Progress in Organizing: Minneapolis Says No to Police in Public Schools

Progress in Organizing:  Minneapolis Says No to Police in Public Schools

The Schott team is personally devastated by the brutal killing of George Floyd, yet one more tragedy that further exposes the deep systemic racism in America.  We mourn for his family, and for all Black families who must continually face the fear of death at the hands of the police or, as we have seen during COVID-19, from inequities in our health care system.

The changes needed to truly eradicate systemic racism cut cross every sector, from health, to policing and incarceration, to housing and employment, to our public education system. We want to lift up one ray of hope in this dark moment:  The Minneapolis Board of Education made an important step in that journey when it voted to sever its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which until now had been the recipient of more than $1 million in education funds to put its officers in schools. The danger of police officers in schools—and their contribution to creating the school-to-prison pipeline that threatens so many children of color—is well documented and their removal has been a central demand of education justice organizations that Schott is proud to support, including members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the Journey for Justice Alliance. (To learn more, visit DSC’s “Counselors Not Cops” initiative.) As solidarity between teachers, parents, and students has grown, the decision was also supported by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

While each loss of life and each moment is unique, the dynamic at work—the inevitable result of policing under white supremacist systems—is a story as old as the antebellum slave catchers. We believe philanthropy has a particular role to play in assisting the dismantling of these oppressive systems—and that is to fund community-based organizations led by people of color.  Not for a short-term project, but for the serious, sustained effort to build their capacity, to help grow their critical organizing efforts to make community voices heard and impact the policy decisions that affect their lives. In short, to invest in strengthening the infrastructure of the justice movement. That is the work we engage donors to support and build capacity around every day—and as heavy as our hearts are now, we will continue even more fiercely—in partnership with other philanthropic colleagues who are committed to justice.  As philanthropic leader Will Cordery has pointed out, the lessons that funders learned in 2014 after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson unfortunately did not stay front and center. We fervently hope we are at a tipping point that will re-galvanize philanthropy’s commitment.

As funders, we have to reach beyond issue portfolios and trust that grassroots community groups know what their communities need most. Well-resourced and cross-sector movements for justice are needed now more than ever—for Black lives to matter inside the classroom, they need to matter everywhere they live, work, play and pray. In school, Black students must not only navigate an underfunded infrastructure and fewer educational opportunities, they have to contend with the threat of the school-to-prison pipeline. In hospitals, Black patients are systemically deprived of the best care and treatments. At home, Black neighborhoods suffer from worse air quality and have worse access to healthy food and affordable housing. One of the reasons Schott launched the Loving Cities Index was to provide a framework to better understand these interrelated inequities and help take action against them.

Minneapolis is one of the cities assessed in our Loving Cities Index, and we commend their Board of Education’s step of cutting ties with MPD as a perfect example of policymakers responding to popular movement pressure and working to ensure our students exist in loving systems. It is up to all of us, wherever we are — in the streets, in the workplace, in the classroom, at home — to help nurture the movements needed to build a more just and equitable world for our children. We will continue to work as a bridge between donors and advocates to help bring about this transformation.