student activism

Raised Voices

#NeverAgain protest

New York

Education activists still feel Occupy's effects, for better or worse

Occupy the DOE protesters stsop at Tweed Courthouse on their way to a larger Occupy rally in November 2011. A year ago, Brian Jones and other education activists crowded into a standing-room-only auditorium where city Department of Education officials were supposed to present new curriculum standards to parents. Just moments after Chancellor Dennis Walcott began to deliver his opening remarks one member of the crowd stood up. “Mic check,” he called out. So began the first offensive of Occupy the DOE, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street movement intended to wrest authority over the city’s schools out of the hands of the “1 percent” and into the “99 percent” of education stakeholders who are teachers, families, and students. Minutes after the first interruption, Walcott and the other officials called off the meeting, retreating to smaller sessions in other parts of the building. Supporters of the movement hailed the disruption as a victory and would soon stage protests at meetings througout the winter. But the demographic profile of the activists and their raucous tactics also alienated groups that had similar gripes about the city's education policies. A year later, the broader Occupy movement is in disarray, but the Department of Education is largely unchanged. Walcott remains in charge, mayoral control is still in place, and tests geared to the new standards are in development. But even though Occupy the DOE’s website has not been updated since May, activists say that, for better or worse, the movement has had a lasting impact on education advocacy in the city.