a broad coalition of more than 100 community and labor organizations that includes AFT, with the overall message of fighting for the public schools all students deserve. The events were as varied as the communities that organized them. Advocating for public education as the gateway to racial and economic justice, local educators, parents, elected officials, and community members highlighted a range of local issues: school closings, budget cuts, key education-related ballot measures and races, excessive testing, and much more.
In Houston, the walk-ins showcased the need for funding and support that gives teachers the tools, time, and freedom necessary to deliver a high-quality public education for all students. Members of the Houston Federation of Teachers stood shoulder to shoulder with parents, students, officials, and other partners at four schools, including Sam Houston High School and Yates High School, where this strong public show of support for the school was followed later in the day with “the start of a continuing conversation on how to bring the community-school model to the building,” reports Lauren Simmons, a Yates alumna and HFT building representative.
In Austin, the walk-in focused on the announcement of a region-wide effort to replicate the successful community schools developed in Austin ISD, where our local affiliate has been in the vanguard of coalitions making this approach a reality for Austin students. The mayor of Austin and school and community leaders from around the region came out to declare their commitment to implement community schools.
For the first time this year, higher education also was included in the nation-wide walk-in action, and hundreds of AFT faculty and staff mobilized with rallies, protests, and social media campaigns. Texas AFT college locals put their efforts into holding student debt clinics to help members and students struggling with the cost of college.