More than 50 students at Amherst Regional High School walked out of classes at noon on Friday (10/1) and marched to the town common for a rally in support of the Green New Deal For Public Schools. The rally was sponsored by Amherst Sunrise Movement and The Amherst chapter of the Youth Democratic Socialists of America.
Legislation proposing a Green New Deal for Public Schools was introduced on July 13, 2021 by Representative Jamaal Brown (D-NY), a lifelong educator and former middle school principal. The new legislation aims to invest $1.43 trillion over 10 years in public schools and infrastructure to combat climate change and would make a transformative and unprecedented investment in public school infrastructure by upgrading every public school building in the country, addressing historical harms and inequities by focusing support on high-need schools, and hiring and training hundreds of thousands of additional educators and support staff. If enacted, the legislation would fund 1.3 million jobs per year and eliminate 78 million metric tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road.
Among the speakers was Amrita Rutter, a co-hub leader at Amherst Sunrise. She spoke of the profound impact that climate change has on her generation of the need to balance fear with hope. She told the crowd:
” It is easy to confuse fear and hope. Sometimes we think we are acting out of hope when in reality we are acting out of fear. We see the two futures spread out before us and we strain against the one we don’t want, afraid it will come true. We tell ourselves that we hope it won’t but really we are afraid it will. Hope is a little harder. In order to hope we must see those two futures and pick the one we want and somehow convince ourselves that it is possible. If we can do that, I promise, we will be okay. So I want you all to close your eyes for a minute and hope. Imagine a path through this terrible storm we are facing. What would your perfect future look like? Where would we be living? What jobs would people have? What plants are growing around you? Sink into your world. That world is possible! We are going to build that world. We are strong enough! We can do this. Look around, these are the people you are going to fight alongside. We are all facing this together. We can absolutely do this.
As long as we keep fighting, as long as we keep hoping, we are doing all we can. Today that means supporting the Green New Deal for Public Schools. This is an incredible bill that would help our schools provide a better quality, more equitable education and transition to clean energy. It is so important that our generation and the generations to follow get a good education in an environment that isn’t wasting precious energy. In order to heal this world we must be given an education that teaches us about our world. We must learn about climate change, and our planet. I thank you all so much for being here! Your presence makes a difference, your hope makes a difference, and I hope you will keep fighting for yourself and your future! “
Another speaker was Julian Hynes, a co-hub. leader with Amherst Sunrise. He emphasized the expansive benefits to be gained from the Green New Deal for Public Schools and the role that the legislation could have in addressing climate change which he noted is a burden felt profoundly be his generation. He said:
“The Green New Deal for Public Schools would provide funding for retrofitting our school buildings, to run on clean energy and provide clean habitable environments for children to learn in. On top of this, it would provide countless good-paying union jobs in the process. As our community approaches the conversation on how to create safe, welcoming learning environments for children at Wildwood and Fort River elementary schools, we should consider how this bill could help our town finance these projects whether we decide to retrofit our buildings and renovate them or start fresh. This is just one example of how a bill like this in Congress could directly impact local communities like ours. Many school districts and communities across our country need this funding even more than we do right now.
As a student in our schools I understand the desperate shape our school buildings are in. I also understand how expensive it is and how much of a burden on taxpayers it can be to replace these buildings. A bill such as the Green New Deal for Public Schools could address this while adding 1.3 million jobs in education and green construction to our communities. In addition to providing a clean educational environment for children and funding 1.3 million jobs every year for 10 years, Bowman’s bill would reduce CO2 emissions by 78 million metric tons annually. This reduction in CO2 emissions would help immensely in the fight against climate change.
Climate change is the number one threat to my generation today and is directly intersectional with the systemic discrimnation that BIPOC people and those of lower socio-economic status face in our country. It is critical to me and all the other young people who came here today that we do something. And that we do it now. This bill is a step in the right direction, and shows future generations that they can have hope, that the government is doing something to fight this existential threat. I urge you to call your representative in Congress and tell them that you ask for their support of The Green New Deal for Public Schools in the National Infrastructure Package. We need properly funded public schools, climate justice, and active democracy. We will not stop fighting for any less. “
Amherst Town Council Candidate in District 5 Ana Devlin-Gauthier was in attendance and offered encouragement to the students though she did not speak at the rally. Devlin-Gauthier was one of five candidates for Councilor who had received the endorsement of Amherst Sunrise.