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.
On Saturday, March 4th, New Yorkers took to the streets to march for equity in public education. The People’s March for Education Justice was held in 8 cities across the state. The marchers’ demands are:
fully resourced public education, starting with early childhood and including higher education.
to end the privatization of public schools and to end high stakes testing.
to end the school-to-prison pipeline.
to Raise the Age and decriminalize our youth.
Sounding more like a measured politician than ever, President Donald Trump’s first Joint Address to Congress Tuesday night outlined the broad contours of his vision for a “Renewal of the American Spirit” while also challenging the nation to think big. While we accept the challenge to think big, as a philanthropic organization we are well aware that making big ideas successful requires clarity, consistency, and in most cases, big investments.
Less than 0.3% of philanthropic dollars go to Native groups. This fact was pointed out at Philanthropy New York’s event, “Invisible No More: Native Realities in a Post-Election Era”, by Schott Foundation Vice President of Programs and Advocacy Edgar Villanueva. Alongside Edgar were Native Americans in Philanthropy CEO Sarah Eagle Heart, American Indian Law Alliance President and Executive Director Betty Lyons, and moderator Patricia Eng, who is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at The New York Women’s Foundation. The panelists discussed concerns of and hopes for philanthropy’s engagement with Native partners. Each panelist identified gaps in support for Indigenous communities but emphasized that these issues affect us all: the planet that the Native community is fighting to protect is a shared responsibility for all of us, and we must collaborate with others to save it.
More than two decades after Schott’s founding, we remain committed to helping build the education justice movement and institutionalize the solutions that provide all students with a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.
Join us for an evening gala of live music and social justice as we celebrate 25 years of accelerating advocacy and delivering impact! We will have stellar youth entertainment and present awards that recognize and highlight community, philanthropic, and grassroots leaders who have made crucial progress in the struggle for systemic change.
These first few weeks in Trump’s America have been chaotic and stressful, but already emblematic of the dire needs philanthropy must step up to. From those who could be left out of affordable health care to those bandied about in an educational system with an uncertain future to immigrants and refugees encountering the suffering that they were attempting to flee, this short time has lit a fire in all of us working on the progressive side of philanthropy.
Yesterday the Senate voted 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, to confirm Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as the 11th U.S. Secretary of Education. The vote—which followed an overnight session of protest and some support of DeVos—marked the first time in history a vice president has been called upon to break a tie on a presidential nomination. The historic vote also followed a widely publicized groundswell of grassroots opposition to the nomination, citing among other issues, DeVos’s lack of experience, support of privatization and unfamiliarity with education policy and practice.
At the Schott Foundation we were clear that DeVos is dangerously unqualified for such an important position governing our nation’s public schools.
Following yesterday’s confirmation, our grantees and allies in education justice are speaking loud and clear: the fight for public education and equity in opportunity for all students continues.
Hopefully, responsible senators from substantially rural states spent the weekend taking cues from their peers from Maine and Alaska and learning why the potential impact of school privatization on their constituents should cause them to oppose Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. If not, there's still time to catch up before tomorrow's vote.
Besides displaying a troubling ignorance of education policy and practice in her confirmation hearing and in answers to written questions from senators over the last two weeks, DeVos has an especially harmful future in mind for rural districts as part of a broader plan to divert public money to private education enterprises, no matter what the evidence says.
“High quality virtual charter schools provide valuable options to families, particularly those who live in rural areas where brick-and-mortar schools might not have the capacity to provide the range of courses or other educational experiences for students,” she wrote in answer to a question about online schools. As examples she cited seven virtual schools that she said graduate more than 90 percent of their students. But, as the Washington Post reported, a check of public data for each school tells a much different story:
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