This Week in Education Organizing - October 21, 2016

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Newsletter
  [October 21, 2016]

Welcome to our October 21st 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.


In another example of how the wealthy use the tax code to their benefit while public schools suffer, some states are funneling public dollars to private schools and allowing businesses and upper-income taxpayers to turn a profit in the process, according to a report released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

The report examines tax policies in 20 states that have circumvented public opposition or even constitutional obstacles to publicly funded private school vouchers by using their tax codes to either encourage donations to private school scholarship funds, also known as neovouchers or backdoor vouchers or to offset the cost of private school tuition. Ten of these states actually allow taxpayers to turn a profit on their donations to private schools. 

If you believe we should have fully funded public schools, sign on to the AROS Platform, which calls for a massive investment in public education and tax laws that prioritize schools over the super-weathy.


At the final hour before teachers were set to go out on strike in Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union reached a tentative contract agreement with Chicago Public Schools.

Two provisions in the tentative agreement are of particular interest in the AROS world:  The first is a provision that commits the district to put between $10 million and $27 million into clinicians, wrap-around supports, and restorative justice coordinators in 20 to 55 schools. The devil, says CTU Staff Coordinator Jackson Potter, will be in the details of how the provision gets implemented.

A second provision would place a cap on both the number, and the total enrollment of charter schools in Chicago over the term of the contract (until 2018-19).  Chicago Public Schools is the primary authorizer for charter schools in the city. Now advocates will move to pass a state law to limit the power of the State’s charter school commission from overriding a decision on charter authorizing made by CPS.  This is an innovative and exciting example of using union contract negotiations to win progressive change at the local level – what is becoming known as “bargaining for the common good.”  Stay tuned for more information!  See more about the tentative agreement here.  


Three community organizing groups—Communities United, Make the Road, and Padres y Jovenes Unidos—have released a report on the impacts of mass incarceration.  The $3.4 Trillion Mistake: The Cost of Mass Incarceration and Criminalization and How Justice Reinvestment Can Build a Better Future for Us All” provides a state-by-state analysis of the costs of prisons, jails, prosecutors and immigration enforcement and other instruments of oppression—particularly of Black and Brown people.  The report offers recommendations for justice-based reinvestment at the local, state and federal level.


Last year, the Wisconsin State Legislature created something called the “Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) that allowed the county executive in Milwaukee (and nowhere else in the state) to take over and privatize struggling schools inside the district.  The program was to begin with anywhere from 1-3 school takeovers this year, with as many as 5 potential takeovers each year after that.  Schools and Communities United – an AROS table and union/community partnership – fought back, creating School Defense Teams and drawing a line in the sand under the slogan, Not One Student, Not One School.  Schools and Communities United reinforced the message that the OSPP, better known as simply The Takeover, sought to disempower the democratically elected school board of Milwaukee by placing schools in the hands of an appointed commissioner.

 But something amazing happened in the mean-time. Since the Takeover legislation passed, Milwaukee has transformed 7 struggling schools in to community schools.  Milwaukee student assessment scores went up above the threshold set by the state legislation targeting the district.  So the vindictive and ill-formed OSPP becomes moot.  This is a tremendous victory for Schools and Communities United, as well as the students and educators of Milwaukee Public Schools.  Read all about it here.


About 2,000 teachers in the Seattle Public Schools wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts and held rallies outside their schools on October 19th.  The action was part of a call for racial equity in education. Multiple schools participated, with some donning the t-shirts, others sporting stickers or hanging large banners outside the school and inviting students to express their hopes and feelings in ink on the banners. Read more about the protest here.


The NAACP national executive board passed a resolution on Saturday calling for a moratorium on new charter expansion, and increased public accountability for charter schools.  The resolution, from the largest civil rights organization in the country, was the subject of an aggressive opposition campaign by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, and was opposed by both the Washington Post and the New York Times.  But the NAACP held firm. 

The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) wrote a letter to the editor in response to the NYT editorial on the resolution, and their letter was published in Thursday’s paper. Congrats to them!  Read more about the resolution, and reaction to it, here.


 The National Week of Action, taking place from October 15th to October 23rd, is coordinated by the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), a national coalition of more than 100 organizations led by youth, parents, educators, civil rights leaders, and social justice advocates that promotes alternatives to zero-tolerance discipline policies. The Education Rights Network, a project of One Pittsburgh and members of AROS, led two actions this week to stand up for solutions, not suspensions.

On Monday, October 17th, students, parents and teachers took a message to the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Public Hearing. Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately represented at every stage of the school-to-prison pipeline. On Thursday, October 20th, Education Rights Network and One Pittsburgh co-hosted a community conversation with local, state, and federal policymakers to discuss solutions to end the school-to-prison pipeline. 

The solutions to school pushout supported by the Dignity in Schools campaign include shifting funding from school police to counselors and social workers; funding and using transformative and restorative justice, mediation and positive interventions; ensuring that states and districts focus on school climate under the Every Student Succeeds Act; and ending the pushout and arresting of students of color, LGBTQ youth, students who are homeless, and students with disabilities.  Read more about the campaign here.