UPDATED: Education supporters plan huge grassroots rally at Mich Capitol June 19th, teacher unions & media confused

Grassroots power in action!

NOTE: This post has been updated. See below.

A little under two weeks ago, my pals that run the Facebook page Save Michigan’s Public Schools announced a rally to support education and teachers in Michigan. Their page is the premier online resource for all things education in our state. It was started by Ann Arbor educator Rochelle Noel and former state House candidate from Traverse City Betsy Coffia. Being grassroots organizers in the most basic definition of the word “grassroots”, Rochelle and Betsy and their passionate team of volunteers chose to pull off their June 19th rally on their own without reaching out to the two biggest unions in Michigan, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The event is titled “Save Michigan’s Public Schools Rally for Public Ed” (Facebook event page HERE.)

Here are the exciting details:

Please join us on the Capitol lawn beginning at 11:30 am on Wednesday, June 19th. We’re still working on lining up our speakers for the event, but we’ve already confirmed the following superstar advocates for public education:

  • Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (Senate Minority Leader)
  • Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park)
  • Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids)
  • John Austin (President, State Board of Education)
  • Thomas Pedroni (Associate Professor, Wayne State Univ)
  • Superintendent Rod Rock (Clarkston Community Schools)
  • Jeff Kass (Ann Arbor Public Schools Teacher & Poet)
  • Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (Education Chair, National Congress of Black Women)
  • Steven Norton (Michigan Parents for Schools)
  • John Stewart (former member MI House of Representatives)
  • Mary Valentine (former member MI House of Representatives)
  • Stephanie Keiles (Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Teacher & Michigan Friends of Public Education)
  • Betsy Coffia (Save Michigan’s Public Schools)
  • K-12 Students Representing School Districts Around Michigan

And Master of Ceremonies … Tony Trupiano (Progressive Talk Radio Show Host/Night Shift with Tony Trupiano)

WHO ARE WE?
Save Michigan’s Public Schools is a non-partisan grassroots network of concerned citizens. Our goal is to connect parents, students, educators and communities across Michigan and raise awareness of threats to public education.

We believe a free, quality public education is the cornerstone of a democratic society. We believe every child in Michigan deserves access to equal and excellent educational opportunities through public education. We believe public education must be locally-controlled, fully-funded, delivered by highly qualified professional teachers, and devoid of corporate involvement.

To this end, we support policymakers and public officials who reject the corporate, profit-motivated takeover of public schools, massive school closures, and meaningless high-stakes testing. We support wise policies and laws that forward sound, research-based, evidence-based solutions to support and improve our existing public school system.



Click the image for a downloadable/printable flyer (pdf)

It’s an incredible all-star line-up, to be sure. Lacking the media outreach power of the statewide unions, their team got their information out primarily through social media and there are already hundreds of people confirmed to attend.

What happened next is a bit comical but really shows that a group of dedicated individuals, working together for something they believe in passionately, can make things happen. Important, powerful things. And sometimes, in the process, pretty much blow the minds of media whose job it is to report the news.

Last night, the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) sent out this MIRS Capitol Capsule email:

MEA Coming To Town
The Michigan Education Association, which has been lying low in the legislative arena, will stage a public rally on June 19th at the state capitol to “raise public awareness of the threats facing public education.”

It’s good reporting that they picked up on the event. There is just one problem, however: it’s completely wrong. The MEA is not involved in this in any way. In fact, when I spoke with Tony Trupiano at the Michigan Summit this past weekend, he told me that folks from both the MEA and AFT came to him asking what was going on.

MIRS later sent out this correction:

From: MIRS Delivery
Date: June 10, 2013 10:27 PM
Subject: CORRECTED: Anti-‘Corporate Schools’ Rally Set For June 19

Anti-‘Corporate Schools’ Rally Set For June 19
A retired Michigan Education Association (MEA) member and the head of the MEA Family Retired Staff Association is helping organize a public rally June 19 at the state Capitol to “raise public awareness of the threats facing public education.” The MEA, itself, is not affiliated with the rally, according to MEA spokesman Thomas MORGAN.

Nice try, MIRS, but this, too, was incorrect. MEA Family Retired Staff Association president Bill Murray had nothing at all to do with organizing the event. Nothing.

