A rally for public education drew more than 4,000 people to Boston Common on Saturday, in opposition to anticipated cuts of $10.6 billion to federal education programs under President Trump’s new budget.
Teachers, parents, and students performed music as protesters cheered and waved signs.
“Fighting today for this ideal of quality public education — no matter what your race is, your class, or your ZIP code — is so important,” said Jessica Tang, president-elect of the Boston Teachers Union.
Under the Trump budget plan, the cuts would include mental health support, advanced coursework, arts education, and after-school programs, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a near-final version of budget documents. The administration also is seeking to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies, the Post reported.
Medicaid cuts to programs for special-needs youth will “hurt the most vulnerable students,” Tang said. “If we’re talking about closing achievement and opportunity gaps, this flies in the face of that.”
Though public schools are “not perfect, some of the best experiences I’ve ever had have been in public education,” said Rasheem Muhammad, a 17-year-old junior at the Urban Science Academy, a small public high school in West Roxbury.
Many attendees expressed concern that Trump appointee Betsy DeVos is not qualified to be the secretary of education.
“Being a teacher, being a school leader, being a school superintendent, being the secretary of education — any of these positions require vast knowledge about the education of children and the system,” said Nora McManus, a former teacher who has a child attending a Boston public school. The new education secretary, she said, “lacks that knowledge.”
Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said she hopes attendees will continue the discussion after the rally — with their legislators and their peers.
“We are here in Boston, which is the birthplace of public education in America,” McManus said. “I don’t think there could be a better place for this rally.”