This Week in Education Organizing - February 16, 2018

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Youth, Parent, Education and Civil Rights Educational Justice Coalitions Release Statement on Stoneman Douglas High School

In response to the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Alliance for Educational Justice and Dignity in Schools Campaign Release the Following Joint Statement

“A tragedy of this magnitude will be felt in the Parkland community long after the news cameras leave and our attention is drawn elsewhere. It is hard to fathom the pain that students, educators, and families in Parkland are feeling right now, but our communities are familiar with the trauma, pain, and difficulty of navigating the healing processes that are needed to come together after inter-communal violence shakes a community to its core. We know that prioritizing comprehensive social, emotional, and mental health supports, trauma informed care and community building practices are necessary for rebuilding the sense of safety, love, and communal care that should be the foundation of our learning environments and neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, too often after these kinds of tragedies, the response is to prioritize and further embed invasive security measures and increased law enforcement presence, surveillance and activity in schools throughout the country. The impulse to police school communities will not prevent further tragedies and will be counterproductive towards building safe, nurturing, and supportive learning environments. We have to fundamentally rethink safety by centering the social, emotional, and mental health needs of young people and providing schools and communities with the resources and supports necessary to address the root causes of issues that are driving their pain, trauma and isolation. Schools need to be radically equipped to bring students closer to a supportive community and less inclined to disappear young people back into our communities where it becomes harder to wrap them in the supports they need.

We don’t know yet know what motivated this young person to take the life of so many of his peers. We do know that we won’t create learning environments that are able to address the root causes of the issues young people are struggling with until we de-emphasize school safety measures that rely on policing and security, and shift the paradigm. We must prioritize the creation of school environments that center the social, emotional, and mental health needs of young people and their communities.”

Onyx Walker, Youth Leader,  Alliance for Educational Justice and Urban Youth Collaborative & Hashim Jabar, Parent and and Co-Chair, Dignity in Schools Campaign and Racial Justice NOW!

Boston Education Justice Alliance says: #FundOurSchools!

As the discussion and debate over next year’s Boston Public Schools budget begins, the Boston Education Justice Alliance is fighting for the schools our communities deserve.  They are demanding that all schools get the resources they need to create joyful, safe and engaging learning communities. What does that mean specificallyl? It means social emotional health services, librarians, nurses, and a full compliment of art, music and challenging curriculum options.

That’s why BEJA is calling on some of Boston’s wealthiest institutional nonprofit neighbors, especially the city’s legendary and multiple universities to contribute their fair share to elementary and secondary students and the city. Boston has a program, called Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, which asks local non-profits to contribute to the city despite the fact that they are exempt from local property taxes. But since 2012, the Boston PILOT program has steadily decreased its percentage of collected revenues, and there are serious issues with community benefits, oversight and transparency in the program. As a recent Boston Globe series highlighted, local hospitals and universities still have a long way to go in serving and including all communities.

BEJA is asking folks to share their petition, calling City Hall to enforce the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) collection, to fix the issues with the PILOT program and to use additional revenue to invest in BPS!

National Working People’s Day of Action – February 24th

Attacks on the rights of educators and public sector workers are being funded by the same corporate interests that are attacking our public schools; and consequently, our youth, parents and communities. The right to organize at work is not only foundational to our democracy, but fundamental to our ability to live and work with dignity and decent wages.

The Janus vs. AFSCME case, which will be decided by the Supreme Court this Spring, is the latest in a long line of attacks from the corporate elite aimed at destroying the union movement. The goal of these billionaires is to weaken the power of labor unions as a vehicle to protect the rights of working families.

On February 24th unions and community allies are locking arms across the country for a National Working People’s Day of Action. 

AROS is asking members to participate. Our goal is to highlight how the same right winged billionaire and corporate Democrat’s agenda of destroying unions is closely connected to their attempts to destroy public education. Large rallies are planned for February 24th in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Columbus, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York City.  Additional events are planned across the country. In many cities, such as Chicago, segments of the event will focus on education justice--targeting school districts, banks and billionaires that support school closings, austerity budgeting and privatization.

