On Wednesday, students participated in the National Day of Social Action. Kirsten McBride, one of the servant leader interns, said, “Today we did our social action for Children’s Defense Fund and we wanted the children to raise awareness of what’s going to happen to the budget in the upcoming years if congress cuts the budget and what happens to their future educational goals.”
“So we had the students write letters to the congressmen of Mississippi to let them know that they are aware of what’s going to happen to the budget in the next few years,” McBride continued. “And as students, they felt it’s important to let the congressmen know that it’s important to them that the budgets do not need to be cut in order to support their future educational goals.”
McBride also stressed the importance of freedom schools.
“Freedom is different from regular school,” she said. “It’s a fun experience where the children want to learn. They’re excited and they anxiously await what’s going to happen the next day. It’s fun for the interns as well, we look forward to coming in everyday and having the children’s smiling faces coming up to us.”
Keosha Reddics, another intern, said “Most of the students focus on reading more than any other subject. A lot of them continuously stress how much they need more books, and if the budget is cut, reading would be affected the most.”
Reddics mentioned that freedom school is stress free and not as extreme as regular school, because the children aren’t graded.
“They’re allowed to participate in everything in class and they are given many opportunities to take leadership roles,” she said.
Lakena Harris, also an intern, added, “Freedom school is more geared toward the child and provides a positive environment for the child.”
Intern Starsha Hall said, “I haven’t seen kids really excited like this to come to school and learn. Freedom school is based on literacy, so kids can reach their highest reading potential. Freedom school was created to help the children to build up their reading skills. We have lesson plans that mainly follows basic reading and cooperation skills.”
Kim Robinson, program officer over National Policy Initiatives Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, said, “Freedom school is based around the freedom summer of 1964 and how the students from all over the U.S. came to Mississippi to work with black students in churches and places where they assemble to teach them reading.”
“We don’t believe we are better than a regular school, we believe we are a great parallel institution, an enhancement to the regular school experience,” Robinson added.
Federal budget cuts were also discussed in the parent meeting.
“The program is about loving to read, excelling in reading and ultimately excelling in other subjects. This meeting is so you can get the information and for you to go tell other people in the community, educate yourself and educate others,” she told the parents.
In the information passed out in the meeting, two-thirds of the potential cuts are in education and other programs for low income children, families and individuals and 34 states already have cut K-12 education, 43 states have cut higher education and more state cuts are pending since the economic downturn began.
Also mentioned in one of the handouts, there have been states cuts in early childhood programs. The deep cuts in education programs included K-12 and early childhood education funding being rolled back to 2008 levels and Pell Grants being cut by more than $800 per grant.
One handout said the challenge right now is how to address budget needs while protecting children and the programs that help them succeed and the need to invest in education to get children ready to succeed in school and prepare them for college or a career to improve our economy.
In the information handed out, only three percent of eligible children receive Early Head Start and fewer than half of eligible children are in Head Start due to funding limitations, more than 60 percent of public school children cannot read or do math at grade level in fourth, eighth and twelfth grade and more than 70 percent of Black and Hispanic public school students in these grades are reading or doing math below grade level.
Robinson stressed the importance of informing the community and members of Congress in the meeting. “What you can do, is you can flood that white house phone,” she told parents. “Tell them, don’t cut education. They can do nothing but pay attention if they see a bunch of calls from Shelby, Miss.”
“For every one phone call they get, it represents 500 constituents. So one phone call from you will equal to that person 500 calls in a day, so just imagine if they got 20,” she said.