Grassroots Education Network- 2020 Roundup
The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 160 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign on. If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network, please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes from Marla
Needless to say, 2020 was a very difficult year. Despite the many hardships that individuals and organizations in the network have faced, we continued to rise up to help others. As you read the year-end roundup, you will see organizations and individuals ravaged by the impact of COVID and social injustice continue to organize with impact. The NPE Grassroots Education Network 2020 roundup is a testament to a small sample of work that has had a lasting impact on our nation. The 2020 roundup is organized into regions. I know that 2021 will be a year of continued solidarity and respect for the work we each do every single day.
The Network for Public Education was very busy this year. In August of 2020, NPE published Broken Promises: An Analysis of Charter School Closures From 1999-2017. The report provides the first comprehensive examination of charter failure rates over time—beginning in 1999 and ending in 2017. By following all charter schools from the year they opened, we were able to determine how long they lasted before closing down. We also determined how many students have been displaced by failing charter schools and where those closures are most likely to occur. In November 2020, NPE exposed that charter schools took between $1-2 Billion in PPP COVID funds meant for small business owners. To read that report, go here. Mark your calendar for the new date for the NPE/NPE Action National Conference. Due to the ongoing dangers posed by COVID-19, the National Conference has been rescheduled to October 23/24, 2021. The conference will still take place at the same location, the Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia. NPE will be sending more information to registrants shortly. Know that your conference registration is secure, as is NPE’s commitment to speakers and panels. FairTest launched a petition in late 2020 to call for the federal government and states to suspend high-stakes standardized testing in spring 2021. Please make sure you sign and share the petition. Bob Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, sent a great update on what Fair Test is working on. “In part due to COVID school closings, 2020 was a surprisingly good year for the testing reform movement. By the numbers: Colleges and universities with ACT/SAT optional policies for fall 2020 applicants were at 1,070. In 2021 colleges and universities with ACT/SAT optional policies increased to 1,685. States waiving federal standardized testing requirements in spring 2019 was at 0. In 2020 that number increased to 50. Jurisdictions requiring seniors to pass high-stakes exit exams to graduate in spring 2019 was at 13. Jurisdictions requiring seniors to pass high-stakes exit exams to graduate in spring 2020 fell to 0. Pages viewed by visitors to fairtest.org in the calendar year 2019 was at 995,000, and by 2020 that number increased to 1,637,000.” Defending the Early Years has had a successful year of working toward and accomplishing their mission by providing resources for parents and teachers of young children, advocating for appropriate early childhood education, and fighting for the rights and needs of young children. Here are their 2020 accomplishments…by the numbers! Published one COVID-19 resource to help parents and teachers in the early days of the pandemic, published two comprehensive reports, produced three videos, broadcasted three webinars, announced seven policy priorities, awarded thirteen mini-grants, wrote eighteen op-eds, articles, and blogs, had sixty-two advocates sign up for DEY’s Working Groups, had five hundred and fifty-nine parents and teachers participate in their DEY survey, one thousand twenty-one people registered for the DEY Summer Institute, reported over four thousand subscribed to their DEY monthly newsletter, and have over ten thousand followers on social media. In the Public Interest is a research and policy organization that studies public goods and services. They have published so many powerful newsletters that the list would be enormous. Please head over to their website to see all that they did in 2020. The Journey for Justice Alliance’s powerful Equity or Else campaign highlighted the demand that schools are opened safely and equitably. Schott Foundation and Journey for Justice Alliance were two organizations that co-hosted the Democratic Presidential Candidates in a Public Education Forum in December of 2019. Rethinking Schools book Rethinking Ethnic Studies was named 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year. Here is a list of some of the other outstanding 2019/2020 accomplishments. Rethinking Schools made effective and powerful use of their important book Teaching for Black Lives by hosting webinars for thousands of educators, parents, and community activists to enhance anti-racist teaching. They expanded The New Teacher Book webinar into a series of bi-weekly workshops to apply the book’s themes to teaching in the pandemic and to build ties with one another. They also produced new teaching guides to give educators practical, hands-on strategies for bringing social justice teaching to life. They published Teacher Unions and Social Justice, an anthology of more than 60 articles documenting the history and the how-tos of social justice unionism. Together, they describe the growing movement to forge multiracial community alliances to defend and transform public education. Rethinking Schools also redesigned and strengthened their digital infrastructure to bring social justice teaching stories to the fingertips of thousands of more educators to better serve their readers. They expand their focus on climate justice education work through their Teach Climate Justice campaign with the Zinn Education Project, and regular articles in the magazine. Finally, they published four issues of Rethinking Schools magazine — including an expanded “Teaching and Learning in the Pandemic” issue — and launched a new feature in the magazine of contributions from a diverse selection of education activists.
