This Week in Education Organizing - July 21, 2017

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Newsletter
  July 21, 2017
 

Welcome to our July 21 newsletter! As always, share the latest stories from your city or state with us on Twitterand Facebook. Don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues to sign up for our newsletter here.


Hundreds (maybe thousands!) Take to the Streets in Denver

Protesters took to the streets in Denver on Wednesday in advance of Betsy DeVos’s address to the annual convention of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)er. The protestors marched from the State Capitol building to the Hyatt Regency hotel where the ALEC convention was being held.  Several representatives, including AROS director Keron Blair and Jitu Brown, the director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, attempted to enter the hotel to deliver a message to the conferees. They were blocked. At a subsequent rally, speakers including several state legislators addressed the crowd. “Betsy DeVos and Democrats for Education Reform and the charter school movement are stripping power from you, and they are doing it knowingly,” said State Representative Joe Salazar. “Once public education is taken from you, you no longer have power and that is what is happening here,” he said.

DeVos, meanwhile, found a friendly audience for her remarks the following day, reiterating her support for privatization and her opposition to a federal role in supporting and ensuring equity in public education.

Voucher Proponents Start the Hard Press

Politico reports that voucher supporters are increasing the volume on their call to Congress and the Trump administration to establish a nation-wide tax credit scholarship program (aka vouchers) to channel public dollars to private schools.

"There's an opportunity to do something in the tax code that will impact all 50 states," said Thomas Carroll, the president of the “Invest in Education Coalition” (which actually supports investing in private and parochial schools) at a briefing on Capitol Hill this week.  

Education advocates are increasingly concerned that the Trump administration will use its plan to overhaul the federal tax code, to create a program that allows individuals and corporations to donate to non-profit “scholarship-granting” entities in exchange for a federal tax credit.  Those non-profits (many currently exist at the state and local levels) would then use the funds to offer vouchers to families for private school tuition and expenses.

Debate among voucher supporters has centered on whether the administration should first try a limited pilot program, confined to a few states, or to sub-groups of students to make it more palatable. Some are also concerned that a federally funded program would be “too regulated,” to be a truly free-market enterprise. President Trump campaigned on a promise that he would spend $20 billion in federal funds on a voucher program, and further that he would ask states to pony up an additional $110 billion in state dollars for privatized education. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made her support for vouchers clear – indeed it has been her life’s work.

Two New Community Schools announced in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny has announced the expansion of the city’s community schools cohort, to include two additional schools for next year. This brings to eleven the number of community schools created through the mayor’s initiative. Shortly after being elected, Kenney promised to spend $40 million over four years to create 25 community schools. Each of the schools is funded to hire a full-time coordinator of the wrap-around services programs, as well as for other supports. The initiative is funded through a citywide tax on sugary drinks.  Read more about the two new schools here.

Parents Against Corporate Takeovers Takes on Charter Schools USA

A group of parents, educators and public school advocates in Florida has created a new website – Parents Against Corporate Takeovers (PACT) to fight a proposal by Charter Schools USA – one of the nation’s largest for-profit charter management organizations – to build a new mega-school in Gainesville.  Charters USA currently operates 70 charter schools in 7 states. Their home base is Florida, where they operate 42 schools from their corporate headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale. CSUSA charters in Alachua County have poorer academic outcomes than the county’s public schools, and of course operate without sufficient oversight while profiting off the public funds they receive. Parents Against Corporate Takeovers has mounted a petition drive to stop the expansion. Check out their website, donate, and pick up the cause!!  The editorial board of the Gainesville Sun recently encouraged the public to engage in the debate over the proposed expansion, noting that charters have a significant effect on the county’s traditional public schools.

 

Job Announcement

The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice and the Urban Youth Collaborative are looking for a Director of Education Organizing to provide strategic support and supervision to the coalitions and their campaigns. Candidates must have experience planning and running successful organizing campaigns, supervising staff, grant writing and reporting, and communications. CEJ and UYC current campaigns are focused on ending the school to prison-pipeline, positive discipline practices, college access, culturally responsive education, parent engagement, and college-ready community schools. The Director will work closely with the CEJ and UYC Coordinators, staff at the coalition member organizations, and the youth- and parent-led Boards that direct the coalitions’ work. Full position description is here. To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to nyccej@gmail.com