Capitol rally planned Wednesday for schools

3:20 AM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
The Capitol in Lansing. Photo from the Associated Press.
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LANSING, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- As many as 2,000 people are expected to gather Wednesday at the State Capitol in Lansing for a rally aimed at focusing attention on supporting public schools in Michigan.

"Watching public education be attacked from every angle for the last two years has been difficult and we felt like it was time for us to stand up and say enough," said Rochelle Noel, a guidance counselor at Churchill High School in Livonia and one of the organizers.

The Save Michigan's Public Schools rally, expected to last about two hours, will be at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, is among the speakers. Also on the list: Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, state Board of Education President John Austin, D-Ann Arbor, as well as teachers, students, parents and administrators.

They're concerned about what they say is a lack of adequate funding for public schools, legislative efforts that allow, or would allow, the state to take over or dissolve financially insolvent school districts, too much high-stakes testing and the proliferation of for-profit charter schools.

Noel said she doesn't oppose charter schools, but she's concerned that Michigan has the largest percentage of charters operated by a for-profit company.

The rally is being sponsored by what Noel described as a grassroots network, called Save Michigan's Public Schools, that was created in December.

The goal, she said, is getting people energized and mobilized ahead of the 2014 elections "so we can start heading in a different direction when it comes to public education."

"All over Michigan, there's an awful lot of people who are concerned about what's going on. They want to do something, but they don't know what," said Steve Norton, executive director of the Michigan Parents for Schools, who will speak at the rally.

Noel has been a member of the Michigan Education Association - the state's largest teacher's union - for 17 years, but organizers of the rally purposely didn't partner with any major state education organizations to plan the rally, she said.

"We decided to maintain that grassroots flavor," Noel said.

By Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press Education writer

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