No Teacher Left Behind, no student left unaffected

Trevor Nichols, Staff Writer

After the district laid off 146 teachers and 22 administrators last year, numerous protests spread throughout the school, including walk-outs and sit-ins. In an attempt to protest the layoffs and direct students’ voices towards the state, the No Teacher Left Behind campaign was formed.

“When I heard former teachers of mine were handed pink slips, I was furious. A few friends and I knew Mr. Frailey and Mr. Cross did not control the state budget, so we began a movement that called upon all citizens to take action and prevent the collapse of an imperative American institution,” senior and cofounder of No Teacher Left Behind Taral Patel said.

No Teacher Left Behind’s campaign of writing letters to state officials urging them to increase education funding gathered a large amount of respect and recognition locally and statewide, partly due to its organized structure and the dedication to teachers that students displayed.

“I think everybody appreciated what they were doing,” Principal James Cross said. “Especially with this particular movement, because it really showed dedication and it wasn’t just trying to get out of class.”

Many students agree that the letters from No Teacher Left Behind were more effective than the walkout and sit-in protests.

“Most of the people who were out there protesting were just trying to get out of class. A small protest at the school wasn’t going to affect state policy,” junior Ashish Nare said. “A letter would be more effective, because it actually goes to the state level, where the problem really is.”

The No Teacher Left Behind movement has underlined the importance of student participation in addressing social issues. Officials described it as having a large impact on legislators because of the political noise that the campaign generated.

“This is where you live,” Cross said. “The community’s only as strong as you make it. You guys aren’t far away from being voting age, and participating citizens. The students said they didn’t think what was going on was right, and they wanted the voice to say it’s not right.”

No Teacher Left Behind has received some notable recognition from both local media and numerous high ranking local, state, and Federal officials.

“It was a wake-up call for society,” member of board of directors for no Teacher Left Behind and candidate for US Congress KP George said. “No longer will students tolerate egregious and uneducated decisions by insider politicians in it for themselves. I hope No Teacher Left Behind continues to be a voice to promote education and candidates that know the importance of a solid public education for the future of America.”

The movement has grown in scope and recognition since its humble origins of local student, parent, and teacher support.

“Moving closer to the deadline of the legislature we had ringing endorsements from three-term Houston Mayor Bill White, State Representative Ron Reynolds, State Senator Rodney Ellis, United States Congressman Al Green, and even one from the notable leader in educational development Michelle Rhee,” Patel said.

No Teacher Left Behind continues to provide a student voice, with a thriving Facebook page and continued planned social activism. Even after the end of the 2011 legislative session, the campaign has set goals for the future.

“When we started, we were trying to get teachers’ jobs back,” senior and cofounder of No Teacher Left Behind Neel Bhan said. “Now, we’re less active, but we still need to be ready for the future, because there’s going to be more budget crises in the future and teachers are still important. Also, something we’ve discussed is using our campaign to support legislators and candidates that support education.”

In the future, students will continue to be active in both the state and local community’s politics, and No Teacher Left Behind will continue to affect educational policies.

“The legislature will get back together in 2013, and the students who organized this will have graduated,” Cross said. “I hope that new students will remember what happened in 2011. The biggest thing is that this conversation needs to continue. This shouldn’t die with the departure of two or three or four students. You have to plan ahead. You have a year to gear up and get all the knowledge you can.”