This Week in Education Organizing - August 24, 2018

Restorative Justice Implementation: Expanding the Circle - Understanding the Importance of Community/Labor Partnerships

The Restorative Justice Partnership is proud to announce a back-to-school series of webinars this August that examine the impact and importance of restorative justice in schools at varying levels of implementation. The third and final webinar in this series—which will be held on August 29th at 6:00pm eastern time—will provide insight into the unique relationship between the community and the teachers union in Denver that centers the work of restorative justice, and how other communities can follow suit. We will hear from Ricardo Martinez, Co-Executive Director of Padres & Jovenes Unidos; Henry Roman, President of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association; and Harry Lawson, Director of Human and Civil Rights, National Education Association. Each will offer their distinct perspective on how their organization contributes to furthering the restorative justice movement in education.

Please register for Restorative Justice Implementation: Expanding the Circle - Understanding the Importance of Community/Labor Partnerships on Aug 29, 2018 6:00 PM EDT at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/841780996866484481

School Safety – Guns in Schools Back on the Table

Republicans and the Administration seem to be hell-bent on increasing the police presence in public schools. This week, Senators Rubio (FL) and Cruz (TX) introduced amendments to a massive spending package, each of which would lead us down the path towards ever-more locked-down schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos weighed in as well. Here’s a quick run-down:

Marco Rubio’s amendment would prohibit states and districts receiving federal money (all of them) from “adopting school discipline policies that discourage the reporting of offenses to law enforcement, or that interfere with law enforcement.” In other words, the amendment would give districts a green light to accelerate their current use of discriminatory discipline and over-policing to target Black and Brown students into the School-To-Prison pipeline.

Ted Cruz’s amendment would allow states to use federal funding under ESSA – in particular the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG) (Title IV Part A) – to pay for physical security measures such as surveillance equipment, metal detectors and the like.

 The SSAEG program within ESSA is a relatively new program that was funded this year with $1 billion. The program is designed to help “improve conditions for student learning,” by supporting efforts to improve school climate, increase access to technology, reduce incidences of discrimination or bullying, develop dropout prevention programs, etc. Clearly, Cruz and Rubio have a different perspective on safety. 

While Rubio and Cruz are moving their amendments through the Senate, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is targeting SSAEG to argue that it could be used by states to buy guns for educators!! DeVos’ comments on this interpretation of the program drew immediate opposition from a wide range of policy-makers and education advocates.

Jayden Lopez, a 17 year-old student with the Urban Youth Collaborative notes, “coming from Betsy DeVos and this Administration it’s not surprising to hear their plan to redirect funding meant to help struggling students is this idiotic and offensive. Safety is not arming our teachers with guns, equipping our schools with new security technology and police roaming our hallways. Safety is providing our teachers with the training needed to create healing spaces in schools, equipping our schools with the resources necessary for all students to do well academically, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

Well said.

New Resource for Organizing for Sustainable Community Schools

The Center for American Progress recently released a report about community schools as an education reform strategy. Building Community Schools Systems takes a look at the research on the effectiveness of community schools, and offers insights through case studies of three districts that have moved towards district-wide adoption of community schools—Hartford, CT; Oakland, CA and Union, OK.

The report will be useful for organizers developing comprehensive campaigns to fight for community schools policies and follow through with implementation challenges. It offers brief lessons from each case study location on sustaining the work and evaluating the programs and concludes with a set of policy and action recommendations for local, state and federal support.

It’s worth noting that the CAP definition of community schools is not as comprehensive as the one promoted by Journey for Justice, AROS and others. CAP references 4 pillars of community schools (our Sustainable Community Schools model includes 5-6). It does not address quality teaching, culturally relevant and expansive curriculum or standardized testing as key components of equity and quality. There is some, but not a lot of attention paid to the need for restorative practices and student engagement. But still, this report should provide solid strategic framing for campaign development and understand the power of community schools. 

Takeover: Race, Education and Democracy

State takeovers of public school districts are tainted by racism, argues Domingo Morel, a political science professor at Rutgers University, in a new book. Morel looked at over 100 state takeovers that have taken place since the 1980s. In an interview with Chalkbeat, Morel talks about his findings.

He notes that public education is “a political project,” and therefore, any discussion of reforms has to be understood in a political frame. When it comes to takeovers, though usually touted as an educational intervention, the fact that it removes an entire community from its decision-making role belies another motive. Morel notes that schools serve as the foundation for black political empowerment. As African Americans became an important part of the Democratic voter base into the 1970s, education became a key vehicle for consolidating conservative power (i.e. minimizing the Black vote).

Chalkbeat’s interview with Morel tracks many of the arguments that organizations like AROS and the Journey for Justice Alliance are making about state takeovers as well as privatization as a whole—framing charter schools and vouchers as strategies to (among other things) disenfranchise voters and diffuse political will. It’s an interesting interview.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Restorative Justice Implementation: Expanding the Circle - Understanding the Importance of Community/Labor Partnerships. August 29th at 6:00pm eastern time. Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/841780996866484481


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