Friday, May 17, 2019

Betsy and Me

by special guest Mindy Rosier

A few weeks ago, a little birdy informed me that Ms. Betsy DeVos herself would be traveling to NYC. After looking into this tip, it turned out that she would be receiving an award from the dreadful Manhattan Institute on May 1st, May Day, at Cipriani’s on 42nd Street.

As a lifelong New Yorker & a veteran special education teacher, I felt that it was very important to give Ms. DeVos a big Bronx cheer!! It had been awhile since I was part of a good protest and I was totally up for it.

Two years ago during Teacher Appreciation week, then-Speaker Paul Ryan visited NYC. He was here, not to visit any public schools, but rather to visit my other favorite education villain, Eva Moskowitz. Of all the co-located buildings with Success Academy to visit, he choose mine. My school building is where Success Academy began and that in itself is another story.

I contacted every one of my connections from Grassroot Orgs to Elected Officials to my union, The United Federation of Teachers. I was on the news, in the papers, and online. I was everywhere. I mean, how dare you visit a public school building, during Teacher Appreciation Week, and NOT visit the public school located in THAT building? How dare you miss all the hard work we do? 

If that weren’t enough, my school is D75, which means all of my students have special needs and many, if not most of our families receive Social Security benefit assistance. At that time, Ryan had his own view of Social Security benefits. What he proposed would have affected my students and their families for sure. I wanted nothing more that day than for him to look at the faces of our students who would be affected by those cuts. Those were my messages of the day. Apparently, I did such a good job with my messaging, that hundreds upon hundreds of people shut down that 118th street corner in Harlem.

Not only that, (and this is is my favorite part,) two of Ryan’s secret servicemen spoke to my at the time principal, requesting that I be nowhere around as I was deemed a “national security threat.”  I wear that honor like a badge! Ryan did wind up visiting one of our classes for about a minute and I like to think that I shamed him into doing so. However, later that day he was quoted in an article praising Moskowitz and her school with no mention of slumming it in ours. Of course, I reminded him and updated the reporter of that article. Here is one of the articles from that day. But I digress…

So May 1st had arrived! I was excited all day with my dress and my stomping-the-pavement boots. My Report Card sign was good to go and I had shared information on this action far and wide on social media. I couldn’t wait to join up with Rise and Resist, Revolting Lesbians, Raging Grannies, my brothers and sisters from the UFT, and several other grassroots orgs to simply share our feelings, and we so did! Turnout was amazing.

The majority of our group was on the 42nd St side of Cipriani’s. A faction from Rise and Resist decided to go around back in case Ms. Betsy wasn’t brave enough to face all of us all in the front. For over two hours we picketed around the front of Cipriani’s, continually chanting, loud and proud with all of our hearts! As expected, DeVos tried to sneak around the back. Key word here is “tried.” That faction that headed around the corner was successful in giving her that Bronx Cheer she so richly deserved.

Overall, we made our points loud and clear. When you buy your position, have very little knowledge about education/special education, try to implement hurtful policies, and make sweeping budget cuts to public education, you’d better have a thick skin. Regardless, you will be called out, loudly, and publicly...just like we did AND we will do again and again. If you do not like the attention your position brings, take a new one or resign. We’d be good either way.
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