This Week in Education Organizing - October 6, 2017

#WeChoose Campaign Taking Action on October 9th

The #WeChoose campaign is planning rallies and actions in a dozen cities on Monday, October 9th – Indigenous People’s Day. 

One such action will take place in New York City, where the Coalition for Education Justice will hold a rally and teach-in at 10am Monday. The event will include a march to city hall, and a call for the Mayor to expand anti-bias staff trainings, multicultural curriculum and Culturally Responsive Education options in the city’s schools. Parents, students and teachers will talk about racism and bias in schools and how the city can fight it.  There will also be a performance by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa, a group that offers ceremonial performances and workshops through sharing indigenous dances and songs. Cetiliztli Nauhcampa was formed in 1999 by people from various parts of the Americas.

Dignity in Schools Campaign Planning a National Week of Action

The Dignity in Schools Campaign is planning a national week of action against school push-outs, from October 21-29. The week’s events will take place in cities across the country.  In New Orleans, two days of workshops and focused activities will take place on the 23rd and 24th.  The campaign demands include shifting funding from school police to counselors and positive discipline programs, an end to the push-out and arrests of students of color, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable young people, an emphasis in federal law on school climate reform, an end to paddling and physical punishment in all schools, and investment in public education rather than privatization. For more information and materials to help plan and promote local actions, check out the Dignity in Schools webpage.

Fighting to Avert a District Takeover in Jackson, Mississippi

Educators, parents and community members in Jackson, MS are fighting to stop a state takeover of the city’s public schools.  Late last month, the state’s Commission on School Accreditation voted to declare the Jackson Public Schools (JPS) in “extreme emergency.”  The following day, the state Board of Education affirmed that declaration, sending it to Governor Phil Bryant’s desk. The Governor has not yet signed off on the takeover, but could do so at any time.  His signature would immediately dissolve the JPS Board of Trustees and empower an interim superintendent, already named by the Mississippi Department of Education.

“What we are seeing is a re-colonization of our city by the state—this is not about children, this is about money and power,” said Jed Oppenheim, a member of the JPS Board.  “The state of Mississippi never cared about the black children in Jackson, and they’re not about to start right now.”  Oppenheim’s comments were reported in a Jackson Free Press story about the takeover.

Nationally and in Mississippi, district takeovers and so-called “achievement districts” (which allow state takeover of individual schools) are almost exclusively imposed on majority Black communities.  This one is no exception: the Jackson schools are 96% African American.  For more information about the impacts of state takeovers, see the AROS report, “Out of Control: The Systematic Disenfranchisement of African American and Latino Communities through School Takeovers.”

The affront to the Jackson Public Schools and the Jackson community is compounded by the fact that just last month, a state watchdog panel launched an investigation of the Mississippi Department of Education, expressing concerns about possible financial malfeasance, lack of transparency and oversight, and cronyism.  Why should the people of Jackson allow themselves to be disenfranchised, and their schools seized by an agency that is itself under investigation for fraud?  Some believe that the takeover is simply a vehicle to turn over schools to charter operators.  Mississippi passed its first charter schools law in 2013.  So far, only a handful of charter schools have opened in the state, three of them in Jackson.  A state takeover, note some, could allow the charter industry to grab a number of schools, thus gaining a real foothold in the state.

Parents Against Corporate Takeovers Registers a Victory in Florida

Organizing works.  A grassroots effort led by Parents Against Corporate Takeovers has thwarted an effort by Charter Schools USA to open up a huge new charter school in Alachua County, Florida.  Last May, the for-profit Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) submitted an application to open up an 1,100 student school in Alachua County in north-central Florida.  The school would have dwarfed the county’s other charters, and drawn students and funding away from the county’s public schools.  Public school advocates were rightly concerned that such a massive expansion of charter seats would decimate the public district.  Read more about the CSUSA proposal here.

The ever-confident CSUSA created a Facebook page to gauge interest in the school. Instead of support, the page was inundated with negative comments.  “NO, we don’t need a Charter School. What we need are more funds for our public schools!” wrote one resident. Still, CSUSA submitted the application.

 

But the effort ended this week, when, under increasing pressure from parents, teachers and public school administrators, CSUSA withdrew their application.  Congratulations to Parents Against Corporate Takeovers!  One down…


UPCOMING EVENTS

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is making it possible for several AROS cities to show the new documentary, Backpack Full of Cash as part of organizing and campaign work.  The following showings are scheduled for this month:

Kansas City, MO – October 12th at Trinity United Methodist Church;

New Orleans, LA – October 17th at Carver Theater;

Chicago, IL – October 25th at the SEIU building at 2229 S. Halsted.


Follow the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools on Facebook and Twitter and learn more at www.reclaimourschools.org.


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