The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J), a grassroots education justice organization with dozens of local chapters across the country, highlighted candidate Joe Biden’s pledge to be “the best friend of public education” as they urged the President-Elect to choose a Secretary of Education committed to education justice. J4J’s open letter emphasizes the importance of the moment to undo the damage caused by years of disinvestment and privatization and to enact a positive vision of equity and education justice. Like J4J, Schott has been clear that the next Department of Education should center community voices and work to undo the effects of resource inequity and structural racism on our public education system.
The Schott Foundation applauds President-elect Biden's selection of Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond to lead the Department of Education transition team. Dr. Darling-Hammond is a highly-qualified leader who has a proven track record of success working with public schools, parents, educators and youth to provide all students a high quality education. As a professor at Stanford, founder of the Learning Policy Institute, and president of the California State Board of Education, her work has always been informed by a passion to tackle the root causes of racial and class inequities in public education.
While the sacred obligation of democracy must be honored by counting every last ballot, it’s clear that Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris have won the presidential election. The results this year are historic: the first woman Vice President, the daughter of African American and Asian immigrants, and the highest voter turnout in our nation’s history.
The urgency of the moment cannot be overstated. The challenges facing the new administration are monumental. More than 200,000 Americans — disproportionately Black and Latinx — have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This public health disaster has shuttered businesses, schools, and places of worship while draining the coffers of the very state and local agencies on the front lines combating it. The open wound of racist police violence demands a proper reckoning. The impact of these and other tragedies was needlessly magnified by the failures of the federal executive branch.
Education justice is on the ballot this election. Over the past several months, Schott’s grantee partners have been working closely with their communities to mobilize and get out the vote—early and on November 3.
During this national moment of affirming that Black Lives Matter, we must acknowledge that our methods of ensuring Black children have a fair opportunity to learn have been ineffective. While we are at a critical moment of assessing and addressing the universal harms of systemic racism, we cannot leave out the impact of racism on learning outcomes for Black students. If our desire to liberate US policies and practices from systemic racism is sincere, we must also liberate our systems of learning.
When Black Americans were brought to the United States as slaves, education was discouraged. Black people were forbidden from learning to read or write, and a slave who could do so was subject to severe punishment or death. When Black people were eventually formally permitted to go to school, those schools were separated by race and remained unequal. Even decades after 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that Black and white children were legally allowed to go to school together, the tax bases of wealthier communities and discriminatory policies like redlining meant Black children were still largely relegated to schools that, once again, were separate and unequal.
This fall we find ourselves in a confluence of crises: the economic crisis hurting households across the country, the dangers of re-opening during COVID-19, police brutality on the streets and in schools, massive dislocation of families due to climate wildfires, and now Trump’s White House is trying to punish educators for teaching about the history of racial injustice and white supremacy that continues in our country.
On September 30th, Black educators and advocates discussed how we can navigate the present moment and also reimagine the future of teaching and learning. What can we learn from the liberation struggles of the past to inform and inspire our current work? What are students, parents, educators, and community members doing right now that we should support and defend?
Philanthropy isn’t known for being a quick and nimble sector. When change does come it’s the result of long and dedicated work by those in the field and their funder allies. From our founding, Schott has pushed philanthropy to adopt a race and gender equity framework, and a new generation of advocates and funders are joining a growing chorus.
In that spirit, this week a new fund was launched with an audacious goal. The Black Girl Freedom Fund is raising one billion dollars over the next ten years to address the myriad of interconnected problems facing Black girls and young women. As the fund’s open letter puts it:
On August 20, 2020, The People’s Think Tank (PTT), an intersectional movement space for re-imagining a radically democratic future for education justice, held a virtual convening: COVID-19 and Mass Protests: Lessons Learned and Future Directions.
The online gathering brought together more than thirty of PTT’s fifty-plus members, which included a diverse representation of the educational justice movement and social justice allies. Together, members engaged in a deep conversation about how the education justice movement is responding to the COVID-19 crisis and the rise of mass protests against police killings and systemic racism.
In our democracy, the federal government has been the entity that the people looked to take steps to ensure educational equity. President Trump is dangerously intent on reversing the role of the federal government on equity and public education.
Last week, Trump threatened to withdraw federal funding from California public schools that use the 1619 Project curriculum. That educational program is based on Pulitzer Prize winner and Schott Foundation Fellow Nikole Hannah-Jones’ in-depth exploration of the legacy of Blacks in America since 1619, the year that the first African slaves were brought to our shores. Trump doesn’t dispute that historical fact—even he can’t dub it “fake news,” so he doubles down on the notion, embraced by too many, that slavery is now over, no legacy or current injustices exist, end of conversation. With his penchant for extremism, he even claims it’s un-American to teach our children this history.
As the 2020 population numbers will shape how political power and over 800 million dollars will be shared in the U.S. over the next ten years, an accurate Census count is of monumental importance, especially to communities of color. Schott Grantee partner Southern Echo understands this and has engaged its volunteers to ensure that their community is counted in the 2020 census. What does the Census have to do with public education? A lot. The Census determines where and how $14 billion in federal public education funds will be allocated. Through programs like Title I, the National School Lunch Program, Head Start, and special education grants, these are dollars that will decide whether a school stays open or closed, or if a district can hire school nurses and support staff.
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