This Week in Education Organizing - June 16, 2017

Baltimore City Council Stands Up for Community Schools

The Baltimore City Council and the Mayor reached a deal on a new city budget late last week, after a contentious debate and a loud public hearing attended by hundreds of parents, students and educators.

Earlier in the week, the Council had voted 15-0 to cut $26 million from the mayor's budget to free up additional money for community schools and after-school programming.

The Council’s cuts -- which included the mayor's entire budget office and some of her highlighted initiatives – were aimed at convincing Mayor Pugh to reinstate funds for six community schools serving 3,400 families, and 20 after school programs serving 1,000 students. The agreement reached Thursday provides an additional $10.4 million for the city’s schools, which the Council had sought to prevent more staff layoffs and save the “Safe Streets” program, which has been an effective violence-prevention program in the schools. 

Los Angeles School Board Passes Community Schools Resolution

Reclaim Our Schools LA — a Los Angeles coalition of students, parents, educators, school staff, and community members — led a successful effort to get the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board to embrace community schools as a strategy to improve struggling neighborhood schools throughout the District. On Tuesday, the LAUSD Board unanimously supported a resolution sponsored by Board President Steve Zimmer (District 4) and co-sponsored by Dr. Ref Rodriguez (District 5), which calls on the District staff and an implementation team to develop a plan to scale-up community schools.

The community schools resolution creates a pathway for district schools to become community schools, establishes the six basic characteristics of what community schools should look like in Los Angeles, and creates a working group that will convene in the coming months to produce more detailed recommendations for the LAUSD community schools program. This working group will be made up of district staff, labor partners, academics, and representatives from nonprofit and community-based organizations who will have 180 days to prepare their report and present their recommendations to the Board.

New Report Points to Evidence of Success in Sustainable Community Schools

A new report “Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement” from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) concludes that the evidence supports well-implemented community schools as being an effective intervention in high-poverty schools.   The report will be hugely helpful for local and statewide campaigns to win funding for sustainable community schools. As evidence, the resolution passed in Los Angeles (see above) this week cited extensively from the report.

Massachusetts “Millionaires Tax” Approved for the 2018 Ballot

The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance has been working hard to win new revenues for the state’s public schools.  They won an early benchmark victory this week as the Massachusetts legislature endorsed a proposal to tax the state’s wealthiest individuals to increase funding for public education and transportation.

The “millionaire’s tax” will appear as a ballot question in 2018.  It would create a 4% surtax on incomes over a million dollars.  Experts estimate that the tax, if passed, could raise $2 billion for the state’s coffers. The proposed initiative is likely to face review by the state Supreme Court before it is fully authorized for the ballot.  Read more about the proposal here.

Detroit Public Schools Campaigning to Reclaim Charter Families

As charter schools in Detroit continue to fail, and/or face closure, and the disastrous Education Achievement Authority (the state takeover district) is disbanded, the superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools has launched an aggressive effort to win back families that are unhappy or displaced from these closures.  The Detroit Free Press  covered the superintendent as he spoke at one of several school fairs at closing charter schools, with a welcoming message for displaced students.  The District is anticipating about 3,000 additional students next year because of the closures.

New Report on the Likely Impact of Trump’s Budget

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has released a report forecasting massive impacts under President Trump’s proposed budget.  If enacted, says CBPP, the budget would cut federal funding for both entitlement and discretionary programs by as much as $453 billion over ten years.  The budget would eliminate federal funding for programs (including education programs) that directly assist low- and moderate-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities. CBPP notes that the cost of these programs would shift to the states, forcing states to enact significant tax increases or face budget cuts.  And, because public schools are such a large part of state budgets, the impact on schools could be particularly devastating.  Read the CBPP report here.

ORGANIZE!    JOB ANNOUNCEMENTS

One Pennsylvania is hiring an Organizing Director to lead our growing team of organizers as well as develop and support some bad ass Lead Organizers. We are looking for someone talented and hungry to build base and win strategic issue campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels across the state.  See the full job description here.

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