Anti-School Choice Education Rally Fizzles

Low turnout despite clear skies and summer vacation for teachers

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LANSING — Teachers couldn't blame the weather or inability to get the day off from work as excuses for the underwhelming turnout for what was billed as a "huge grassroots rally" for traditional public schools in Lansing Wednesday. 

Notice of the rally was posted on Facebook and progressive blogs, and notices were sent to 8,000 teachers and public education supporters, according to one organizer.

Before the rally, 751 people said on Facebook that they would attend, and a popular liberal blog said turnout would be "huge," but a headcount put the figure at about 500 people. The crowd barely filled the front lawn of the capitol. 

"No worries," said one organizer, who would not give her name. "There will be more."

The rally was also seen by some as a precursor to the 2014 election. Former Battle Creek Congressman Mark Schauer, who says he is running for governor, was one of the speakers and was introduced as "Michigan's next governor." A number of other Democrats were invited to speak, including State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, and State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids. They were billed as "superstar advocates for public education." Also appearing was State Board of Education President John Austin, and Clarkson Community Schools Superintendent Rod Rock.

The rally was organized by a group known as "Save Michigan's Public Schools," which bills itself as a "non-partisan grassroots network of concerned citizens" that is "aiming to chronicle the massive opposition to the Michigan EAA (HB 4369), Skunk Works, Selective Enrollment Schools, & Parent Trigger bills." No Republicans spoke at the event.

Most of the people attending the rally were teachers off for summer vacation. Several of them spoke at the near two-hour rally, relaying tales of hardships in the classroom, particularly about students struggling with poverty.

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