The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Newsletter
Welcome to our November 3 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.
Padres y Jovenes Unidos Join Week of Action Against School Pushout
Padres & Jovenes Unidos joined groups across the country for the Dignity in Schools National Week of Action Against School Pushout. Padres mobilized their school-based chapters, including students, parents, community members and educators, to take part in their #COYouthRiseUp campaign. Young people across Colorado used the week to speak their truth against unjust disciplinary practices that are contributing to the School to Prison Pipeline.
Offering Parents Hard Facts in Detroit
482 Forward invited Detroit School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, and the leaders of the city’s two largest charter school authorizers—Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University—to speak at a “State of the Schools Address.” And, they provided a list of data and information about the schools that they wanted each to bring with them.
Wednesday’s event featured a panel discussion between the three leaders, as well as presentations by students and parents, and questions from the audience. Video of the event, and the information provided by each entity is available here.
The panel discussion was frank. The data provided by the authorizers and the Detroit Public Schools, while sometimes reported unevenly, offered parents useful information on topics such as what percentages of the schools in each district provide art, music and physical education; what percentage of schools offer free transportation, and more. Not surprisingly, the charter schools represented by authorizers at the event showed lower percentages of students with disabilities, and slightly higher rates of suspension and expulsion than the Detroit Public schools. Take a moment to browse the videos, and review the various reports at the link above.
Philadelphia to Return to Local Control
On November 2, Philadelphia Mayor Kenny formally began the process of returning the city’s public schools to local control. Since the State took over the School District of Philadelphia in 2001, it has been run by an appointed School Reform Commission (SRC). Dozens of schools have been closed or turned over to charter operators, budgets have been slashed and personnel laid off. Now, it appears that the SRC will vote at this month’s meeting, to dissolve itself. Once this happens, the district will return to mayoral control, with the Mayor appointing a 9-member Board of Education. On Thursday, the Mayor announced that he would be creating a nominating committee to vet potential Board members. The hope is that this new Board will be installed by the start of the next school year.
The announcement is a clear victory for the community/labor organizations that have been fighting for a return to local control in Philadelphia for over a decade. Most recently, the Our City Our Schools (OCOS) coalition has been the main driving force behind the push for a return to local control.
“Today is a huge step forward for the Philadelphia schools -- and a victory for the thousands of parents, students, educators and school staff who have been fighting for true education justice for the past 16 years of the School Reform Commission, said Antoine Little, the chair of OCOS, in a statement released on Thursday. But OCOS also acknowledged that the transition to local control is fraught with challenges. Their statement continued:
“What comes next has the potential to redefine how our schools are run -- but only if we make true steps towards a People’s School Board that can undo the damage and distrust caused by the 16 years of the School Reform Commission. We are calling for three key criteria for our next school board -- we’re ready to lead and fight for our schools:
1. A board that is made up of the true stakeholders of the Philadelphia schools -- the parents who volunteer to fill budget gaps, the students, educators and school staff who teach, work and learn in our schools every day, and the community leaders who have supported their neighborhood schools for decades.
2. A board that ends the conflict of interests that plagued the SRC -- no one on our next school board or their family should profit off of our kids’ schools.
3. A board ready to fight for true racial and economic justice in our schools -- we’re nowhere near done and our schools need resources. We need a school board ready to fight to make sure that local corporations and real estate developers to pay their fair share, that we have a fair funding formula in Harrisburg and that we end to the school to prison pipeline.”
Our City Our Schools plans to mobilize for the November 16th SRC meeting where the vote to abolish the SRC is expected to take place. The coalition will rally in front of 440 N Broad at 4PM. More information about the People’s School Board can be found at www.OurCityOurSchools.com.
Jackson Public Schools Get a Reprieve
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant announced on October 26th that he would not order the state takeover of the Jackson Public Schools…yet. The district has been threatened with a state takeover for months. Last week, the Governor and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced the formation of a city/state commission that would develop a plan for turning around the troubled district. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, is expected to play a significant role in the work of the Commission, and to offer significant funding to help implement a reform plan. Read more here.
Teachers Fired from Chicago Public Schools Turn Up in the City’s Charters, Report Shows
The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) inspector general released a report last week showing that more than 160 CPS employees who had been barred from the district because of alleged misconduct were found working in the city’s charter and contract schools. The employees, just over half of them teachers, represent a small fraction of the CPS workforce. But they had been fired from their jobs for a range of reasons, including physical abuse of students, poor performance or various rules infractions.
The inspector general noted that the district and charter sector did not have an efficient way to exchange information about teachers on a “Do Not Hire” list, but also that charter schools have much more latitude when it comes to hiring decisions. Read more about the inspector general’s report here.
Showings of Backpack Full Of Cash:
Philadelphia: November 8th. 4:00pm at School of the Future, 4201 Parkside Avenue: https://pft.org/backpack-of-cash-screening/
Indianapolis: November 9th. 9:00am at Purpose of Life Ministries, 3705 Kessler Blvd North Drive. Doors open at 8:30 for a continental breakfast.
Rochester, NY: November 30th. 6:30pm at The Little Theater.