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Advocates demand public school funding, not border wall

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Dearborn — School advocates launched a campaign Tuesday urging President Donald Trump’s administration to divert funds earmarked for controversial policies to better fund public education.

The two-week “Build Schools, Not Walls” campaign is spearheaded by the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, a collaboration of parent, youth, community and labor organizations representing more than 7 million people worldwide, according to organizers. It culminates May 1 with a “day of action” expected to draw more than 100,000 people in 200 cities.

“For months, we’ve heard Trump go around the country championing a wall (on the U.S.-Mexico border),” said Keron Blair, executive director of the alliance. “While Trump is building walls, too many parents and children are living with underfunded schools. It’s a gross misuse of federal funds.”

Organizers plan to release a report later this month detailing the possible benefits of diverting to public schools any funds meant for a border wall, charter school vouchers, deportations and other Trump administration policies.

“It’s not what the American people want,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said of the president’s agenda. “We’ll fight tooth and nail against any policy that hurts our children. These young people are here to learn and to grow and to blossom. Every child living in America has the right to a free, quality, public education.”

Dingell joined teacher union leaders and community members Tuesday outside Dearborn’s Edsel Ford High School to announce the campaign. Other speakers included the vice president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Terrence Martin.

“We need and deserve more federal funds invested (in public education), not less,” Martin said. “We say to President Donald Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Congress: Instead of building a wall, invest the money in quality public schools.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Edsel Ford was the obvious choice as backdrop for the campaign launch, with its diverse student body and recent turnaround prompted by local investment.

“Inclusion and investment is the route to prosperity in America,” she said. “And that’s why we’re here today.”

Weingarten and other speakers blasted Trump’s dedication to a border wall.

“We know that public education is the foundation of our democracy as well as a ladder to success for our children,” Weingarten said. “What would (Trump) do instead? He will build, or pretend to build, a wall that will not stop anything bad from happening.”

Hassan Jaber, CEO of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, gave a litany of causes he deemed more worthy of funding than a wall.

“Instead of wasting money to build silly walls, we should invest in jobs with living wages,” he said. “Instead of wasting money to build silly walls, we should invest in a clean environment. Instead of wasting money to build silly walls, we need to invest in universal healthcare.”

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