This Saturday, “Great Alaska Schools Anchorage” hosted a rally in support of public education in Alaska. The weather was more than cooperative, and the vibe — with municipal elections on Tuesday and the legislative calendar winding down — was festive. A crowd of over 500 gathered on the lawn at the Loussac Library, with signs, signup sheets, and a lot of smiles.
Shuttles carried attendees from far away parking spots, as the library lot was packed over capacity. Pets, kids, parents, and politicos rushed about under a Spring sun making sure their voices, in support of a strong public education system in Alaska, were heard loud and clear.
Alaska Commons was on hand to take in the rare spectacle of an outdoor gathering that operated outside the summer months.
Signs were everywhere.
…Even on cars, in true break-up fashion.
Making my way through the crowd, I heard someone remark on the amount of elected officials and candidates present. “Half of Juneau’s here,” one voice said.
A second voice responded: “The right half.”
Some lawmakers had a palpable presence, despite their absences. Organizers encouraged attendees to contact legislators who might feel inclined to support the more objectionable parts of Governor Parnell’s education reforms (charter schools, vouchers, and a constitutional amendment allowing public funds to go to private schools) and who might be wavering on an adequate increase in the base student allocation.
The short hour-long gathering was stacked with local performances and speeches.
I normally don’t feature pictures of kids at political rallies. Generally, I find “billboarding” tacky. But, looking at all the young children with signs like “Don’t Fire my Teachers” and “Public Schools are Worth It!” forced me to realize this was their futures they were here to fight for. The fact of the matter was, they had a larger stake in the rally than the rest of us.
A lot of really important decisions will be made in the coming weeks. Whether this was an impressive show of force or a turning point is very much yet to be determined. But the message on Saturday was crystal clear: