This Week in Education Organizing - August 3, 2018

Boston City Council Holds Hearing on PILOTs

Over 200 activists from every neighborhood and walk of life in Boston packed Boston City hall on Thursday, August 2nd for the City Council’s hearing on Boston’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILOT). In advance of the hearing, the PILOT Action Group, with AROS partners Boston Ed Justice Alliance and the Boston Teachers Union playing a leading role, published a report detailing the declining efficacy and impact of the program and Boston's wealthiest neighbors' ability to pay. This was the kickstart for a conversation activists expect will continue into the fall and winter.

PILOT programs ask large, tax-exempt institutions like universities and hospitals to reimburse the city for services they receive—like police and fire services, snow removal and public schools—but don’t otherwise contribute towards, because they don’t pay property taxes. Over 40% of land in Boston is occupied by tax-exempt institutions, which means that a significant amount of potential tax revenue is lost each year. PILOT programs are one way for these institutions to contribute, but too few come up with the recommended amount of contribution.

Fewer than one-third of Boston’s non-profit entities fully participate in the program, and the shortfall has been over $60 million since 2012. PILOT Action Group and the Boston Education Justice Alliance are waging a campaign to pressure wealthy colleges, universities, hospitals and other exempt institutions to pay their full share of the PILOT contributions, to allow for greater investment in the city’s public schools.

Pueblo, Colorado Forms a Labor/Community Coalition to Improve Schools

The Pueblo Education Coalition (PEC) held its first event last week. Pueblo is a city that sits on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, just south of Denver. The new labor/community coalition formed in the wake of the historic “red for ed” teacher strikes last spring, and is hoping to rebuild relationships between the district administration, its teachers and its parents.

PEC has organized around four key principles: transparency in district governance, quality teaching in every classroom, realignment of the district budget, and stronger, shared engagement among the administration, families and educators. Welcome to the education justice movement, PEC!!! Read more about the initial gathering of the group HERE Photo credit: Jon Pompia, Pueblo Chiefton

New York State Needs to Invest in Schools, Not Jails!

Across New York State, Black and Brown students are suspended at disproportionate rates compared to their white peers, fueling the school to prison pipeline, and contributing to mass incarceration. The Alliance for Quality Education is organizing to end this cycle by demanding equitably and fully-funded public schools.

Over the next several weeks, AQE will be holding #SchoolsNotJails community conversations across the state. The series of events kicked off in Albany last Saturday with Jacqui Williams, of Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, community leader and education consultant Damonni Farley, and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams.

Adding to the excitement of this initiative, Cynthia Nixon, longtime AQE spokesperson and education advocate, has centered #SchoolsNotJails in her campaign to become governor of New York. This week Cynthia toured Queens public schools, highlighting her commitment to public education, ending the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration, and taxing the rich to fully fund schools.

To stay in touch with these community conversations, follow the #SchoolsNotJails hashtag for updates and announcements of events!

DeVos Watch

The School Safety Commission (DeVos Commission), created by President Trump after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is holding its third “listening session” on August 7th in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Representatives of the four Cabinet members who make up the Commission will hear from state and local government officials as well as members of the public.

Wyoming is, perhaps, an ironic choice for this hearing. Readers will recall that during her confirmation hearing back in February of 2017, Ms. DeVos was asked whether she supported allowing guns in schools. Lacking any knowledge of public schools, public education, racial injustice…or school safety, Ms. DeVos suggested that educators and administrators in Wyoming might appreciate having guns in their schools to protect them from grizzly bears. So hopefully, folks from Wapiti, Wyoming—whose elementary school DeVos was referring to when she made her comment—will attend next week’s hearing to report to the Commission on what they did to protect themselves from grizzly bears (put up a fence), and note that recent events continue to suggest that arming people for self defense can sometimes bring more tragedy and that guns in schools can increase the risk of death or injury (see recent examples HERE and HERE), not decrease it.  

DeVos herself is not scheduled to appear at the Wyoming hearing. Worried about bears? 


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