The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy has been very busy this year providing fantastic resources for parents and teachers engaged in online learning. From what everyone needs to know about Zoom, top 10 Back-To-School student privacy tips and resources for parents, and offering the Biden administration a blueprint for privacy. Head over to their website to access all of these amazing resources and much more. Parents for Public Schools parent engagement programs continued to be a fantastic resource for parents in 2020. The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) director Dr. Denisha Jones, Esq. (and a board member for NPE) asked a critical question about standardized testing of President-elect Joe Biden at the Public Education Forum. To see that video go here. In 2019 The Ontario (Canada) Secondary School Teachers Federation celebrated its 100th Anniversary as a leader in education. Uniting to Save Our Schools (USOS) put out a statement this year that Save Our Schools March, the organization that galvanized the national education activist movement, has recently reconstituted itself as Uniting to Save Our Schools (USOS). To read more about that, go here. First Focus Campaign for Children continued to be the leading voice to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. To read all of their press releases and work toward making children a priority in 2020, go here. Kinderchat continued to provide support for teachers and parents in 2020 through their Twitter chat every Monday evening. To see what all our early childhood educators were working on in 2020, head over to the hashtag on Twitter. Instituto Nueva Escuela is dedicated to improving Puerto Rican students’ academic and socio-emotional outcomes through the implementation of Montessori education in the public school setting. INE accomplishes its mission by partnering with public schools to train and certify classroom teachers in Montessori education and provides leadership, support, and technical assistance to public schools and to community partners. They were very busy in 2020, supporting families and children as they navigated the COVID pandemic. Head over to their open Facebook page to see all that they did for families in Puerto Rico. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood was unbelievably busy in 2020. In August, they published A Statement on EdTech and Education Policy During the Pandemic, signed by over 100 experts in education and technology, which called on schools to ensure that students get the offline time they need, no matter what learning looks like for them. They also partnered in the Screen-Free Week and published a Screens in Schools Action Kit. Head over to their website to see their statement and action kit. Equal Opportunity Schools continued their work with schools coast-to-coast to help tens of thousands of students of color and low-income students enroll in rigorous academic programs. This year they received a grant to continue pursuing its African American Male Initiative (AAMI), designed to improve its organizational impact on African American male student experience, belonging, and access to academic success in advanced coursework. When Public Schools Reopen are a group of educators, parents, and concerned citizens who agree that when public schools reopen… we don’t want to go back to normal. They are here to share, discuss, and learn different ideas, opinions and plans about education. More importantly, they want to support each other as they take action at the local, state, and national levels for creating equitable, child-centered, learner-driven, anti-racist public school systems. In 2020, they held many events to support teachers, parents, and students like Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder discussion on Children, Cherished and Challenged, or Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Port Washington School District in Long Island, New York, and author of Staying Grounded: 12 Principles For Transforming School Leader Effectiveness, and finally connecting people in the “No Box” Zoom conversation where participants were invited to share what’s on their mind. You can join them by signing up for their Facebook page. Uniting for Children and Youth (Canada) joined the network late in the year and held a Child-Friendly Community Conference. To see videos from this conference, go here. The network was honored to have National Educators United join the network late in the year. Their 2020 revolved around making sure that schools were safe for teachers and students to return in their Only When It’s Safe Campaign. National Educators United (NEU) also joined together with some of America’s largest teachers union locals, and most prominent educator-led organizations, in a letter to President-elect Joseph Biden. The letter called for an educator committed to families, communities, and the well-being of Black and Brown students to be appointed to the role of education secretary in the new Biden-Harris administration. NEU also hosted many Zoom meetings, such as Workers & Educators Unite to Stop Trump & the Far Right and Black Lives Matter at School Year of Purpose: Justice for George Floyd. If you are a teacher and want to be involved, please ask to join their movement here. Wear Red for Public Ed. will continue in its mission to support actions nationwide that support traditional public schools. This is accomplished by sharing news articles and social media posts from other groups that support and fight for traditional public education. Red will also continue to share links to other groups on social media to help public ed activists connect with like-minded people and actions near them.
