This Week in Education Organizing - September 7, 2018

Los Angeles Teachers Vote to Authorize Strike

Teachers in Los Angeles have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) has been bargaining with the district for 16 months, but progress has stalled over a number of key issues on the agenda for the city’s teachers. These include reducing class sizes—some of the highest in the nation; insufficient staffing, particularly of counselors, nurses and librarians across the district; lack of investment in public schools, and accountability for the city’s charter schools.

UTLA members began the voting process on August 23rd, and the results of the vote were announced on August 31st. With 81% of the union’s 31,000 teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors, social workers and psychologists casting votes, a full 98% of those voted to authorize—a stunning show of support.

Long-time labor organizer Jane McAlevey interviewed a number of LA teachers for an article that appeared in In These Times last week (along with several other articles about the strike vote). In it, she notes that California, despite being one of the wealthiest states in the nation, ranks 43 out of 50 in per pupil funding. One high school teacher she spoke with told her, “Our school has over 2,000 students and one nurse, but she was only hired to be here part time.” Dozens of other teachers told similar stories, and not one of them said that teacher wages were their first priority in the contract negotiations.  

A strike authorization vote doesn’t guarantee that a strike is imminent. The vote gives the union’s board of directors the authority to call a strike, should it become necessary. Negotiations with the district, and an appointed mediator, are continuing. Read more about the union’s demands, and the status of negotiations in this Los Angeles Times article

New Resource from the Partnership for the Future of Learning: Community Schools Playbook

Every child should have the opportunity to achieve his or her dreams and contribute to the well-being of society. That’s a central purpose of public education. Every neighborhood deserves a public school, and every community deserves a public school system that truly delivers on that promise.

Around the country, educators, grassroots organizations, and policymakers are advancing community schools to equitably deliver on that promise. Together, they’re creating high-performing schools that are both academic and social centers where educators, families, and local partners come together to learn, grow, and thrive.

Last week, the Partnership for the Future of Learning released the Community Schools Playbook, a new resource to support this work.

The playbook integrates academic research with the wisdom and experience of educators and communities to create a toolkit for those looking to begin, advance, or continue to improve community schools. It provides a comprehensive overview of the community schools model, details the four key pillars of comprehensive community schools, and contains both communications and policy development resources, including policy examples from across the United States, model legislative language, and key talking points and statistics. The Playbook is available HERE

 DeVos Watch:

ED Releases Faulty Data on School Shootings

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) releases data each year through the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) project, on incidents of school violence and discipline data. This year, though, the Department got some critical data wrong—yet is refusing to correct it on the CRDC website.

According to National Public Radio, which broke the story on August 29th, the ED reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, "nearly 240 schools ... reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting." (Read more HERE)

When NPR worked to confirm this number by calling every one of the schools counted in the data, they found that more than two-thirds of these incidents never happened. NPR was able to confirm just 11 reported school-related shootings. ED refused to comment on the mistake, and admitted there had been no attempt within the department to investigate or dig in to the extraordinarily high number of reported incidents.

This release of inaccurate data from the CRDC has become part of a broader debate over school safety and the accuracy and information included in the CRDC. The ACLR is working with the Civil Rights Project at UCLA to publish a series of reports and tools to increase public understanding of the CRDC. They are also working with the data to document a number of new indicators, such as the number of police officers stationed in schools and the number of school shootings reported nationwide.

Federal Funds to Buy Guns for Teachers?

The data on school shootings is important, because it becomes part of the debate over how to respond to shootings such as the one in Parkland Florida last February. After that horrific event, President Trump put Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in charge of a Commission on School Safety, which has held several hearings around the country.

Trump also put forward a proposal that teachers be allowed to carry guns in schools – a proposal that drew immediate opposition and expressions of horror from the nation’s teachers, parents and students.

Nonetheless, DeVos has recently announced that she will not intervene, should some states use federal funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to purchase weapons and provide firearms training for teachers.   Despite the urging of House and Senate Democrats that DeVos prohibit the use of federal funds to arm teachers, DeVos suggested instead—citing “flexibility,” and local control—that she won’t stand in the way of districts or states that move in that direction.

"Congress drafted very broad language and granted the States broad discretion in how to use the funds. States individually will need to make the determination or Congress will need to provide more clearly defined language. Also, keep in mind, we are talking about a hypothetical ... to our knowledge no state or LEA has used Title IV-A funds for this purpose" – stated Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill.

At issue in the debate is ESSA’s “Student Support and Academic Enrichment” grants, a new program designed to support districts in strengthening school climate through programs such as dropout prevention, community schools, discipline reform and counseling programs.

Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) responded with a heated statement last week, saying that if DeVos won’t prohibit states or districts from using ESSA funds to purchase weapons for teachers, then Congress must step in. "Arming teachers will recklessly endanger both students and educators. It is outrageous that Secretary DeVos will allow federal education funds to be spent putting guns in the classroom. If Secretary DeVos refuses to adhere to congressional intent and the administration's own policy regarding the purchase of firearms for school security, Congress must make clear that no taxpayer money can be used to arm America's teachers," Scott wrote. 


UPCOMING EVENTS

WEBINAR: Black Lives Matter at School – Information and Organizing Training.   September 10th at 7:00pm eastern

The first week of February each year is a national week of action for Black Lives Matter at School. This webinar will feature several leaders of BLM At School to explain how this movement started, what the objectives are, and how community organizations can support the effort. Black Lives Matter at School is a national movement of educators organizing for racial justice in education.  They encourage all educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to join the annual week of action. Jump on this webinar to learn more. To join:

From PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/427662705

From iPhone one-tap: US: +16699006833,,427662705# 

or +16468769923,,427662705#

From Telephone: US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 646 876 9923

Meeting ID: 427 662 705
 

Book Launch: Lift us Up Don’t Push us Out. September 11th, Washington, DC

Lift Us Up Don’t Push Us Out presents the voices activists and organizers in the education justice and other movements, discussing lessons learned and strategies for winning campaigns that represent real victories in people’s lives. A book event will be held on September 11th in Washington, D.C. at Busboys and Poets on 5th Street, NW. The event features the Alliance for Educational Justice’s Jonathan Stith and AROS co-director Keron Blair, among others.

Confronting the Education Debt. September 12th, Washington, DC

Confronting the Education Debt: We Owe Billions to Black, Brown and Low-Income Students and their Schools, is a new report being released by AROS on Wednesday next week. The launch event will take place at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation annual conference, and will feature U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) as a guest-speaker. The report documents the historic and systematic under-funding of public schools in Black and Brown communities, concurrent with the diversion of trillions in public dollars to the pockets of wealthy individuals and corporations. AROS is calling for full-funding of federal education programs targeted at vulnerable students, and a new focus on bringing equity to our public schools. The report, and a set of organizing tools will be available on September 12th at http://educationdebt.reclaimourschools.org

 


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


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