Pittsburgh Organizers Are Leading the Fight for Education Justice

By Erin Kramer, One Pittsburgh

At Great Public Schools Pittsburgh we have worked hard over the last three years to elect education justice-minded candidates to the City School Board. The most important qualification was an understanding of the power of the School Board to own the governance of our schools as an extension of the voters who put them in office.

In 2013 we replaced four seats on the Board, and the new Board rejected a renewal of the district’s contract with Teach for America and reversed proposed school closings. This year we have all but won three new School Board members, who will be seated in December, and re-elected an education justice champion, Dr. Regina Holley, who has stood beside GPS from the beginning.

This electoral work has been woven into a comprehensive campaign to change the narrative around Pittsburgh Public Schools. We've worked hard to build smart and consistent relationships with School Board members, organize the community around different issues, engage parents, and support impressive leadership development among members of the local teachers’ union. All of these elements working together have been invigorating and are starting to show real dividends.

The next fight for Pittsburgh education justice organizers will focus on the district’s search for a new Superintendent. Dr. Linda Lane, the current Superintendent, a Broad Academy graduate and corporate reformer, has announced she will resign at the end of this school year.

In the past, the task of screening and choosing superintendent candidates has gone to unelected selection committees, but we at Great Public Schools Pittsburgh see that process as fundamentally undemocratic. We know how privileged we are here to still have a democratically elected School Board and we support keeping the power to select the next superintendent in the hands of officials who can be held accountable to the Pittsburgh community.

Check out #ourschoolsoursuperintendent for some excellent conversation about what we in the Pittsburgh community want to see in the next leader of our school district. A special shout out goes to Pam Harbin, parent leader and special education advocate, for creating and publicizing this platform.

By providing parents, students and teachers with a way to engage in the process, set districts priorities and lift up our democratically elected School Board, we are giving education justice a fighting chance against education “reformers” who seek to privatize and profit off our public schools.

We look forward to taking the next steps to find and hire a like-minded Superintendent for Pittsburgh Public Schools. Click here to read more from the Pittsburgh Gazette about our Superintendent Search Process. Read our official press release about the Superintendent search here, and join our online conversation here.