Arizona Save our Schools was a force in pushing for Prop 208, better known as the “Invest in Ed” initiative, which passed in Arizona this year. They also launched their amazing Speaking of Schools series on Facebook Live. Beth Lewis reported that Save Our Schools Arizona “pivoted to online grassroots organizing during most of 2020. This meant phone banking and text banking for pro-public education ballots and initiatives up and down the ballot. We elected 47 new #PublicSchoolProud school board candidates, helped to pass bonds and overrides statewide, and helped to elect new #PublicSchoolProud lawmakers to the state legislature. SOS Arizona also assisted Prop 208’s efforts and was delighted to see the wide coalition of grassroots groups pass a high-earner income tax to garner almost $1 billion per year for public education! We still have a lot of work to do. We are already organizing to ensure that our communities are engaged with our state legislature, are ready to demand full and equitable funding, and are poised to defeat any and all voucher expansions. We know that now more than ever, we must fight for public education.” Arizona Educators United spent much of the year organizing for safe school reopening. From Town Halls to successful Motor Marches, they elevated the voices of teachers in Arizona for safe school reopening. Bay Area Collective Keeping Privatizers Away from Community Schools (BACKPACS) successfully fought back against a charter backed candidate in elections this year. To learn more, go here. The Association of RAZA Educators held a successful Sowing Seeds of Praxis: Ethnic Studies Institute 2020 this year. Parents for Public Schools Hawaii used a survey this year to collect information from families on how the quickly changing education policies and systems are impacting them during the COVID pandemic. They used the results of their two surveys to help inform policy and practice at the local and state level. Washington Paramount Duty continued their fight against draconian budget cuts and protecting services to families. They held a powerful email campaign in May, but despite many speaking up against budget cuts, Gov. Inslee slashed away. Members of Oregon BATs, Oregon Save Our Schools, Eugene CAPE, Portland’s Angry Grandparents Against High Stakes Testing, and others are working in a coalition as the Oregon Public Education Network. This coalition managed to get a second bill to end the requirement of passing a standardized test as a graduation requirement introduced by Senators Mark Hass and Rob Wagner during the 2020 special session of their state legislature. A similar bill was introduced during the 2019 regular session by working with Sen. Mark Hass, where it passed Senate Ed. and died in the specially convened Joint Committee on Student Success. Sen. Hass re-introduced the bill during the 2020 special session. This time the bill died after passing Senate Ed. in a revised form, which would have created a task force to re-examine graduation requirements in the state. The bill died along with many others due to a Republican walkout in the Oregon legislature. This coalition has also been working with Sen. Lew Frederick, who will convene a workgroup on assessment in early January. The group will be comprised solely of working educators who were recruited by the OPEN coalition. At least two members of OR BATs will serve in the group. Members of Oregon Public Education Network will be helping to facilitate the group as well. Sen. Frederick has also introduced four bills to Legislative Counsel for the next session, which begins in January, that would curtail some of the excessive assessments in Oregon’s K-12 schools. These bills include a repeat of the bill to end high school “exit exams” (as described above) and a bill to cut back standardized assessments at grades K-2. This bill is being called the “Too Young to Test” bill and will be the second introduction of this bill for which OPEN has managed to successfully advocate. Members of the coalition will continue to advocate for these and other bills that improve public education in our state during the upcoming session.
