- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005

A coalition of advocacy groups, teachers and students upset about the disrepair of D.C. public schools plans to rally outside RFK Stadium Thursday, when tens of thousands of fans head to the Washington Nationals’ home opener.

“It’s not a negative action against baseball, but it is a statement about the city’s priorities,” said Roger Newell, an organizer for the coalition, known as D.C. Public Schools Full Funding Campaign.

“It’s a statement to say that if the city had the same enthusiasm for making repairs in the city schools as it did to get RFK Stadium ready for baseball, then 65,000 students would be in a lot better shape,” Mr. Newell said yesterday.

Marc Borbely, another organizer, said the widespread public attention focused on Major League Baseball’s return to the District is one reason the groups decided to hold the rally before and during part of the Nationals’ first home game.

“We want to make clear we’re not against the fans,” said Mr. Borbely, a former Eastern High School teacher who runs a Web site that shows failing conditions in city schools at www.fixourschools.net.

“We just want people to know what the stadium looks like versus what the schools look like,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable, stark inequity.”

The planned protest marks the latest effort by some officials and organizations to capture some of the national spotlight on the long-awaited return of baseball to the District.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, recently introduced a resolution asking that players wear patches on their uniforms representing the District’s lack of voting rights in Congress.

Also, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, has proposed that a sign promoting D.C. voting rights be placed “large and visible” in the stadium. In a letter to the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, Mrs. Norton said her idea made sense because “the world’s focus will be on this city.”

Organizers with the D.C. Public Schools Full Funding Campaign say they have received a permit to hold the rally.

Mr. Newell said the campaign is endorsed by several student, parent and school-system groups, including the D.C. PTA andParents United for the D.C. Public Schools.

The Washington Teachers Union said yesterday that it has not endorsed the rally, but that it plans to take up the issue at a meeting early this week.

“There are a number of teachers who are involved, and we’re happy about that,” said Nathan Saunders, the union’s vice president. “It shows they’re being politically active on education issues. To what extent the Washington Teachers Union will support this, we’ll be waiting for our board of directors’ approval this week.”

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