In the wake of the school closures, local community activists have launched a grassroots effort to get public schools back in business, but are facing significant obstacles.
The initiative, “Schools on the Rocks,” is raising money for the rebuilding of schools, including the two that were closed last week.
But while they have garnered support from across the political spectrum, local leaders and activists say the initiative is an effort to undermine public education in a state that has been ravaged by the state’s school crisis.
“I have a lot of faith that if we have a chance to rebuild schools and get our kids back to school, I’m going to go for it,” said John Pfeifer, a local activist who has been organizing the effort.
Pfefter said he has been working to organize a rally on May 17 in support of the initiative and plans to deliver the call on Facebook.
“We’ve already had a couple of people come forward who have been able to come up with some good ideas,” Pfeiger said.
The “School on the Rails” group has a list of 12 goals for the campaign.
One of them is to get the public school system back in operation, Pfeiffer said.
PFEIFER: “A lot of us who are part of the community who are not going to support the closure of schools are really angry that we have to close schools to the public.”
But the groups leaders are hoping to make the event more inclusive, PFEIGER said.
“People should know that this isn’t a political action.
This is not a partisan thing.
This isn’t about race.
This was about public education.”
Pfeiefer said the campaign aims to rally together people who believe that public schools should be open to the students, rather than closed to the government.
PFAILLER: I think that we need more than just one-sided discussions. “
There are some people who think that public education is going to be taken away from them, and others who believe we need schools that are accessible and have a place for kids to learn,” PFAIFFER said of his supporters.
PFAILLER: I think that we need more than just one-sided discussions.
We need more of a community dialogue that is respectful of all perspectives and all opinions.
The local group has already raised more than $6,000 in the first month of the campaign, and plans on raising another $1,500 in the coming days.
But Pfeigers concerns about the campaign are not unfounded.
According to a survey released last month by the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of the public says that public school students are being taken away, while an overwhelming majority of people who have attended school have a positive view of the closure.
The poll found that 73 percent of Americans believe the public education system is in need of repair and that the system is struggling financially.
PFLER: The public school closures were a disaster for the state of New York.
The state is currently in the middle of a budget crisis and the public schools are closed, PFLIFER stated.
Pfliffer’s group has been advocating for more than a year for the restoration of public schools.
But it has not yet reached a consensus on the best way forward, as some activists have advocated for a full return to school as a matter of public policy.
“My position is that it would be a disaster to close public schools and then say, ‘Let’s do it again,'” Pfeifer said of the strategy.
PFERER: If you do a good job of building an open environment and a community that wants to participate, it will really benefit the state and the students.
“What we want is to restore the public institutions and not just the public entities.”
Pflifer said that while he is not advocating for a return to public schools, he hopes to encourage the public to continue to learn.
“It’s a matter for everyone,” Pfliffe said.