National Opportunity to Learn Network

Schott’s Opportunity to Learn Network (OTL) unites a nationwide coalition of Schott grantees and allied organizations working to secure a high quality public education for all students.

By creating a space to highlight and celebrate grassroots organizing, share success stories and provide resources, OTL strives to create real and substantial change in our public education system. OTL advocates for supports­-based education reform, one that provides all students with access to crucial resources and opportunities such as early education, wraparound supports, fair school discipline, well­-supported teachers, and equitable school funding. To support our network of advocates and organizers, OTL provides regular updates on current grantee campaigns, publishes policy guides, infographics and other resources, and hosts summits and other network building events, all of which can be found below.

The Latest from the OTL Network

The latest from the Schott Foundation and our allies.
The tragic Parkland school shooting has sharpened the public’s attention to school safety. Despite the temptation during moments of urgency, policymakers should not impose knee-jerk reforms that could make the problem worse: we all should listen to the students who have been dealing with a school safety crisis for years and let them lead. Please join the Schott Foundation and Communities for Just Schools Fund for a series of three webinars that take a holistic approach to the problems of classroom safety, policing, and the school-to-prison pipeline — and how they interact with larger systemic inequities surrounding race, gender, sexuality and class. Every child deserves a safe and supportive learning environment: the presenters below will show us how we can get there. And join the conversation on Twitter with #GrassrootsEd!
I was recently interviewed by a local urban newspaper following the tragic shooting of 17 students and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The first question was, “What can schools do to stop a shooter who comes to their school?” Whether the journalist just phrased the question badly or was resolved that this is a new reality – the question hit me the same. How to stop a shooter when they’re at a school is the wrong question to ask. After calmly responding “nothing,” I explained to the journalist that if a distraught individual is able to arm themselves with an AR-15 automatic rifle and desires to use that on school grounds, it is very likely that unnecessary casualties would follow. The question we should be asking is: “What can we do to impact the factors that lead to such a horrific act of violence?”
In the midst of our current challenges and unique political moment, it is necessary to declare a new day in America for our young people. America’s new day must start by acknowledging the fact that providing all children an opportunity to learn requires that we provide them with the supports they need to thrive outside the school, starting at birth. Throughout American history, the policies and practices that created opportunity gaps from birth have been baked into the ecosystem of local and state systems. It is well documented that many of these policies and practices were rooted in implicit racial bias at best, and explicit racism and hate at worst. Even today, far too many of the the policies and practices that govern how cities manage and resource housing, education, healthcare, transportation, workforce development, criminal justice, and civic engagement reinforce inequity in outcomes for children and families of color compared to their White peers by creating a system of barriers to success across all facets of a child’s living and learning environments from the time of their birth. Today, our best shot for healing communities of their achievement gap is by addressing the larger living climate opportunity gaps. Likewise, our best chance for supporting healing in communities harmed by practices rooted in hate is through current practices that create loving systems.
Schott grantees Alliance for Educational Justice, Dignity in Schools Campaign and Journey for Justice Alliance have released a statement responding to the tragic school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Our latest Grassroots Education Series webinar was dedicated to YOU — the very people who are working in coalition with others at every level in your communities to protect, restore and advance opportunities for now and future generations. We heard your resolutions to continue to: fight for social, economic, racial and gender justice; become more engaged; stay more present; make more calls; educate more people; be more patient; build new relationships; focus on your health (and stay hydrated, exfoliated and moisturized all at the same time!).
The Schott Foundation for Public Education in partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, with support from Nike N7, recently released a set of recommendations for helping Native youth live healthy lives. These recommendations came directly from Native American leaders who hold expertise across health, physical fitness, education and youth development sectors. The report, Original Instructions, outlines both challenges and opportunities to philanthropy. It’s a first step towards using our resources to recognize and learn from the resilient Native youth.
In many ways 2017 seemed like a never-ending stream of bad news and attacks on public education. However, advocates kept up the good fight and the movement for education justice saw growth and increased capacity. Thanks to our grantee partners and allies working tirelessly in communities across the country, we’d like to share some good news! In no particular order, here are the top 10 policy wins our grantee partners helped secure. These victories give us hope for 2018 and reinforce the idea that positive change in public education starts at the grassroots.
We missed something last election. In November 2016, America’s presidential election—the biggest political platform in the world—gave voice to sexual violence against women, the degradation of the environment, xenophobia, racism, and exacerbated divisions among and between political parties. All the while, beneath the cacophony of rally cries, “alternative facts,” and Twitter feeds, lived the deep desire of so many to just be heard. And so we missed something—we missed the simple, yet revolutionary, act of listening to each other.
Schools across the country increasingly rely on school-based police officers. Today there are an estimated 30,000 officers now in schools, up from roughly 100 in the 1970s. Although the stated purpose of these officers is to maintain a sense of safety, a very troubling consequence is greater arrest rates and referrals for minor disruptive behaviors — with especially harsh results for girls of color. According to 2013-2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education, Black girls are 2.6 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement on school grounds as white girls, and black girls are almost 4 times as likely to get arrested at school. Disparities affecting Latinas are especially severe in elementary school where they are 2.7 times more likely to be arrested than young white girls. In light of this data, schools and districts must work to improve interactions between girls of color and school resource officers (SROs), striving to keep girls of color safe and supported in schools and reduce disproportionate rates of contact in the justice system. Schott Foundation is pleased to partner with the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality in the wide distribution of Be Her Resource: A Toolkit about School Resource Officers and Girls of Color, to districts, police departments, community, parent and student advocates across the country.
Here at the Schott Foundation, we believe the people most impacted and with the most at stake should be at the forefront of social change. We work to amplify local voices and encourage community leaders to speak out on critical issues, providing tailored support and trainings to strengthen efforts for change across the country. Schott is excited to highlight four of our vibrant community partners on this year’s Giving Tuesday, an annual event that spotlights nonprofit organizations working to make a difference in their communities. Our partners are proof that when communities come together and organize, they can achieve anything—no matter where they are.  Your generous donation will support Schott’s ability to provide funding to these dynamic grassroots organizations on the front lines of the fight for education justice, as well as the network-building, policy advocacy and communications resources they need to lead the movement for social change. 100 percent of all donations will go to these four partners.