2020 was a year of quarantines and lockdowns, historic elections and popular rebellions. But amid the difficulties, communities and advocates achieved some real wins. Here are eight policy victories from last year that we at Schott are carrying with us as inspiration for the struggles ahead:
- The Minneapolis Board of Education voted to sever its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which 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. As solidarity between teachers, parents, and students has grown, the decision was also supported by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. Learn more about the organizing that went into this victory here & here.
- The Little Rock School District (LRSD) was restored to local community control. Schott grantee Grassroots Arkansas has been a key member of the coalition to fight for local oversight and accountability of the district’s budget and administration. That the home of the Little Rock Nine had been deprived of democratic control of their public schools was a tragedy, one that has thankfully been reversed. LRSD voters have now elected a nine-member school board for the LRSD for the first time since 2014.
The contract between Rochester City School District and local police was ended, removing police officers from RCSD schools. The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and its allies worked to secure the June 16th city council vote to defund RCSD’s school resource officer program. Rochester was the first city in New York to secure this victory. As an AQE press release notes, however, the struggle is far from over:
“The removal of police from Rochester’s schools is a victory, but it is a victory that cannot stand on its own. Rochester City School District must maintain and protect the programs and services that are needed to make police-free schools possible, including the restorative justice program, student help zones and the ROC restorative team. It must actively support students by investing in proven-to-work programs, social workers and guidance counselors.”
- Grassroots coalitions shaped the policy of the next Department of Education. National groups like the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), through dozens of their local chapters across the country, pushed the education debate in the 2020 election to focus on funding equity, racial and gender justice, and community control. Starting with the groundbreaking 2020 Public Education Forum, this diverse coalition of youth, parents, educators, and advocates made their voices heard and forced candidates and policymakers — including President-elect Joe Biden — to listen.
- The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that kept alive the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since September 5th, 2017, DACA recipients had lived with anxiety and fear, unsure of the future of the program after President Trump tried to end the program. Hundreds of thousands of people have fought hard to make sure that DACA continues, and this win is the result of years of dedicated organizing efforts. Schott grantee partner Brighton Park Community Council (BPNC) has been a bright example of how inclusive and grassroots-based work to support undocumented community members can have ripple effects across the entire country. Learn more about this victory here.
- The Counseling Not Criminalization Act was introduced in the Senate. This bill would create a $2.5 billion grant program to replace police in schools with school psychologists, social workers, and other staff to help support mental health and provide trauma-informed services. Learn more here and read the entire bill here.
- In June, the LAUSD School Board passed a resolution reducing the School Police Department’s budget by $25 million, resulting in the removal of 65 officers. The final resolution included an amendment that restricted the district from hiring another police force or using private security. Parent organizing through Schott partners CADRE and Dignity in Schools Campaign was vital to this success. Learn more about this victory here.
- The Oakland Unified School District board voted to abolish the district’s police department. The culmination of years of tireless work by the Black Organizing Project and other coalition partners, the “George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate Oakland Schools Police Department” passed the board unanimously in June. The resolution is rooted in a vision of complete transformation of school climate, culture, and discipline practices. Moving forward through grassroots community organizing and policy change, BOP is working toward true safe and healthy environments and will continue to transform schools and communities by centering Black and other marginalized folks as the leaders creating the solutions for change.
Also in Oakland, voters approved Measure QQ, which granted school board voting rights for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Top photo by Freedom, Inc.