The Schott Foundation has been having an exciting few weeks of travelling around the country to share ideas, meet allied organizations, and see the work and future planes of our grantees highlighted in a variety of forums and conferences. It’s been great to see innovative and important conversations happening, and we’re glad to share with you some of the highlights!
Concerns about the importance and need to mobilize Black and Latino voters in 2016 and future elections have reached a fever pitch. But in many states and cities there are counterproductive disenfranchisement actions being taken that disempower Black and Latino communities -- the takeover of their public schools. In this attack on democracy, governance by locally elected school boards is stripped away altogether. This dismantling of democracy in predominantly poor communities and communities of color is now underway, or being proposed, in several states. Denying these citizens' right to elect local school boards through state takeovers or mayoral control should sound the same alarm as denying them the vote because the impact of the action minimizes their democratic voice and vote.
Why Arkansas? Four years ago, in February 2012, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) first posed that invitation as a question to fellow funders from across the country. In response, WRF hosted a statewide tour demonstrating to participants Arkansas’ readiness for education reform and investment.
The tour moved funders and advocates, including the Schott Foundation for Pubic Education, to create a full-fledged campaign. Initiated in 2012, the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn (AR OTL) Campaign unites disparate and distinct education advocacy organizations and grassroots groups. They all share a common goal: achieving education policy reforms that benefit all Arkansas students.
What will it take to ensure that all children have an opportunity to learn, regardless of their background or which school they attend? The work of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado has long pointed out that the problems of inequity in public education aren’t just contained within our public schools, but also stem from larger structural issues in the community like unemployment, poverty, and disinvestment of public resources.
Since 2010, the Education Law Center has published national report cards on how states are (or aren't) investing in their schools and students. "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card" released Wednesday, paints a worrying picture. In most states, ELC has found that public funding for schools is both unfair and inequitable: that is, not only are schools not receiving the funds they need, the schools that need funding the most are the ones with the most dramatic shortfalls.
Over three thousand students staged a walk-out on Monday to protest impending budget cuts to Boston Public Schools. Students marched downtown, through Boston Common, and rallied at the state house in an inspiring display of student power.
Schott's Senior Vice President of National Partnerships, Cassie Schwerner, was so impressed with Youth on Board’s new Boston Student Rights app – the first of its kind in the country – she decided to talk with staff and student leaders to learn more about it. Here, she chats with Carlos Rojas, Education Policy Organizer for Youth on Board (YOB).
CASSIE SCHWERNER: Why did young people, youth organizers, in the Boston area feel the need to create the Boston Student Rights app?
CARLOS ROJAS: Young people of color, trans youth and others are being criminalized and pushed out of schools. Did you see the video of the police officer in the South Carolina classroom? That sort of violence happens all over. We knew we needed a new organizing tool to help us reach young people in the schools – young people most affected by the school-to-prison-pipeline. But we also knew the tools we had used before, like palm cards and posters, were not practical for many of the situations young people find themselves in. We wanted something that could be immediately on hand when a young person was being confronted by figures of authority, something they would always have access to.
On February 17th, Boston parents, teachers, and students participated in nationwide walk-ins to #ReclaimOurSchools. Organized by the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, these walk-ins were a show of community support for public schools and a demand for fully funded, high-quality, and equitable education. 40,000 people participated in the walk-ins across the country, which took place in over 30 cities. Boston schools were on break, but there was still great turnout at the statehouse as hundreds rallied to protest proposed school budget cuts and raising the charter cap. Schools being closed gave Boston Public Schools (BPS) students an opportunity to participate, and they spoke eloquently about the problems facing their schools alongside their teachers and representatives from the Massachusetts Educational Justice Alliance (MEJA), who organized the event.
Massachusetts is facing a lawsuit that will likely lead to lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, further depriving traditional public schools of funding by allowing a potentially unlimited number of charter schools to develop. To combat this plan, education advocates are trying to demonstrate how lifting the cap will hurt students. The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA) is asking supporters to testify against the plan at a public hearing on Feb. 10th, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice intends to intervene on behalf of the students who would be most affected by this loss of funding: students learning English, students with disabilities, and students of color. These students are those charter schools typically “push out,” leaving traditional schools to unfairly teach the vast majority of students who require the most resources.
During President Barack Obama’s eighth and final State of the Union address, the President boldly proclaimed the U.S. as “the most powerful country in the world…by far.” As the leader of the most powerful country in the world, President Obama also assessed one of his biggest regrets: his inability to bring Congress together to reach consensus and make progress on a number of critical issues. President Obama’s proclamations highlight a simple fact that future administrations and Congresses must embrace — with power comes responsibility.
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