Please join a day of action near you and help expose that the same corporate agenda that is working to dismantle workers’ rights to organize is also working to dismantle our public education system. Join us on February 24th. Check out a video about it. To learn more and find out if there’s an event planned near you, click here.

#WeChoose Campaign Holds Town Hall in Detroit

On Tuesday, February 13 the National WeChoose Coalition, Michigan WeChoose Coalition and the Journey for Justice Alliance hosted the 2nd National Critical Conversation in Detroit, Michigan moderated by Dr. Yohuru Williams, author, activist, professor, and historian. The Critical Conversation was to continue to elevate our solutions for public education (see our Education Platform). 

The standing-room-only crowd and our online audience were greeted with the Sun Drummers and the event started with a powerful panel of Michigan Youth. Carla Underwood, a student activist from Detroit, explained “At my school they are heavily encouraging teachers to somehow count the standardized testing as some sort of grade to make the students do it. Standardized testing is harmful in my opinion. It makes kids feel as though they are less than for no reason and there is no set way to measure the intelligence of each and every kid. Standardized testing is just using kids as guinea pigs and/or a really good way to make some money. It does not benefit children whatsoever.”

Panelist Timothy Wright’s compelling story was outlined the next day in this article about the event in the Detroit News. “It isn't about education, kids or communities,” he told the crowd, “it’s about power and corruption.” 

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association was one of the adult responders to the student panelists. She noted, “[Policy-makers] make schools in black and brown communities our poorest, most disadvantaged communities by design. And you make those schools joyless places," said Eskelsen Garcia. "You take away the arts, you take away sports, you don’t have a school nurse, a school librarian is like a unicorn, we don’t even see them in our imagination,” she said. And then, she continued, the idea of "choice" is then introduced as a way out. 

The Critical Conversation was streamed live by the AFT and so far has had over 3,000 views, over 100 shares and trended on Twitter #1 several hours during and after the event. For more information about the WeChoose Campaign please go to www.j4jalliance.com

Short-term Victory in Chicago

An outpouring of protest from parents, educators and students in Chicago has won a short-term victory: this week, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that they would at least temporarily keep open three of the four high schools in the Englewood community slated for closure at the school year’s end. The schools, TEAM Englewood Community Academy, Harper High School, John Hope College Preparatory High School and Robeson High School had been slated for closure over the summer. Under the Board’s new proposal, only Robeson would be closed this summer.

Parents, educators and especially students have been fighting the closures, attending School Board meetings and targeting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  They are demanding sustainable community schools instead of closures and charters. They celebrated this week’s announcement. But they also know that the fight isn’t over: The closures have been delayed, but not taken off the table. The offer at this point is simply to phase out the schools over the next three years.

CPS notes that the schools are under-enrolled. But the community groups respond that the community schools have been sabotaged through years of disinvestment and encroachment through the steady transfer of public schools to charters. Instead of privatizing them, Chicago parents, students and educators are demanding investment.  “America knows how to make great schools,” said Journey for Justice Director Jitu Brown, “America just chooses not to create great schools in black and brown neighborhoods.”

While this week’s victory can be savored, the fight to demand fully-resourced, fully public high schools in Englewood will continue – be sure of that.  The Mayor will continue to feel the heat, until there is a comprehensive plan for sustainable community schools that truly serve their students and communities. See more news of this week’s announcement here and here.

Educators and Community in West Virginia Host Rally to Fight Forward for the Schools their Kids Deserve

 Teachers, school personnel, law enforcement, state employees and community members from across West Virginia will hold a rally at the State Capitol on Saturday to urge lawmakers to support a decent compensation and benefits package that shows respect for the people who educate our children, keep our communities safe and provide vital services to WV citizens.

The rally is hosted by the West Virginia AFL-CIO on behalf of approximately 30,000 teachers, school support personnel and other public employees. Educators and school services personnel across the state voted last weekend to authorize a statewide strike, if contract negotiations continue to stall.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Backpack Full of Cash is showing in Nashville on Saturday, March 3rd. The Screening till take place from 1-3:00 at Pearl-Cohn High School. The film will be followed by a legislative forum. Both of free and open to the public. This even is sponsored by Tennessee AROS and its partner organizations.

May 18-20 in Chicago: Save the Date for the Journey for Justice National Conference! More information to follow.


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