This Week in Education Organizing - September 8, 2017

Welcome to the Fight-Back!

We’ve been leading off our recent “This Week in Education Organizing” newsblasts with news of past and upcoming events connected to the AROS summer “fight-back” initiative to defeat the Trump/DeVos budget and tax initiatives.  This week, there is so much bubbling up, that we’ll probably send around a special edition of the newsblast early next week with more information.  Stand by!  Resistance is Rising

Welcome People’s Action!

This week, AROS welcomed a new national partner organization – People’s Action (PA).  People’s Action is a powerful grassroots coalition of community-based organizations across the country.  They are joining the fight for education justice, and have already jumped in with thousands of feet, as we continue our summer “fight-back” against the Trump-DeVos agenda. Check out their website at www.peoplesaction.org.

Meanwhile, in other organizing news…

Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles Launches Bargaining Campaign

On Wednesday, September 6, Reclaim Our Schools LA (ROSLA) officially launched the Campaign for the Schools Our Students Deserve with a press conference in front of an elementary school in south LA that is struggling with the impact of a co-located charter school. The press conference highlighted the crisis LA public schools face, the causes, and community solutions such as community schools, increasing revenues and per pupil spending, and utilizing the contract bargaining process to win victories for the entire school community.

Next up for ROSLA is the September 15, when community organizations will join UTLA at the bargaining table as they begin their contract negotiations with the district.  Months of Bargaining for the Common Good meetings have engaged dozens of people and organizations to help develop union bargaining demands. Representatives from these organizations will come into the bargaining session to explain demands based on their organization’s purpose. For instance, CHIRLA –the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights -- will explain a contract demand around a fund for families facing deportations; Communities for a Better Environment will explain demands for green space, a housing group would explain housing demands, etc. A press conference will be held that day to highlight the parent/community presence at the bargaining table. Stay tuned for news!

Minneapolis Also Enters Bargaining – For the Common Good

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has joined with community partners to generate a “10 Point Platform” that they’re calling “Common Sense Bargaining for the Common Good.”  The platform was developed over the summer with community allies, and the first bargaining session was held with the district on Wednesday of this week.

The Platform includes a range of demands, including smaller class sizes, restorative practices in schools, full-service community schools, resources to all schools such as art supplies, band rooms, gym equipment, social and health services, and much more.

Major Organizing Victory!  Newark to Transition Back to Local Control

Organizing in Newark has won a significant victory!  Next week, the Newark Public Schools will be returned to local control for the first time in 20 years.  A celebratory rally will be held at the State Capitol, hosted by the community, civic, educator and youth-led organizations that have led the resistance to the state takeover.

The Newark Public Schools were stripped of local control in 1995. An initial wave of new resources and supports led to immediate process for the schools. But corporate reform found its way in to Newark in 2010 under the leadership of then-mayor Cory Booker and the state’s new governor, Chris Christie.  Booker, Christie, and eventually California billionaire Mark Zuckerberg decided to make the city’s schools a national model for corporate education reform.  Over the next five years, Booker, Christie and Christie’s appointed superintendent Cami Anderson, plowed forward with a top-down transformation plan dubbed “One Newark.”  Several schools were closed, funding was cut, counselors, clerical workers, janitors and teachers were laid off, and keys to school buildings were turned over to charter operators.

Resistance was fierce. A coalition of organizing, labor and civic groups presented an alternative “Newark Promise” plan that called for community schools and local control.  The elected (but mostly powerless) Newark School Advisory Board unanimously rejected Superintendent Anderson’s budgets and urged that she be replaced. Students walked out, and PULSE filed a Title VI discrimination complaint with the department of Justice – a complaint that was investigated and led to a brokered settlement in 2015 under which Newark Public Schools agreed to repair the harm caused to students as a result of the school closures and charter conversions.  That repair work began under current Newark Mayor Raz Baraka, who has committed to and begun implementing a plan to create sustainable community schools in the city’s South Ward. Now, the organized resistance has paid off even more, with the Governor’s announcement of a return to local control.

PULSE, New Jersey Communities United and others are planning a victory rally to claim this win and demand seats at the table as local control is implemented. The rally will be held on Wednesday, September 13 on the steps of the New Jersey State Capital (see below under “Upcoming”).  Meanwhile, the State is working out details of a transition to local control, giving the Newark School Advisory Board the authority to hire and fire the Superintendent, and more. Read more here. 

Advancement Project, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Denver Classroom Teachers Association join forces to create laboratory for restorative practices.

In Denver, the fight against the School to Prison Pipeline has been a long and complicated process, led by the persistent organizing of Padres y Jovenes Unidos.  Padres fought for, and eventually won a pilot program to implement restorative practices in a set of the district’s public schools.  In recent years, they’ve built a coalition to build the pilot into a demonstration project, so that other Denver schools (and other cities!) could learn from the successes and challenges of implementing restorative practices.

The Denver School-Based Restorative Practices Partnership is a coalition that includes the Advancement Project, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Denver Public Schools, National Education Association, and Padres & Jovenes Unidos.  It is dedicated to ending the school-to-prison pipeline that is perpetuated by zero-tolerance policies and exclusionary discipline practices such as suspensions, expulsions, and the use of police in schools. 

The Partnership involves stakeholders at every level to support the implementation of restorative practices in schools. Their collaborative model ensure sustainability, teach conflict-resolution and social-emotional skills to both students and adults. e implementation of restorative practices in schools nationwide. This collaborative model ensures sustainability of restorative practices, which teach conflict-resolution and social-emotional skills to both students and adults, for years to come.

The fantastic website for the project includes a new Implementation Guide for teachers, parents and students.  This is an incredible resource, developed after years of hands-on organizing, analysis and collaboration.  Check it out.

Little Rock Hosts Backpack Full of Cash

Over 140 people turned up to view the documentary Backpack Full of Cash in Little Rock on Thursday, at an event hosted by Save Our Schools and Grassroots Arkansas.  The film was shown as part of an initiative of AROS, supported through the Schott Foundation for Public Education, to foster debate about the impact of charter schooling on the public education landscape around the country.  Additional screenings are scheduled (see below) and there are more to come!


UPCOMING EVENTS

If you live in Milwaukee, Kansas City or Chicago, head on out to see the film, Backpack Full of Cash, a documentary about the charter industry.  Showings are being hosted by Schools and Communities United (Milwaukee, 9/23), MORE2 (Kansas City, 10/12) and the Grassroots Education Movement (Chicago, 10/25) with support from AROS and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. 

Victory rally to celebrate the return of Newark Public Schools to local control!  September 13, 10:00am on the steps of the NJ State Capitol building. Sponsored by PULSE and NJ Communities United.


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