2018 was a pivotal year in the education justice movement, for both bad and good reasons. We saw Education Secretary DeVos’ penchant for privatization and ultra conservative viewpoints result in actions like the imposition of harmful new Title IX guidance and the systematic dismissal of civil rights complaints. But we also saw a historic wave of teacher strikes roll across the nation, and scores of victories for public education in states, cities, and districts. Indeed, in this ESSA world most education policy struggles have been taking place below the Federal level — this trend should continue and accelerate in 2019, particularly as many municipal and school board officials face the voters this November.
At the Schott Foundation we’ve been working for more than twenty-five years to support and empower the grassroots, community-centered organizations that are building movements strong enough to enact serious policy change. Here are ten policy victories our grantee partners and allies have celebrated in 2018, all of which provide the momentum for the important work ahead this year.
- Any list should start with the most iconic education story in 2018: the unprecedented wave of #RedForEd teacher strikes and walkouts that started in West Virginia and spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina. In each case such efforts led to either significant wins for educators and their schools — like increased classroom funding, public employee salaries, and halts to charter expansion — or a still-significant change in the political landscape and public will in support of public education. And in each case successful mobilizations were made possible by strong community ties and coordination (see our recent report on how you can build community-labor partnerships in your hometown!).
- The organizing efforts of the Coalition for Educational Justice to ensure culturally responsive schools led to $23 million in anti-bias training for educators in New York City public schools.
- Dignity in Schools Campaign member Racial Justice Now! won significant school discipline reforms across the state of Ohio.
- Thanks to community organizers and a growing cross-sector coalition, the residents of Jackson and Jefferson County Mississippi were able to thwart top-down state takeovers of their school district.
- This fall Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly affirmed a bill to protect the rights of transgender residents in public accommodations, which include school bathrooms. In building toward a "Yes on 3" victory, the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth (BAGLY) rooted its resistance to bigotry in the organization's statewide AGLY network and time-tested strategies to train, support, and lift up the voices of transgender and gender nonbinary youth. Over 100 transgender youth and allies were trained to speak publicly on the importance of civil rights protections and over 200 media stories were published from this perspective.
- The Pittsburgh school board voted against arming district police after organizing efforts by groups like the Education Rights Network, a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign & Journey for Justice Alliance.
- In July, Holmes County School District in Mississippi officially banned corporal punishment — long overdue!
- Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) worked diligently this year to amend the state’s student discipline law to include positive behavioral supports and restorative practices as alternatives to suspensions and expulsions from “willful disobedience.” Despite the setback of having legislation pushed off until next session, FFLIC was voted onto the crucial Advisory Council on Student Behavior and Discipline as a representative, which will give their grassroots inter-generational membership a greater voice on future bills.
- One Voice was a significant leader in defeating HB 957 in Mississippi. This bill was a major attempt to slash funding and systematically dismantle public education throughout the state.
- In addition to the victories above, grassroots organizing and mobilization across the country helped deliver a number of stunning defeats against the school privatization agenda at the ballot box this past November, including Arizona voters saying “no” to expanding vouchers, and educators themselves running for and winning public office.
Your support of the Schott Foundation assists us in accelerating policy wins like these! Consider joining us as a donor partner in 2019 to support the education justice movement.