This Week in Education Organizing - September 29, 2017

DeVos Watch:  MEJA turns out in Boston

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been on the road lately—much more so than during her first six months in office.  But everywhere she goes, she runs in to protests.  This week it was a speech at the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance. 

Protestors outside, organized by the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA) called DeVos to task for her aggressive pro-voucher agenda, and for rolling back Title IX guidance on handling sexual assault charges on college campuses.  Inside, students attended the event with signs and, while largely silent as she talked, took to the mic to ask challenging questions about her stances on privatization, civil rights and other topics.

DeVos seems not have bothered becoming an expert on education issues during her time in office. According to Diane Ravitch, “when she was asked why she opposed accountability for charters in Michigan, she answered with a non sequitur. She said that the families with means had already abandoned Detroit, and the charters were a haven for those who remained behind. She forgot about the kids still enrolled in public schools, who are apparently non-persons. And her explanation made no sense.”  (Photo credit Mary Schwalm/Reuters)

 Students Protest School-to-Prison Pipeline in New York City

Two hundred people, led by high school students, marched from the steps of the New York City Department of Education to the Manhattan Criminal Summons court last week to protest the continued use of the criminal justice system against Black and Latino youth involved in disciplinary incidents in their schools.

The groups, which included the Urban Youth Collaborative, Make the Road NY and the Center for Popular Democracy, released data showing that Black and Latino youth represent 67% of all students in the city, but account for 92.4% of all students arrested, 88.6% of students receiving summons, 88.8% of NYPD juvenile reports, and 96% of students handcuffed during a mental health crisis. Nearly 78% of all arrests, summons, and juvenile reports in schools are for misdemeanors and non-criminal violations.

"New York City has been criminalizing Black and Latino students for normal youthful behavior for decades. It’s 2017, and we are the only young people getting arrested, summons, and handcuffed. It can’t be acceptable that we are treated differently because of the color of our skin,” said Matthew Beeston, a youth leader of Future of Tomorrow and the Urban Youth Collaborative.

Speakers at the rally called on the Mayor to end the use of arrests, summons, and juvenile reports for misdemeanors and non-criminal violations. Read more about the rally and report here.

 #WeChoose Rallies at U.S. Capitol

The #WeChoose campaign held a rally and press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, to report on the results of “critical conversations” held around the country over the past two months. Speakers  included two U.S. representatives, Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) along with the presidents of the AFT and the NEA, the head of the DC Office of the NAACP, and Isiah Rivera, a student with the Camden Students Union.  Rivera spoke about his experience in Camden with the expansion of charter schools, and how the charters draw funds away from traditional public schools.

The rally was followed by an afternoon-long strategy session, as the campaign continues to fight for sustainable community schools and against privatization.


Federal Grants for Charter Expansion Announced

This week, the Department of Education announced grants totaling over $250 million to states and charter chains to open new charters and expand existing ones.

The federal Charter Schools Program offers start-up and expansion funds, and has supported nearly a quarter of all new charter schools in the country.  Two separate audits by the Department’s Office of Inspector General have critiqued the program’s lack of transparency and accountability, yet the grants continue to roll out.   The Center for Media and Democracy has published a range of useful findings and opinions about the federal program. 

 NYU Metro Center Job Announcement

The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (NYU Metro Center) is looking for a NYC Education Justice Coordinator. The coordinator will provide strategic support to parent and youth organizing groups in New York City, including the Coalition for Educational Justice and the Urban Youth Collaborative.  Please read the full job description here.


“Moving Beyond Chapter 222: A Vision for Progressive School Discipline in Massachusetts,” Youth on Board in Boston is hosting an informational and relational meeting about the ongoing fight against the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Massachusetts. The meeting will be held on Thursday, October 19th from 10:00-2:00pm at UMass Boston.  For more information contact Andrew King at

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