This Week in Education Organizing - March 16, 2018

Louisville AROS Table Demands Local Voice in Public School Agenda

Louisville AROS is helping to generate debate over local control and the city’s public schools. Through press events, opinion pieces and protests, the AROS table has shined a light on a business-oriented committee that was pulled together in secret last June and has been meeting behind closed doors to determine the future of the Jefferson County Public Schools. The Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA) is an invitation-only, business-oriented group whose existence was revealed in January, after meeting in private for months.

Louisville AROS is one of our newest tables and has hit the ground running. Members include Dear JCPS, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, the League of Women Voters, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, and the Jefferson County Teachers Association. Last week, they held a picket at the Omni Louisville Hotel, where two members of the SCALA were being inducted into the Kentuckiana Business Hall of Fame.  

A range of voices have joined to challenge SCALA. Jules Marquart spoke to the Louisville Courier-Journal in February, about a similar committee that was put together in Nashville when she lived there. Powerbrokers in Louisville are holding up Nashville as a model, she noted, but they’re not following that model. “What contributed to Nashville’s outcomes was the widespread participation of citizens in the community forums,” she said. “Nashvillians felt ownership and commitment to the plan because citizens throughout the community actively participated in its development, in a democratic and transparent process.”

By contrast, the mere existence of SCALA was only revealed through the work of a local online journal, and the roughly 70 members of the Committee were released to the public only last week, after pressure began mounting. Its members include wealthy bankers, corporate leaders, prominent clergy and college presidents. Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP observed, “there is no individual on there that could say they represented poor people.” Nor is there any representation from the Jefferson County Public Schools.

The protests have put SCALA in to the limelight. When asked in February whether the monthly SCALA meeting would be open to the public, the Committee chairman told the Courier-Journal that it would not be. “Why not?” asked the reporter. “Because I said so,” said the chairman. By March, there had been a change of heart. The SCALA meeting scheduled for March 20th will be open to the public. Louisville AROS will be there.

Boston Education Justice Alliance (BEJA) Says BPS Budget Fails on Student Safety, Behavioral Health and Key Student Needs

 BEJA, a coalition of parent, student, and teacher organizations said today that the proposed BPS budget for the next school year does not give schools adequate resources to ensure safety and a quality education to all BPS students.
 
 “Student demonstrators are rightly focusing on gun control laws. The Boston School Committee can’t pass those laws. But the School Committee can ensure that every school has a school psychiatrist and a social worker to help students cope with trauma and other problems before they endanger themselves and others,” said BEJA Executive Director Ruby Reyes. “The School Committee can provide a nurse for every school so students who are injured or become sick have professional medical care. This budget falls short of that.”
 
 A press conference held by BEJA in advance of a School Committee meeting included speakers from The Boston Student Advisory Committee, the Parent Committee for the East Boston Ecumenical Council and the Boston Teachers Union. 

BEJA called on the School Committee to join them in demanding more funds for Boston schools through increased state funding and greater “Payments In Lieu Of Taxes” [PILOTs] from Boston’s wealthiest non-profit institutions, which enjoy all the benefits of being located in a thriving city without paying their share of the costs.  BEJA is engaged in a campaign to demand more from these non-profits. For more on PILOTs as a way to raise badly needed funds for Boston, visit https://www.change.org/p/boston-education-justice-alliance-fund-our-schools-campaign 

Guns for Teachers? Teachers Just Say No

President Trump has proposed letting teachers carry weapons in their schools and classrooms to both deter and, presumably, take down school shooters. Teachers themselves are rejecting the idea. According to a Gallup poll this week, 60% of teachers believe that arming school staff would make the school less safe. 73% said they oppose school staff carrying guns and 82% said they would not be willing to undergo firearms training, as both the President and his Department of Justice proposed this week.

We’ll vote with the teachers, here. Indeed, in the span of just two days this week, weapons were accidentally fired inside school buildings on opposite sides of the country. In northern Virginia, just outside of D.C., a School Resource Officer accidentally fired his gun inside an Alexandria middle school. And in Seaside, California, while students around the country were walking out of school to mark the 1-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a teacher in an advanced public safety class accidentally fired his gun while holding it up to show students. Three students were slightly injured from shrapnel and debris when the bullet went through the ceiling of the classroom.

Come on. Is there really any doubt that putting more guns in schools will end up in more guns being fired inside schools? Stand by for AROS action on this issue.

Students in Massachusetts Target Manufacturer of AR15

Students from across Massachusetts flocked to Springfield on Wednesday, March 14th to rally in front of the historic headquarters of Smith and Wesson, the gun-maker responsible for the M&P 15 assault rifle. Over 100 students gathered to demand a meeting with the company’s CEO within 30 days, that the company recall all M&P 15 rifles, and that they establish a compensation fund to support communities affected by gun violence.

Tara Parrish, with the Pioneer Valley Project, which helped organize the protest, said that students of color have been frustrated that this issue has gained media traction only when it is affluent, white students (from Parkland, Florida) speaking out. “Our young people are tired of being invisible on this issue. We have a particular perspective and that perspective is not being seen by the country,” said Parrish. “It’s sort of like it comes back into view when it’s suburban white kids, but it’s not in view when it’s us,” she told the Huffington Post. She noted that many of the students she works with oppose more guns in schools, and more metal detectors—both proposals made by President Donald Trump this week.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition Rally and Cookout: Saturday, March 17th: “NO FC Cincinnati Stadium in the West End!” The event begins at noon, at Laurel Park in the West End. For more information, check the CEJC Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/events/2065270080416233/

Journey for Justice Alliance National Conference 2018: May 18-20 at Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago. Registration is now open here online or by mail or fax!   Register, pay and get more details on the conference itinerary and activities here! Youth and J4J member discounts are available. 


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