By Erica Morrison
BOSTON — “Welcome to the movement!” Marleana Rose of the Boston Justice Education Alliance announced to a crowd of more than 200 people gathered outside Boston City Hall for the Boston “Walk-In and Rally for Public Education,” one of many held across the country Wednesday.
Students, teachers, parents and community members gathered to protest the proposed Boston Public Schools budget, which could fall short by $50 million. At the proposed level, district schools could lose teachers, after-school programs and elective classes like languages and arts.
Erik Lazo, 16, is a 10th-grader at Snowden International School in Back Bay. One of several students who spoke at the rally, Lazo talked about studying Japanese.
“One of the major reasons I entered that class was to learn that language,” Lazo said. “And I eventually met some outstanding friends along the way and had some of the most exceptional and incomparable teachers too.”
But now, he said, if the school has to cut Japanese, his two years of study would be for naught. “Worthless.”
Other students included a tearful young woman from Charlestown High School’s Diploma Plus program, a small learning group for students at high risk of dropping out. She described her classmates as family and said the program had been a great support for her. The proposed budget would eliminate it.
As the crowd chanted, “We pay for education, not for segregation,” a smaller group went inside to present Mayor Marty Walsh with the alliance’s list of demands and a petition with more than 3,500 signatures. After dropping posters at the front door and going through security, the crowd stood outside Walsh’s office chanting.
“The mayor is not available to receive the petition. He’s in meetings,” Roberta Udoh told the crowd after giving the petition to an aide. A teacher at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot School in Mattapan, Udoh started the petition on moveon.org. “I think that says it all.”
She walked toward the exit as the crowd chanted, “When BPS is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!”
Udoh said she started the petition because, as a teacher, she is in “survival mode already as it is. And we have a first-class city, but we have a third-class public school system.”
From City Hall, the crowd walked to Beacon Hill to deliver the petition to Gov. Charlie Baker. State Sen. Sal DiDomenico had arranged to have a podium and chairs set up in the State House atrium, but the hall grew so crowded that organizers moved the gathering to a larger room.
In front of an arched doorway that read “Executive,” members of the movement asked to speak with Baker, to no avail. A staffer politely asked the group leader to leave a note and promised a response. With pen and lined paper in hand, the group sat down in the waiting area and started to write:
“Dear Governor Baker, we the people …”
They promised to come back.