- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

Cold rain did not deter several hundred parents, teachers and children from marching yesterday afternoon to oppose President Bush’s education plan. Concerned citizens from across the country met at Friendship Baptist Church on Delaware Street SW before walking about 3 miles to the Capitol.

“We’re freezin’. We’re freezin’. We’re freezin’ for a reason,” shouted the protesters when the weather turned nasty. Strong winds turned one man’s umbrella inside out and freezing rain coated marchers’ jackets in ice pellets.

The event was organized by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and began with a speech by National Education Association President Reg Weaver. Mr. Weaver set the event’s tone when he shared stories about helping students, bridging culture gaps and blaming Mr. Bush for problems in public schools.

“Who are you gonna wake up to on November 3rd?” he boomed.

“Not Bush,” a woman in a back pew shouted back.

Opposition to Mr. Bush was strong, but seemed less focused on his ideas and more on their implementation. Funding for No Child Left Behind was an issue for many of the protesters.

“We have no problem with the program, but it needs to be funded,” ACORN’s local chapter President Pocahontas Outlaw, 71, of Northeast said.

ACORN also rallied at the Department of Education to demand more school funding.

“There was nothing wrong with public schools until they started taking money out,” Torace Johnson, 47, of Southwest said. His two children, 13 and 20, have felt the effects of lackluster schools.

ACORN members oppose voucher programs for students because they believe they take money away from failing schools.

“It’s nothing but a scapegoat to me,” said Derrick Jessup, an organizer with the group’s Baltimore chapter. “It takes the focus off public schools. It’s the country’s responsibility to make sure all of our kids get the best education.”

In spite of their opposition to vouchers, neither Mr. Jessup, who has a 9-year-old son, nor Mr. Johnson was sure how he would react if a voucher meant their children could go to a better school next fall.

“I would really have to look into it,” Mr. Johnson said.

Amanda Stewart contributed to this article.

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