This Week in Education Organizing - February 23, 2018

A Call for Investment in Peoria

The Peoria People's Project and the Peoria Federation of Teachers (PFT) rallied outside of Congressman Darin LaHood's office to demand public dollars be invested in our public schools. The rally opened with PFT President, Jeff Dutro welcoming everyone and talking about the importance of stronger commitments of investment in our public schools. Regional Superintendent Beth Crider Derry followed with an energizing speech speaking from her own experience and her love for the public school system. A parent of children attending Peoria Public Schools spoke about wanting her children to have the same access to education as other children in wealthier areas of the city.  A Peoria Public School teacher and PFT member read aloud the letter written to Cong. LaHood from the Peoria People's Project and signed by several organizations. Several people then went inside of LaHood's office to deliver the letter and report card while the crowd began chants. Afterwards, a local pastor gave final words and wrapped up the rally. 

Puerto Rico Mobilizes Against Disaster Capitalism

Last month, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossellό and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed that, in the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the island’s school system be privatized—the schools converted to charters. This week, the chair of the Legislative Senate Education Commission came to the mainland to tour charter schools in Chicago, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Years of exploitation by banks and hedge funds have left Puerto Rico with a debt crisis that had the island in a strangle-hold, even before Hurricane Maria battered its shores. Now the same interests are using the storm as a pretext to eliminate public services, public pensions, civic projects and yes, public schools. But opposition is growing. Organized parents, educators and policymakers are getting ready for the fight, which begins in earnest next week as the Legislative Assembly begins debate on a new charter law. Stay tuned.

The Fight Against Chicago School Closings Moves to the Mayor’s House

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed to close all of the high schools in Englewood, a gentrifying black community on the South Side of Chicago. Last week, as a result of pressure from the students, teachers and community, he adjusted the plan slightly, announcing a postponement of three of the closures. Instead of investing in the schools and the community, he wants to destroy education for the Black and Brown students slowly by "phasing the schools out" in order to allow the current students to graduate. 

This tactic has been used before with many schools in Chicago, and activists aren’t falling for it this time. Resistance is rising. Englewood parents, community members, teachers, and other supporters say NO!! They are clear that this is not about equity, but about privatization and gentrification. The mayor is planning to build a multi-million dollar school in Englewood—a school that won't be available for several years. He also wants to close National Teacher's Academy (NTA), a high performing middle school that primarily serves Black children. The mayor promised to close it in order to give it to affluent, white families who have been demanding an elementary school for years!  

Despite the rain on President’s Day, hundreds of students, parents, teachers, senior citizens and allies marched from Lakeview High School, a fully funded neighborhood school in the mayor's neighborhood to the mayor's home several blocks away. When they arrived, the mayor's house was flanked with police officers. There were speeches, songs, poems and a letter was read to the mayor. The police commander agreed to deliver the written letter to the mayor, but regardless of whether it is delivered or not, Chicagoans are pretty sure the message was received! 

The connection was also made between school closings in Chicago and proposed mass schools closings in Puerto Rico. We all stand in solidarity, not just in word, but in deed.  Photo credit: Erin Brown, Chicago Sun-Times.

West Virginia Teachers Go on Strike – Closing All Public Schools in the State

Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job on Thursday, after failing to come to agreement on contract language. The strike engaged teachers in all 55 counties in the state, emptying schools. Thousands of teachers—along with parents and students in support—converged on the state capitol in Charleston. The teachers are seeking pay raises to bring them up from 48th in the nation on teacher salaries. For more about the strike, click here.

 Is School Funding Fair? Yeah, That Would be a No.

The Education Law Center and the Rutgers School of Education have partnered up to develop a new report on the fairness of school funding across the U.S. The report offers tools for advocates and policymakers to demand changes in state school funding policy and to provide researchers with open access to the datasets that are the foundation of finance research.

Job Opportunities

The NEA is hiring field organizers: If you’re potentially interested in working with the National Education Association to build strong, active union locals committed to organizing for the schools that all students deserve, check out the job descriptions below.

Field Manager West (Organizing), #0687 - Washington, District of Columbia, United States - National Education Association (NEA)

Field Manager East (Organizing), #0193 - Washington, District of Columbia, United States - National Education Association (NEA)


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