On Thursday morning, over 100 families from KIPP Massachusetts boarded buses headed to Boston’s Faneuil Hall for the 77,000 Reasons Rally, which called for a bold new plan to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to eliminate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps and offer every child a world-class education. The rally was attended by over 2,000 parents, students, school leaders and community activists from around the Commonwealth.
“We believe in our kids. We believe every single one of them can succeed at the highest level – regardless of where they come from, their family circumstances, or what language they speak at home,” said Stacey Marlow, a parent leader from Mattapan.
Event organizers hoped to focus attention on a troubling reality for families in Massachusetts: 77,000 children across the Commonwealth currently attend persistently failing schools, where fewer than one-in-three students can either read or do math on grade level. Analysis shows that these schools overwhelmingly serve low-income children of color. Low-income students make up 85% (over 65,000 students) of all children who attend failing schools, while 71% (over 55,000 students) of students in failing schools are African-American or Latino.
“This is a crisis, and we need to act now,” said Tonya Morris, a mother of five from Dorchester.
Despite these disturbing figures, parent organizers are eager to work with new city and state leaders. Parent organizers cite Governor-Elect Baker as a leader that is committed to the type of bold, transformational change that they want to see.
Rosemery Rojas, whose son Julian is an 8th grader at KIPP Academy Lynn, joined the rally for the 77,000 students in need. “I want the same opportunities for these kids as my son has been lucky enough to receive. Coming together as a large group increases our visibility and shows politicians across the state what we want.”
Many of the parent advocates who gathered on Thursday send their children to the Commonwealth’s high-performing charter schools but there was a diversity of parents from all types of schools represented at the rally. Parent leaders are quick to say that bold change must include more than just an expansion of charter schools and have actively worked to build a movement of parents from all school types.
“Parents don’t care about the type of school – we just want to make sure it’s a great school,” said Morris.
“We’re tired of all the talk about district vs. charter. We all want the best for our children, and we’re ready to work together to expand all types of great schools,” said Negron.
The rally comes at a particularly crucial time for KIPP Massachusetts, as they await DESE approval for a new KIPP elementary school to serve students in grades K-4 in Lynn. With 95% of the first class of KIPP high school seniors projected to matriculate to a 4 year college this fall, and students from 5-12th grades growing more than 20% of their peers in district schools, KIPP has proven that the children in Lynn can achieve similar outcomes as their peers in affluent communities. Though facing some particularly strong opposition, KIPP’s charter proposal, if approved, will allow them to provide a full K-12 KIPP school option for the first time, to families in Lynn.
“Today was joyful and important. Thousands of students and parents came together to advocate for great schools. Our KIPP students, staff, and parents displayed the passion and resolve necessary to ensure all kids in our state have the K-12 education that enables a life of independence and impact.” said Caleb Dolan, Executive Director of KIPP Massachusetts.
KIPP Academy Lynn Elementary, if approved, is scheduled to open in 2015.