"Banks got paid off, teachers got laid off” sounded through the streets of downtown Seattle as education activists and protesters from the Occupy Seattle movement marched on Chase Bank Oct. 29. The action, organized by Occupy Seattle and Social Equality Educators (SEE), exposed how education in Washington has been affected by the fact that banks like Chase pay no taxes on interest from mortgages. A month later, SEE joined other educators in an occupation of Washington’s capitol to protest state budget cuts to public education. Two days later, more than 500 students from Seattle's Garfield High School walked out of classes and rallied at Seattle’s City Hall.
In cities throughout the country, education activists have linked up with the Occupy movement, contributing skills, energy, and enthusiasm to the campaigns, and strengthening connections between education activism and other struggles. The Occupy movement has been enormously successful in changing the conversation in the United States—from blame the deficit, blame the unions, blame immigrants—to talk about people’s rights to jobs, housing, food, free speech, and democracy. This has created an opening for education activists to move beyond defending ourselves against the latest attack. In city after city, creative demonstrations, strong demands for education justice and equity, and new levels of collaboration are blossoming.