It’s not just Madison

IT’S NOT JUST MADISON…. The efforts of progressive activists in Wisconsin have generated considerable attention, and with good reason. But here’s hoping the activism won’t be limited to Madison.

For example, you may not have heard about this gathering in Austin, Texas.

Thousands of parents, teachers and other education advocates poured onto the Capitol grounds Saturday to rally against proposed state budget cuts that school districts say could force layoffs of thousands of teachers and other public education employees.

Demonstrators sprawled across the statehouse grounds, carrying signs scrawled with “Save Our Schools” and “Fund the Future.”

Others carried umbrellas to underscore their desire that lawmakers tap into the state’s rainy day fund to help balance the budget.

“We hope that being here will make a difference,” said Nicollette Anthony, a 17-year-old from San Antonio. “But even if it doesn’t, they’ll know we tried.”

Estimates of the crowd size vary, but I’ve seen some put the number at 12,000 people. (Organizers brought 11,000 stickers to hand out to those on hand, and ran out while folks were still showing up.)

It’s a shame events like this don’t get more attention. A year ago at this time, a former half-term governor attended a Tea Party rally in Nevada, drew a crowd of 8,000, and garnered national media attention, including live television coverage. But 12,000 people take a stand against deep education cuts, and it’s largely an afterthought outside the local media.

One could make the argument, I suppose, that the folks rallying against education cuts in Texas are almost certain to lose — Republicans dominate in the state capitol — which makes their efforts less interesting. But I tend to think the opposite — 12,000 people know they’re likely to lose, but they gathered in large numbers anyway and demanded to be heard. Good for them.

For that matter, the opportunity for related activism is great in other areas. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) wants to cut taxes, and pay for it by slashing education funding. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has already cut taxes, and has introduced a budget that cuts education so deeply, the proposal has been characterized as “inhumane.”

Pennsylvania’s new governor, Republican Tom Corbett, is eyeing some of the deepest cuts to education of any state in the country, including slashing funding for Pennsylvania colleges and universities by more than 50 percent.

Polls suggest education cuts are the ones voters dislike the most, and yet this appears to be one of the first areas Republicans go to when looking for ways to balance their budgets and cut taxes.

The more activism this inspires, the better.