Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend a town hall meeting with Arne Duncan. He was in town promoting his “Strong Start, Bright Future” bus tour. He visited several cities along the border. When I found out he was coming to Chula Vista, I was so excited! I would have the opportunity to hopefully speak to him and let him have it!
I brought my 5 year old daughter along with me, and she had a sign that said, “I am NOT a test score!” Hidden, of course, in my purse. We arrived at Castle Park Middle, and got to go right in. I had had visions of security patting me down and finding my illegal sign, but no, there was none of that. Security was not all that tight. You had to give your name beforehand to participate in the town hall meeting, so perhaps they checked out participants ahead of time. Though I did also have visions of them seeing my name and not allowing me in- this didn’t happen either.
My daughter and I were sitting a few rows back in the empty room. Apparently I was the only one who thought it started at 9 am. It actually started at 9:30, so we were super early. As we were sitting there, a lady who wad working the event talked to me and suggested that my daughter and I move right up to the front so she could see better. I was laughing on the inside- if only she knew what we had planned! So we moved up. Second row, right in the center. I was SO close to the chairs where the guests would sit.
Arne finally arrived, and the school had a pep rally for him. It was so odd. It was like pod people had taken over. First, the school went all out decorating. There had been an article in the paper about how they spent a lot of money sprucing up the school just for Arne, when they don’t really have the extra money to be doing so. What I found disturbing was how brainwashed everyone seemed. It was like a college football pep rally or something. I just kept thinking, you are cheering on the man who is destroying public education. You are cheering on the man who is destroying any chance for low income kids to make it. And this is a school that is entirely low income, and a large Hispanic population. What further made me sick to my stomach was that they had these gigantic posters with blown up photos of Arne’s head on them. Spooky.
After the pep rally was the much anticipated town hall meeting. Juan Vargas, a congressman spoke first and actually mentioned my daughter, calling attention to her that she was in the audience. She did not have the sign out yet! Arne Duncan spoke, and of course his words sounded good, but his actions do not match his words. He talked about equality, he talked extensively about not wanting the Federal Government to control anything at local schools, and about how local schools are making the real difference. Sounds great, but Common Core is coming from the Fed. He is also threatening California with taking away their Title I funds if CA does not test this year. How is that helping the most needy kids?
I waited until Arne was done speaking before taking out the sign and having my daughter hold it. Arne was sitting right in front of me, with my BAT shirt on, and my daughter holding the sign. He kept trying to not look at us, but I know he saw. Unfortunately, I did not get to ask a question. They hardly had any time for questions at all, and most of them were not difficult questions. Two people did try to ask about the withholding of Title I funds, but they did so in a not direct way so Arne easily slipped out of those questions.
It occurred to me as I sat there that I was likely the only teacher, and only parent. Everyone else was Very Important and in suits. There were people from various non-profits, the CEO of BLCI (will have to devote an entire post on them alone), members of school boards, superintendents, congressmen, etc. A few Badass Parents were there inside, but we were in the minority. Of course, it was held on a Friday morning, when teachers usually cannot take time off. There is no real interest in knowing what teachers think, or what parents think. This meeting was entirely about patting the back of each other. It made me sick.