This Week in Education Organizing - June 2, 2017

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Newsletter

June 2, 2017 

Welcome to our June 2, 2017 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.


Our Schools, Our Students.  Back-Off, ICE!

The Boston Education Justice Alliance is organizing a rally on June 5th in support of the Boston Sanctuary Schools Act. The proposed ordinance was introduced by City Councilman Tito Jackson and would prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials from entering Boston’s public schools without a signed warrant and written permission from the superintendent of schools and district attorney.  “Students have a right to live without fear for themselves or their families,” noted BEJA in announcing their upcoming rally.  A spokesperson for ICE dismissed the proposed ordinance as a solution to a non-issue, arguing that the agency does not conduct operations in schools. But that was not the case last month in New York City, where ICE agents entered a school looking for a 4th grader. Dozens of cities around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, DC, Ashville, NC, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami and others have taken steps to officially bar immigration agents from entering school grounds.

Philadelphia Student Union Fights for a mechanism for filing complaints against school-based cops

After last year’s assault of a student (and member of the Philadelphia Student Union) by a school police officer for attempting to go to the bathroom without a pass, the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) has been fighting against the over-use of cops in the city’s public schools. For a Philadelphia high school student, the PSU notes, any simple action such as going to the bathroom can become a police encounter. Brian was violently attacked by the cop, who punched him and held him in a headlock. After the incident, the PSU sent a letter to the district’s superintendent demanding that the officer be fired, and that the School District of Philadelphia establish a school police complaint system. PSU’s extensive and thoughtful list of components for the complaint system clearly made an impact with the Superintendent, who responded that he would meet with PSU members to begin to establish such a system.

While discussions are ongoing, PSU isn’t stopping there.  They are also demanding that the district divest from police in schools and invest, instead, in school counselors.  There are currently 433 policy officers in Philadelphia public schools—compared to only 200 counselors. Read more about the PSU list of demands for the complaint system here.

Betsy DeVos Once Again Displays Stunning Ignorance of Public Education Before House Committee

The day after President Trump sent his proposed budget to congress, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before the House Appropriations sub-committee that will hold the initial hearings on the President’s proposal.  Once again, grilled by members of Congress who actually understand education policy and federal law, Secretary DeVos displayed neither the required knowledge of education policy, nor the willingness to be honest about her education agenda.  See some telling video here, of questioning by Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, who presses DeVos on an Indiana Christian school that receives over $600,000 in state voucher funds, yet discriminates against LGBT students or students from households where any member of the household is gay or lesbian.  Clark asks DeVos whether she would allow federal funds to be diverted to this school, given its discriminatory practices. 

Elizabeth Warren Launches “DeVos Watch” to Hold the ED Accountable

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced the creation of a new project to hold the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos accountable to putting students ahead of profits.  Warren is particularly concerned about DeVos’s approach to student loans, and her hiring of two assistants with deep ties to the for-profit college industry.  But accountability matters in K-12 education as well, and the Secretary has the same agenda – turning public dollars over to private hands.  As DeVos Watch moves forward, it should prove to be an important source of information about what’s happening in the U.S. Department of Education, and a resource for holding the Secretary’s feet to the fire.  See a short video about DeVos Watch here.


UPCOMING EVENTS

The Badass Teachers Association (BATS) is holding their 4th annual education conference in Seattle on July 22.  For more information, check out their website at www.badassteacher.org

The Network for Public Education (NPE) is holding its annual conference in Oakland on October 14-15, 2017.   More information here.