Don’t Steal Possible Rally


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Questlove and Leading Elected Officials Join Unprecedented Crowd to Launch #DontStealPossible Movement

In Nation’s Largest School System, Nearly One-Fourth of Schools are Failing — 9 in 10 Students Can’t Read, Do Math at Grade Level

Similar Failing Schools Crises Affect Millions of Students Nationwide

NEW YORK, NY — Waving signs with messages of “Don’t Steal Possible” and “Kids Can’t Wait,” 21,000 New York City parents and teachers filled Foley Square on Thursday to call on city and state leaders to address the city’s urgent failing schools crisis. Joined by Senate co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein and Assemblymen Marcos Crespo and Robert Rodriguez, the crowd, originally forecast to be 5,000, surged to 21,000 by 10 AM.  Grammy Award–winning composer, DJ, and Roots’ front-man Questlove opened the high-energy event.

With nearly 143,000 of New York City’s children trapped in severely failing schools, Thursday’s rally gave face to the growing movement of New Yorkers calling for an end to persistent school failure. Last year, at 371 failing schools, less than 1 in 10 could read or do math at grade level, and these schools disproportionately impacted poor children of-color—96% of the 143,000 students in these failing schools are of-color, and 93% come from families near or below the poverty line.

The rally theme — “Don’t Steal Possible” — was reflected not only in the hand-painted signs and shirts worn by parents and students, but also in a graphic mural at the square’s central fountain, painted by renowned typography and graffiti artist Greg Lamarche. On Twitter, the #DontStealPossible hashtag had generated 11.8 million impressions prior to the start of the rally.

While the rally focused on New York City schools, speaker after speaker noted that similar failing schools crises affect every city in America.

“At my son’s school, not one third-grader — not one! — was able to pass the state English exam this year,” said Ebony Burrowes, a Brooklyn parent. “This is an outrage. I can’t afford to move. What am I supposed to do? If nothing changes, I risk visiting him in prison, or burying him.”

“A quality education is the single most powerful tool we can give our children to help them succeed in life. I stand with the #DontStealPossible movement, and thousands of our city’s parents, in the call for bold solutions that will expand access to excellent schools and give more New York City children the education they deserve,” said Senate co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester).

“Cities across the country face similar crises,” said Joe Williams, Executive Director of Democrats for Education Reform. “New York City is just one example of a pandemic that threatens the economic vitality of our nation.”

“We cannot be ignored after today. We will not be ignored after today. Year after year, too many of our children are stuck in failing schools,” said Twana Pinks, a Harlem Parent. “We want this fixed now.”

“Too many children in New York City are being deprived, year after year, of their right to a high-quality education. We need bold, transformative solutions to this crisis that vastly expand access to excellent schools. I want to help redeem the promise of the future for every New York City child,” said Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez (D-Central and East Harlem).

“StudentsFirstNY and our 13,000 district parent members are proud to stand with parents from across the city to demand great schools now,” said Jenny Sedlis, StudentsFirstNY Executive Director.

“With nearly 143,000 students trapped in failing schools, today’s event is a wake-up call for city and state leaders,” said Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of Families for Excellent Schools. “Without bold action, this crisis threatens the future for children across this city.”

“My grandson Dre’s future is being stolen by a school system that is not educating him and I’m here today to shout from the rooftops that all children should have access to a school where reaching their full potential is possible,” said AU Hogan, a StudentsFirstNY parent member from Jamaica, Queens.

“Our city’s failing schools crisis is an enormous injustice,” said Yvonne Guillen, a Bronx parent. “Today’s rally showed that New Yorkers simply will not stand for failure, in New York City or anywhere in the country.”

Key Statistics

1) A July 2014 report found that 143,000 students were trapped in schools where less than 1 in 10 students were proficient in English and math in state exams the year before. (See “Forgotten Fourth” report here.)
· The 143,000 students are 96% African-American or Hispanic and 93% from families near or below the poverty line.

· There are 31 schools in NYC where zero African American students passed math.

· There are 28 NYC schools where zero Hispanic students passed math.

· About 270,100 kids across NYC failed the math exam.

· About 301,300 kids across NYC failed the ELA exam.

2) Of nearly 1,000 schools in New York City that are Title I (high-poverty) eligible, with majority of-color students, and have at least one testing grade, less than 5%—or only 46—have an average proficiency rate in English and Math of above 50%. Fully half—23—of these schools are public charter schools.

3) In a class of 30 black and Hispanic kindergarteners starting school this year, only two can expect to graduate high school on time and college-ready, based on current trends.

Families for Excellent Schools harnesses the power of families to advance policy and political changes that create and sustain excellent schools.
On Twitter at: @Fam4ExcSchools