DeVosWatch: Nashville, Tennessee
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ventured out once again this week, this time to keynote for the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), at their summit in Nashville, Tennessee. FEE, also known as ExcelinEd, is the pro-charter/pro-voucher organization created in Florida—and now national—by former Florida Governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Jeb Bush.
DeVos, once again, confronted protests. This time, it was the Tennessee AROS table that organized a rally outside the convention center around the slogan, “Don’t DeVostate Our Schools!” The group of 50 parents, students and educators, along with elected officials. See coverage of the rally here, here and here.
DeVos Considers Scrapping Obama Discipline Guidance
The Department of Education is considering revocation of the Obama administration’s guidance on school discipline.
The guidance package was issued jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice in January of 2014, and was designed to assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. It included a “Dear Colleague” letter, a set of guiding principles around the use of disciplinary practices in schools, a list of available resources to help schools and districts, and links to current law and regulation related to the issue. All can be found here.
Well, the DeVos Department of Education is threatening to scrap all that. Last week, the Department hosted a conversation with opponents of the guidance, organized—it seems—by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has railed against the guidance since it was announced (see their take on “the undisciplined” and the “menacing” Obama guidance in these links). In response to that meeting, several organizations, including the Advancement Project, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) and the Dignity in Schools Campaign issued statements imploring the Department to keep the guidance in place. LDF called on the Secretary to schedule a meeting to hear from supporters of the 2014 package.
AROS also issued a letter to the Secretary, the acting head of the Office for Civil Rights, and the Department’s General Counsel. We encourage other organizations to similarly send letters to the Department, asking that the guidance be maintained and strengthened as one step in a much larger fight against the School-to-Prison Pipeline.
Check Out This Powerful Commentary on Racism, School Discipline, and Listening to Students
“For Safer City Schools, More Counselors, Fewer Cops” is the name of a fantastic commentary published in the Gotham Gazette earlier this month and written by Roberto Cabanas with the Urban Youth Collaborative and Kate Terenzi, with the Center for Popular Democracy. The commentary calls on New York City leaders to listen to students when it comes to ideas for making schools safer. “It is young people who hold the answer to the question of how to make schools safer. Young people made clear that punitive and zero tolerance policies are ineffective to address conflict and often harm the students they are intended to support,” write the authors about a recent hearing on safe schools. Read the commentary.
AROS is hiring!!
The Alliance is hiring a co-director to join our staff and contribute to the building of a powerful national alliance to fight back against corporate education reform and demand investment in sustainable community schools, particularly for Black and Brown communities. The co-director will support local AROS “tables” around the country, help identify and link local campaigns to create a national echo chamber for our demands, and support fights against privatization and the criminalization of students. Join our team! Find – and then share – the job description here.
Rochester showing of Backpack
A broad coalition of labor and community groups hosted a screening of the film "Backpack Full of Cash" on November 30th in Rochester, NY. There was a packed house at Rochester’s historic Little Theater for the showing. That was followed by a discussion moderated by Evan Dawson with WXXI – Rochester’s PBS station. Attendees and panelists included Liz Hallmark of the Rochester school’s Board of Education, Mercedes Phelan of Metro Justice, Harry Bronson of the NYS Assembly, Shawgi Tell from Nazareth College and Paul Powell the Asst. Supt. of Rochester's Uncommon Charter Schools.
National “Critical Conversation” – December 12 in Washington, D.C. and LIVESTREAMED!!
The #WeChoose campaign is escalating its fight for equity and against privatization through a “Critical Conversation” with national leaders, taking place in Washington on December 12th. The event will be livestreamed by Real News Network. Speakers include Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, Judith Browne-Dianis, director of the Advancement Project, and Jitu Brown, National Director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. For more information, go to www.j4jalliance.com .