The Schott Foundation's 25th Anniversary Forum was a half-day event that brought together a packed room full of advocates, organizers, and funders from across the field of education justice. The Forum was built around two panels: one with foundation presidents, the other with advocacy, policy and public sector leaders, followed by an interactive dialogue.
On Thursday, May 11, 2017, we marked 25 years of fighting to end educational inequities in America’s public schools by honoring grassroots, community and philanthropy figures who have led the charge for education justice. Among them, civil rights leader Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, who received our Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Atlantic Philanthropies former Chief Strategy Advisor for Equity Initiatives and Human Capital Development Kavitha Mediratta, who received the Philanthropy Changemaker Award.
In April 2017, Schott convened thought leaders to begin a dialogue challenging philanthropies to examine themselves as they encourage communities and organizations to achieve racial equity. Foundation staff and board members are overwhelmingly white, and the origins of philanthropy in the United States involve wealth creation at the expense of and to the detriment of people of color. In addition, internal practices at foundations often perpetuate inequities. This hour-long webinar offer insights and recommendation about how foundations can be more intentional and honest as they seek systemic change with regard to race, ethnicity and class in the communities they fund.
Education is a civil right and it remains the responsibility of federal, state and local administrators and staff to implement ESSA in a manner that reflects this right. The combination of eliminating the ESSA Title I Accountability, State Plan and Data rules; refusing to administer and eliminating the Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities Diversity Grants; withdrawing the transgender guidance; and proposing $3 billion of cuts to public education—just to name a few—is disheartening, disconcerting and downright disturbing to anyone who understands the history of education in America and its power to uplift all communities.
Social justice-minded philanthropies help create systems change by empowering local leadership and supporting grassroots movements to move the needle for poor communities and people of color. However, philanthropy isn’t always bringing the right tools to the task to solve these big problems rooted in social inequity, and sometimes our field perpetuates inequities in the communities we claim to care about.
Partnerships have the potential to build power. On March 31, Schott hosted a webinar, the penultimate of our 25th Anniversary series, “When Community and Labor Join Forces: Parent, Student and Teacher Partnerships”, to highlight lessons from the successful Chicago Teachers Union Strike in 2012, and the partnerships that carried the movement to victory. The story of the Chicago strike provides many lessons for public education advocates, particularly in how to build the kind of cross-sector relationships and alliances that find common ground.
Building Movement Project Co-Director Sean Thomas-Breitfeld moderated the online discussion between Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Action Now Executive Director Katelyn Johnson.
Last week, I and approximately 200 grantmakers and advocates from across the nation traversed horrific storms and endured prolonged travel delays to get to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Grantmakers for Southern Progress (GSP) 2017 Regional Convening. The three-day convening provided space to have discussions about capacity-building, building power for progressive change, racial justice, economic opportunity, and advancing equity in public education.
One of the pleasures of working at The Schott Foundation for Public Education is that we have the opportunity to work with and learn from our grantee partners who do incredible grassroots organizing work all across the country. These public education advocates lead campaigns in their respective regions, but on March 15 and 16 leaders from 22 of our grantee partners convened together for our first Opportunity to Learn Network Communications Summit. Experts on media training, message development, education, and social justice organizing led workshops to enhance these leaders’ skills.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in 2015, was a marked shift away from its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act. Under ESSA, much of the decision-making, accountability, and oversight passed from the Federal government to the states. In this transfer of policymaking to the state level, ESSA includes some important opportunities for students, parents, educators and communities to have their voices heard both in state capitols and in their local districts.
A federal budget is a key opportunity to promote equity, but the current version of President Trump’s budget misses the opportunity altogether and lays waste to the very programs that we know help all students succeed. It fails to mention, let alone meaningfully invest, in federal policies that could break down the systemic barriers that limit opportunities for many of our nation’s students.
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