College Democrats congregated on Capitol Hill Sunday to participate in an education rally, as part of a yearlong effort to promote the issue. The event also was the first rally the CDs have held on the steps of the Capitol.
“This is the pilot. We’ve never done this before and it’s experimental,” CD president Marc Shaller said.
The rally and last week’s education round-table discussion are part of the group’s continuing effort to promote improvements in education, said Helen Casteel, assistant director of the event.
The group’s latest efforts spring from President Clinton’s plan to put 100,000 new teachers in American public schools, group members said.
“It’s a rally and a call to action for Congress,” Casteel said. “Included in the (government’s) budget was a large section for education, including money for teachers and building. This is the last budget deal of the century and we don’t want to fall back on education, again.”
“This Congress needs to go back to school,” said Clarence Madrilegor, president of the Catholic University CDs, who joined the GW chapter at the rally.
“The money needs to go where it counts,” Madrilegor said, speaking on the western terrace of the Capitol, overlooking the National Mall.
The open forum allowed people in attendance to interject personal feelings on education issues.
Surrounded by signs proclaiming “Support Education” and “Don’t Let Education Slip,” GW CD Christopher Jenkins said the public school educational system needs to be improved through legal requirements.
“There is no excuse for the United States to be ranked 20th in the world for math and science education,” he said.
Freshman Moira Bohannon said education should be put above military concerns.
“It’s important to emphasize schools and not jails,” freshman Shrayas Jatkar said. “I want the city council to prioritize education above prisons.”
“We should talk about how to fix (education),” Casteel said. “We can’t write legislation but we can certainly help to fix it.”
Jenkins said enhancing education leads to solutions for other problems.
“More education means more job growth and lower crime rates and it can even break the cycle of poverty,” Jenkins said.
“We hope to get some sound bites and press coverage and to have our voices heard. We want to be heard by Congress,” said Shaller, who said he realized that legislators would be home campaigning in preparation for the Nov. 3 elections.
“We want the United States to be a diamond in the rough in education,” Madrilegor said. “We can be that now and we can be that once again in the next century.”