This Week in Education Organizing - June 26, 2015

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Newsletter
June 26, 2015

Lots of great news to report this week, so enjoy! We'll be on hiatus next week, but in the meantime, you can share the latest 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.

New AROS Director Keron Blair

AROS is proud to announce and welcome our new Director, Keron Blair. Keron is an organizer with ten years of experience working for social change and he most recently served as the Membership Director for United Working Families in Chicago. He was also the Field Director for Raise Illinois, a statewide campaign to raise Illinois' minimum wage, and for Illinois Unites for Marriage, the campaign that secured the freedom to marry for gay couples in Illinois. Keron has been a trainer and campaign strategist for the Midwest Academy, where he worked with groups at the city, state and national levels to design and implement strategic campaigns on a wide set of issues, including public education. In 2008 Keron began a three-year position as the director of Interfaith Worker Justice in New Orleans, helping to build local coalitions to strengthen rights for workers.

Keron is excited to join the AROS team because, as he notes, "We may lose public education as we know it in our lifetimes. I want to be part of the fight to make sure that doesn't happen." Our new director officially starts on July 7 and will be working out of Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter here: @Keronblair.

NY petition
The Alliance for Quality Education's Billy Easton
[center] at the capitol beside an unfurled banner
of 30,000 signatures
against raising the charter
school cap. Picture via AQE.

Hats off this week to the education organizers in New York who defeated a multi-million dollar campaign led by Gov. Cuomo that would have benefitted wealthy donors and charter school operators at the expense of the state's public schools. The organizers defeated a proposed tax credit that would have provided up to $1 million in taxpayer subsidies to wealthy residents for donating to private schools. They also held the line on charter expansion and prevented lawmakers from increasing the charter school cap. Read more here.

In a victory for the community schools movement, organizers in Minnesota secured new funding to expand the community schools strategy across the state as part of the education omnibus bill that passed the state legislature with bipartisan support on June 13. The new funding can be used for community school site coordinators and needs assessments. The campaign included press conferences, testimony before the House and Senate education committees, and outreach to the media and elected officials to share the successes of the Brooklyn Center Community Schools and the Myers-Wilkins Community School in Duluth. Congrats to everyone involved in this campaign! Check out videos about the Brooklyn Center schools here and the Myers-Wilkins school here.

Kids at PA AROS bus tour
Kids take the mic at the the PA
AROS bus tour stop in Chester.
Picture via PA AROS.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board approved changes to the district's student code of conduct this week that will help reduce the use of suspensions and punitive discipline policies and ensures due process rights for students facing long-term, out-of-school suspensions. While local organizers know there's still work to be done to keep chipping away at the school-to-prison pipeline, Great Public Schools Pittsburgh and ACTION United deserve a huge round of applause for getting their district this far! Read more here.

Also in Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools will be wrapping up their statewide bus tour next Monday with a rally in Harrisburg. The organizers have traveled to 13 different cities across the state to talk with community members and local leaders about the importance of a state budget that invests in public schools. Follow PA AROS on Facebook and Twitter for updates, pictures and press hits.

After years of local protests and more than a few student walkouts (shout out to the Newark Student Union!), the New Jersey Department of Education announced that state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson will be resigning and former state education commissioner Christopher Cerf will replace her. The Newark organizers are still demanding that full control of the district be returned to the community, but Anderson's resignation signals how powerful these protestors have become and that they are a force to be reckoned with in the fight for Newark's schools. Read more here.

Milwaukee Rally
Wisconsin Jobs Now's Jennifer Epps speaks at a
rally for Milwaukee schools in early June.
Picture via Schools and Communities United.

A great feature in Think Progress highlights the education organizing work happening in Milwaukee where parents, students and teachers are fightsing a state budget that would push the district further down the road toward privatization. They have already managed to push lawmakers to restore the governor's $127 million cut to the education budget, and now they are organizing against plans that would allow the state to take over struggling schools and lower teacher certification requirements. Read the article here.

If you're struggling with city budget cuts or how to secure funding for a new initiative or program at your school, check out this great new report from Local Progress and The Center for Popular Democracy. "Progressive Policies for Raising Municipal Revenue" highlights the many options cities and towns have for collecting new funding to make important investments in local institutions like schools. From expanding earned income tax credits to instituting "commuter taxes," there are lots of ways to ensure wealthier residents and businesses pay their fair share without burdening the low-income families most in need of city services. Read the report here.


June 15-29: The Pennsylvania Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools statewide bus tour. Details here.

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