Cheri Honkala was the Green Party’s 2012 Vice Presidential candidate and is the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. For years, she has been a part of the struggle to save Philadelphia’s public schools from budget cuts, privatization, staff cuts, and other assaults. Her deep involvement in these efforts started when her son’s elementary school was slated for the cutting block, one of dozens of such schools in Philadelphia.
In the past month, Honkala has taken on a more public role, just as organizing and action against ongoing cuts has escalated and become more visible. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign issued a statement summarizing their activity on the issue in October, and why it is so important:
We live in a world where children are being denied the right to proper education. School funds are constantly being cut and now the School Reform Commission (SRC) in Philadelphia decided they are going to try and fix the school system by cutting health care benefits for teachers! What about all of the funds going towards the prison system and oil companies? This past month Shell Oil was provided a $1.7 billion tax break while $0 was allocated for textbooks. Teachers are being told it is their time to make sacrifices but they have been sacrificing all along with limited resources, over crowded classrooms and fulfilling extra roles such as counselor and nurse due to lack of funding for full time staff.On October 9th, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPHERC) stood with parents, students, and teachers to demand that Governor Corbett explain himself and provide full funding for our schools. They shut down the elevators, blocked our access to the Governor and kicked out the media. They even went as far as to arrest Cheri Honkala, National Coordinator of PPEHRC and parent of a student at Julia R. Masterman School who attempted to deliver a citizens arrest against the governor for crimes against education and our children.On October 15th, The Philly Coalition Advocating for Public Schools organized a press conference in front of the headquarters of the School district of Philadelphia in response to the SRC’s decision. During this press conference, Cheri Honkala’s message was clear: “don’t mess with our babies’ education!”
The following day, October 16th, more than 1,000 teachers, parents, students, and community supporters gathered in front of the headquarters of the School district of Philadelphia to continue to protest against the SRC’s decision. During the protest, Cheri Honkala testified in front of the SRC to address the cancelation of teacher’s contracts along with 59 other speakers.
They continue to cut back but we will continue to fight back! Our schools will be saved no matter how long we have to fight against this broken system! We are very proud of the students, teachers, parents, and community members that continue to protest alongside PPEHRC during these important demonstrations. There is no change without the people uniting together and demanding for it! The people united will never be divided and we will win!
Honkala’s arrest was covered by the Philadelphia City Paper (and a second time, after she got out of jail), Philly Metro, and a local education blog, among others. Honkala also wrote about it on her new blog, including a pledge for people to support the movement. Below is a video of Honkala speaking at the above-mentioned rally: