October 7 — 10:49 am, 2004

Voters encouraged to pull lever for education

As voters prepare to go to the polls for Election Day on November 2, the grassroots community organizing group ACORN has registered thousands of new voters and is calling on voters to choose candidates who will vote for increased funding for public schools.

“Voters need to understand the need to have politicians elected into office who are going to do things around education and that benefit our children,” said ACORN member and board president Carol Hemingway. “Or, we don’t need to vote for them.”

ACORN hosted its “Vote for Schools! Vote for Change!” rally on Saturday, October 2, at Bethlehem of Deliverance Church at W. Berks and Woodstock Streets. The Philadelphia rally, which took place in conjunction with ACORN rallies in 65 cities across the country, also kicked off a get-out-the-vote campaign that will encompass four consecutive Saturdays and involve some 50 ACORN members going door-to-door and making phone calls to encourage voter participation and support for education funding.

ACORN organizers insist that too many public schools lack the “basic tools and resources needed for their students to succeed.” They point specifically to:

  • Cuts in programs that fund teachers’ aides, arts, music, and physical education
  • Too few textbooks for children to take home
  • Unsafe or unhealthy school buildings with leaking roofs and with mold or lead in the walls or the water
  • Classes regularly taught by substitute or emergency-credentialed teachers.

“We used the rally as a mechanism to educate people around No Child Left Behind, and the kind of things in there that are not being funded,” Hemingway said. “People in office who are not advocating to get more funding for that law should not be elected. The important thing is to get people to vote, but also to get people to vote with education and NCLB in mind.”

While its campaign is non-partisan, ACORN called the national No Child Left Behind Act “a promise that has not been fulfilled.” It said the Act is underfunded by billions of dollars, “making it close to impossible to achieve the law’s stated goals of a qualified teacher in every classroom and children from all communities meeting the same academic achievement goals any time soon.”

ACORN charged that in the current federal budget, President George W. Bush has proposed $9.4 billion less than the amount authorized in the No Child Left Behind law.

Saturday’s rally also capped ACORN’s year-long voter registration initiative, which Philadelphia Head Organizer Ali Kronley said registered 129,000 new voters. Kronley said the effort, done jointly with Project Vote, was the largest voter registration project in the state.

ACORN leaders stressed that a focus of the group’s initiative was to register high school students at special assemblies and parents at back-to-school nights.

ACORN member Marguerite Pressley’s children are no strangers to the voting scene, as she recounted bringing them along with her for numerous campaigns to pass out flyers and knock on doors, for numerous campaigns.

“I think it’s important to vote in every election,” she said, “so that they will have a voice. Say you have a problem, and you don’t vote. You don’t have a voice.”

For more information, contact ACORN at 215-765-0042.

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