College students encumbered by loans and unemployed workers are not the only ones that are demanding social justice. 18 year-old Alex Forgue, a recent high school graduate of Minooka, IL, has been actively involved in Occupy High School since 2011. Occupy High is the youngest branch of the Occupy movement to date, but it comprises hundreds of students who share a vision of a future in which public education is equal to that of charter schools.
Photo: Sunset Parkerpix
“The public school system is underfunded; people know that teachers are working longer hours with less pay. All we’re trying to do is to get students to stand up anywhere to organize schools and to help them understand that the issues they face don’t have to stay in place”, says Alex.
Having grown up in Minooka, Alex knows the ins and outs of the local public school system. He remembers seeing teachers using their own money to pay for classroom supplies because the art department was under-funded. Sometimes kids had to choose between paying for lunch and paying the biology lab fee. It’s no wonder so many people at his school are condemning the income disparity between students at charter schools and public schools. Alex says that charter schools get most of the city’s funding, while public schools are left with the remaining money. On such a tight budget, public schools struggle to provide a quality education to the thousands of students at numerous crowded locations.
Ever since Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker approved a law restricting the collective bargaining power of public workers’ unions in Wisconsin, teachers have been retiring early and quitting their jobs. 5,000 teachers left the Wisconsin public school system in 2011 alone. Since then, former and current teachers have been asking for greater union rights.
Students have also taken to the streets in hopes of policymakers meeting their educational needs.
“We want to spread the message that students have a role to play in their education to deal with their next options... All we’re trying to do is to get students to stand up anywhere to organize schools and to help them understand that the issues they face don’t have to stay in place.”
Luckily for students, the anniversary of Occupy this November is bringing a great deal of media attention to the brand name. Alex and Justin Wede, co-founder of the Paul Robeson Freedom School, are planning a youth summit in late September. For these young occupiers, the end of the beginning is in sight.