The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Newsletter
Happy New Year, and welcome to our January 5th newsletter! As always, share the latest stories from your city or state with us on Twitter and Facebook. Don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues to sign up for our newsletter here.
DeVos Watch: Students Protest as DeVos Speaks at University of Baltimore Graduation
Dozens of students turned their backs on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos when she keynoted their graduation ceremony at the University of Baltimore last month. As DeVos took the podium, students slowly rose and turned their backs. One student tipped back her head, revealing a graduation cap that read, on the top, “#Not my graduation speaker.” The University is a public institution with about 60% of its students being students of color. In a protest before the graduation, students, and some professors spoke out about DeVos, expressing their abhorrence for her policy views. Over 3,000 students had signed a petition asking the university president to rescind his invitation to the billionaire advocate for privatization.
These protests continue to take place any time DeVos speaks in public. In response, the Department of Education has declined to announce her speaking engagements ahead of time. As she approaches her one-year anniversary on the job, DeVos is as polarizing as ever. Read more about the UB graduation protests here.
Another round of school closings in Chicago?
Chicago Public Schools, pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is moving forward with yet another round of school closings and consolidations. Some of the closed schools would be turned over to charter operators, according to the CPS proposal.
It will surprise no one that all of the proposed closures and consolidations will impact Black schools and Black communities. The closures would affect all of the high schools in the Englewood community. CPS’s so-called “choice model” — which sets up a limited number of well-resourced magnet schools, a large number of charter schools and defunds other schools using “Student Based Budgeting” — has destabilized Black & Latino neighborhoods, driven families from Chicago, and left many neighborhood schools starved of even the most basic resources. State Rep. Sonya Harper noted, “CPS created this crisis, and they manufactured the situation that we have today.”
Each of the school communities is fighting back. CPS has scheduled a hearing on the closings on January 9th, and there’s also a regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting on January 24th. Expect protest in the streets. “They will do what we let them do,” said Jitu Brown, with the Journey for Justice Alliance. “I don’t care what the board decision is. They will do what we let them do.”
ACLU Exposes Barriers to Enrollment at Arizona charter schools
The ACLU is continuing its attacks on charter enrollment practices that raise barriers to certain students. In July 2016, the ACLU of Southern California released “Unequal Access,” a report on barriers to enrollment—some of them illegal—found in a search of California charter school enrollment requirements.
Last month the Arizona ACLU released the results of similar research in that state in a report called “Schools Choosing Students.” The ACLU was able to obtain enrollment instructions for all but 72 charter schools in the state (those schools did not post their enrollment procedures online, nor did they respond to a freedom of information request for the materials). They found that 56% of the schools had enrollment practices that were clear violations of the law, and/or that served to keep out or deter some students from enrolling at the school. Barriers found included requiring parents to either volunteer a certain number of hours at a school or to make a monetary donation in lieu of those hours; requiring prospective students to present a Social Security card; setting academic performance floors or charging fees for courses or materials. Charters in other cities and states have also been found to employ many of these same practices.
Rhinelander Wisconsin School Board Passes Voucher Transparency Resolution
As Wisconsin moves forward to expand the state’s voucher program, a bill has been introduced in the state legislature called the Wisconsin Voucher Taxpayer Transparency Bill. The bill would require taxpayers to be informed about how much of their money is being transferred to private schools through the voucher program. Last month, the Rhinelander School Board passed a resolution in support of the bill. Read about the vote, and the effort to expose the impact of privatization in Wisconsin here.
“Building Labor/Community Tables to Organize and Win.” AROS is hosting a google hang-out of organizers, coordinators and partners at AROS local tables nationwide. The call will be Tuesday, January 9th at 3:00pm eastern time.
Those interested in participating can RSVP at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf9oifHRzhOQjHnKwT4wsiZr110_j-u_c7gWG_almWHYn-NzA/viewform