This Week in Education Organizing - April 14, 2017

New York Campaign Demands City Cut Funding for Cops in Schools – Fund Restorative Practices Instead

In fiscal year 2017, New York City paid $357 million to the New York Police Department (NYPD) for its School Safety Division, which assigns 190 police officers and over 4,600 School Safety Agents to the city's public schools. In contrast, the city schools employ only 2,800 full-time guidance counselors, and 1,252 full-time social workers, making New York City one of at least three in the country (others include Miami-Dade and Chicago) that spend more for school security officers than student support staff. Needless to say, Black and Latino students are disproportionately impacted, accounting for 92 percent of all arrests in the NYC schools.

Next week, Make the Road NY and the Urban Youth Collaborative are releasing a new report, “The $746 Million-a-Year School to Prison Pipeline: The Ineffective, Discriminatory and Costly Process of Criminalizing NYC Students.” Students will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall after releasing the report.  Among the divestment demands is ending the practice of arresting and issuing summonses or juvenile report to students for non-criminal violations and misdemeanors. In addition, young people are calling on New York City to implement restorative practices in schools with particularly high numbers of suspensions. They estimate that this could be done with an investment of $66,000,000—a mere 18 percent of the NYPD School Safety Division budget.

AROS will be participating in the social media campaign for this event, and will send around a link to the report, as well as social media instructions for those wishing to help highlight their important work!!

 Schools Not Walls Kicks Off with Tuesday Action

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) will join AROS and dozens of public school advocates at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, Michigan to launch “Build Schools, Not Walls,” which will culminate with hundreds of actions across the country on May 1st.

Instead of banning Muslims at airports and building a wall that will cost taxpayers countless millions, our elected leaders should invest that money in high-quality neighborhood public schools where all children—no matter their race, ethnicity, religion or citizenship status—feel safe, loved and respected and get the education they deserve.

For more information, or to register your action, visit the AROS website.

Providence Student Union Launches Campaign for Bill-of-Rights

Students in Providence, RI have introduced a Student Bill of Rights, calling for improvements to school facilities, a more diverse teacher workforce and more services for English Language Learners, among other things. They are hoping that some of their demands will be codified in to policy at the Providence public schools.  The photo at right is by John Bender, with Rhode Island Public Radio.

 Voces de la Frontera and Partners Win “Safe Haven” in Milwaukee Schools.

Sit back and watch this video.  Now.  Congratulations to Voces de la Frontera, along with Youth Empowered in the Struggle, Schools and Communities United, the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, progressive school board members and hundreds of people got the Milwaukee School Board to unanimously pass a resolution detailing how MPS will be a Safe Haven for all students. The school board meeting March 30 had a massive turnout of students, parents and educators in support of the resolution. There were so many people that an overflow room had to be opened after the auditorium was filled to capacity.

In other Wisconsin news, voters voted 70% to 30% to reelect the Tony Evers the State Superintendent of Schools, against a pro-voucher/pro-DeVos candidate. It was decisive victory for pro public education forces in Wisconsin. Evers is the only non-Republican state office holder.

In Milwaukee all four pro-public education candidates won their school board races. Two pro-public education incumbents — Larry Miller and Annie Woodward — were reelected defeating pro privatization candidates. Tony Baez, long time Puerto Rican community activist and national expert on bilingual education, was elected in a hotly contested race. His opponent had support of charter and voucher school leaders, the Hispanics for School Choice and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Congress. A fourth pro-public education candidate Paula Phillips was also elected. The Working Families Party played a positive role in help in all the pro-public education elections. 

Spending Blind

California has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, in large part because of generous public funding and subsidies to lease, build, or buy school buildings. A new report from national nonprofit In the Public Interest has found that much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on underperforming, unnecessary, or discriminatory charter schools. In the worst cases, public facilities funding has gone to schools that have engaged in unethical or corrupt practices. Here’s their report:  Spending Blind

DeVos Looking to Florida for Voucher Model

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demonstrated in her confirmation hearings that she didn’t know much about public schools or educational practice.  Since taking the oath of office, Ms. DeVos has proven that she actually only has one plan for schools:  to create a universal “choice” system where public dollars are turned over to privately operated charters and private and religious schools.

The Department of Education is looking for the best model to use in creating a federal voucher program.  It appears that Florida’s tax credit program is a front-runner.  DeVos has made several high-profile trips to visit Florida private schools.  Florida’s tax-credit program offers corporations and wealthy individuals a one-to-one credit on their taxes when they donate to one of several nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” that have been established in the state for distributing vouchers.  That means, according to an excellent overview by Emma Brown of the Washington Post, that a corporation that owes $50,000 in Florida taxes, can donate that entire amount to a scholarship program instead, depleting their tax bill to zero.  This also reduces state revenues by $50,000, eliminating funding that could be used for public schools.  Nearly 100,000 low-income students in Florida attend private, mostly religious schools.  Is this what’s in store for the rest of America?  It is, if Secretary DeVos has her way.  In fact, it’s the only thing she knows about public education.