Finally, MIRS reported it this way on their website:

Anti-‘Corporate Schools’ Rally Set For June 19
A retired Michigan Education Association (MEA) member and the head of the MEA Family Retired Staff Association is helping organize a public rally June 19 at the state Capitol to “raise public awareness of the threats facing public education.” The MEA, itself, is not affiliated with the rally, according to MEA spokesman Thomas MORGAN.

The demonstration, from the group “Save Michigan’s Public Schools, is set for 11:30 a.m. and will feature Senate Minority Leader Gretchen WHITMER (D-East Lansing), Sen. Bert JOHNSON (D-Highland Park) and radio host Tony TRUPIANO.

The e-mail memo obtained by MIRS quotes MEA Family Retired Staff Association Bill MURRAY, who urges students, parents, educators and others concerned citizens from across Michigan to attend.

“We believe a free, quality public edification is the cornerstone of a democratic society . . . We believe public education must be locally-controlled, fully-funded, delivered by highly qualified professional teachers, and devoid of corporate involvement.”

The flyer urges public officials to “reject the corporate, profit-motivated takeover of public schools, massive school closures, and meaningless high-stakes testing.”

The Legislature has finished the K-12 budget but contentious debate over a core curriculum, the Education Achievement Authority and related issues remain in the hopper.

Morgan said that while the event is not being organized by the MEA, “We support MEA members’ right to advocate on behalf of their students. Teachers and education support professionals are committed to strengthening public education so that every Michigan child can receive a quality education.”

Still wrong. Bill Murray is not “helping organize” this event other than to forward an email sent out by the group organizing the rally. I have confirmed this with Rochelle Noel who has yet to be contacted by MIRS. MIRS went to the MEA for comments and information but never bothered to contact the actual organizers! See update below.

At any rate, this is going to be a terrific event, one that I will sadly miss since I and the rest of the Eclectablog team will be en route to Netroots Nation. I’ll try to get someone to report on it for the site.

One final thing: if you want to know how desperate the anti-teacher forces in Michigan are, look no further than the Detroit Free Press iPhone app. This is a screenshot from this morning:

See that red box at the bottom? It looks like “news”, right? It’s not. It’s an ad. If you click it, it takes you to a Mackinac Center blog entry promoting their frivolous lawsuit against Taylor Schools for signing a legal contract with the teachers union there to preserve some elements of right to work for ten years. The Mackinac Center, as I have written about in the past, is the most virulently anti-union and anti-teacher organization in the state of Michigan. They are desperately trying to be seen as a “news” organization but they are, of course, nothing more than a propaganda mill for the corporatist effort to destroy unions and privatize all public services. They are funded in part, for example, by the Koch brothers and the DeVos family.

When you have the corporatists scrambling, you know you’re doing something right. If you can, please support next week’s event. Even if you can’t go, go to the Facebook event page and share it with your Michigan friends.

And hat’s off to Rochelle, Betsy, and the rest of the Save Michigan’s Public Schools grassroots organizing team! Well done, my friends. Well done, indeed.

UPDATE: Two things:

First, I have learned that MIRS actually did NOT contact the MEA about this rally. They simply assumed it was being organized by them, got wind of a forwarded email from Bill Murray, and then made a whole lot of assumptions about what was going on. Unless you consider forwarding an email announcement to others “helping to organize” the rally (which I decidedly do NOT), those assumptions led to some fairly shabby reporting, something actually pretty uncharacteristic of MIRS which I generally admire and value.

Second, I want to be sure that I haven’t left anyone with the impression that I am critical of the MEA or AFT Michigan for not being involved with this event. I’m not. In fact, I’m thrilled that they aren’t because it shows clearly and profoundly that protecting our public schools in Michigan is something a LOT of people care about deeply, not just our “union thug” friends at the MEA and AFT. While I am very supportive of both of these groups and think they are doing knock-out work to protect our schools and the heroes who teach in them, I think it is actually beneficial to see a killer event like this one being organized by true grassroots organizers. It’s not a bad thing, in my opinion, that the teachers unions were a bit puzzled that it was happening without them. It’s always nice to find out you have allies outside of your organization.

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