March Starts at Salsarengue, Includes Live Music

There will be a march in Holyoke April 27 to protest plans by governor Charlie Baker to take away control of the city's schools from people who live there. The march will start at 3 p.m. at Salsarengue Restaurant, 392 High Street.

Eduardo Melendez is a teacher at Holyoke public schools, a position he has held for 20 years. “In Puerto Rico, we do rallies with live music,” he told the Valley Post on April 24. “That's what we'll do on Monday. We will have a whole bunch of musicians.”

Melendez provided a link to the Valley Post to a 2014 report by Bill Moyers that said, "Public education from kindergarten through high school pulls in more than $500 billion in taxpayer revenues every year, and crony capitalists and politicians alike are cashing in" by converting public schools to for-profit, publicly-funded "charter schools." The full report is at:

http://billmoyers.com/episode/public-schools-for-sale

Darlene Elias has lived in Holyoke since 1976. “We moved here when I was a little girl,” she told the Valley Post on April 24. She plans to attend the march. “A receivership [the name of Baker's plan] would hurt black and Latino people in our community,” Elias said. After graduating from Holyoke high school, she went to college, then earned a master's degree. She now works as a probation officer. “There is a pipeline from school to prison in Holyoke,” she said. “Our students' biggest problem is poverty.”

Seventy-three percent of the students at Holyoke High School are people of color, according to:

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=01370505&orgt...

By comparison, in nearby Northampton, 29 percent of public school students are people of color. It takes less than 10 minutes to get from Holyoke to Northampton by car.

The city of Holyoke's population is about 40,000; Northampton's is about 28,000.

English is a second language for about half the students in Holyoke public schools.

“Nowhere in its 65-page review of the school district does the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education address the effects of poverty on student achievement,” according to

http://massteacher.org/issues_and_action/ongoing_issues/holyoke.aspx

The average person of color is much poorer than the average white person. The book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond explains why.

Funding for hiring more teachers in Holyoke could come from raising taxes on millionaires. In 2011, there were 11,557 Massachusetts residents who made over $1 million a year, according to the state tax department.

The union that represents Holyoke teachers opposes the state take-over. The union has a web site: www.MassTeacher.org.

More information about the march is available from Rose Bookbinder. She can be reached at ReclaimOurSchools@gmail.com or by phone at (413) 320-2028.

Elias said, “Our classrooms are over-populated, our schools are under-funded. There aren't enough field trips or art, music and gym classes.”

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