United in feeling “we deserved better,” Rebecca Pena Ortiz said she, Manuel Garza, and Richard Herrera are among the Edgewood High School students who staged a mass walk-out in 1968.
“We knew something needed to be done and it needed to change,” Ortiz said.
Herrera said the experience “made us activists for the rest of our lives.”
He said he and his wife, who also was there that day, have always been active in politics and education issues.
Ortiz gave back to her community by devoting 30 years of her life as a teacher at Edgewood High School. She also sponsored several student groups to try to give them more of what she lacked when she was there.
Garza also returned to Edgewood as a teacher, later serving on the school board, and now works at the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project.
Garza said, “We do voter registration. We train candidates. We train community organizers.”
District to revisit historic civil action in social media campaign
Eduardo Hernandez, Edgewood ISD superintendent, said, the 1968 walkout “set that DNA of social justice.”
He said to highlight its history, the district is preparing to launch a social media campaign early next year.
“Our students need to know that the halls that they walk, the neighborhoods that they walk, are an important part of not just San Antonio’s history, but also the state’s history,” Hernandez said.
Ortiz said, “I would like for the students to be proud.”
History in the making
The historic walk-out that day cast a glaring spotlight on the inequities of a poor school district relying on low property values for its tax funding.
Eventually, it led to the landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court which declared the funding system was unfair, but not unconstitutional.
In the years that followed, more court challenges were filed by MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Finally, rulings by the Texas Supreme Court declaring the public school funding system in Texas was unconstitutional.
But more than five decades after he walked out, Garza said, “School equity funding still hasn’t been addressed. There’s still more work to be done.”