RootEd shared stories of excellent schools that continued to service communities through the pandemic. They added three districts to their RootEd partnerships. They worked hard in 2020 to advocate for the public education vote and started a podcast and book club discussion group. Here is their 2020 round-up. Pastors for Texas Children has been B.U.S.Y! This year, they took to the airwaves with Good Faith Media. On Good Faith Media, they hosted a series on public education. PTC has also been published extensively this year on issues such as vouchers, religious schools exempt from mandates, school openings, and much more! Finally, in October, they held a successful virtual lunch with NPE President Diane Ravitch. The Coalition for Public Schools Texas held a powerful series of webinars this year on vouchers and held local meetings to educate the public. Our Schools San Antonio joined a day of resistance this summer to fight for safe schools for educators, students, and their families. The Coalition for Equity in Public Education testified before the Texas State Board of Education this year about allowing eight new charter operators into the state. The Board vetoed three of the eight. CEPE is currently studying the impact of charters on Dallas ISD for a future community education campaign. They are excited to see what 2021 holds for their work! Here is a brief summary of the 2020 activity for CEPE: CEPE’s President published an article in Dallas Weekly raising concerns about charter school expansion. CEPE testified to the Texas State Board of Education against charter school expansion. CEPE President spoke to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees and Superintendent on two occasions against teacher merit pay via state standardized and/or MAP tests. CEPE coordinated a community leadership meeting to strategize opposition for a planned charter school build in East Dallas. Texas AFT has been very busy this year, but one of their great actions this year was exposing IDEA charters for their lease of a private jet and a box suite at the Spurs games. You can read the news story here.
Minnesota Collective for Educational Equity has continued to focus its efforts on promoting the equity-centered state-wide implementation of MTSS in the state of Minnesota during 2020! In addition to expanding their grassroots group with a handful of new members and establishing subcommittees to help them remain focused in working towards their collective vision and mission, they have also accomplished the following: They collected survey responses from approximately 283 school psychologists across the state of Minnesota regarding current practices in identifying students with Specific Learning Disability (SLD), as well as the scope of implementation of MTSS in the state of Minnesota. They have disseminated these findings to local and state legislators. A complete report can be located here. Their key findings were 97% of survey respondents indicated that they currently use the discrepancy model to identify students with SLD. 71.2% of respondents indicated that they are NOT allowed to use RTI to identify students who have an SLD based upon current state policy, and 11.7% were unsure if they are allowed to. 80.3% of respondents reported barriers to MTSS implementation. 59% of those who reported barriers identified multiple contributing factors. Barriers commonly identified included staffing, funding, limited resources, a lack of administrative support, and a limited understanding of MTSS and RTI by themselves and other staff members. They published and widely distributed their Whitepaper entitled Pursuing Educational Equity in Minnesota Through a Multi-Tiered System of Support to educators, administrators, and policymakers. Their Whitepaper can be accessed here. MnCEE will continue to meet with policymakers, members of the Minnesota Department of Education, and other community members and educators to promote educational policy and practice that will address the alarming opportunity gaps in the state of Minnesota. Jennie Biggs sent this amazing report for Illinois Raise Your Hand. “During 2020, Raise Your Hand hosted over 75 programs with over 2500 attendees. When COVID-19 hit, we started hosting weekly virtual meetings for parents: one centered on parents of children with disabilities, and the other was for Local School Council (LSC) members and other Chicago Public Schools (CPS) stakeholders. From these meetings and via surveys, we produced reports that uplifted important parent voices, including CPS Remote Learning & Back to School Plan Recommendations and LSC Election 2020 Community Feedback and Recommendations. Not only did we support LSC candidates when LSC elections were postponed, and the whole process was altered, we also educated LSC members on School Resource Officers (SROs) via an SRO Toolkit by sharing the intersection of race and disability with respect to the school to prison pipeline, and in hosting reimagining school safety webinars. As part of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) coalition, we’ve submitted hundreds of questions about CPS’ reopening “plan” and have consistently pushed for the inclusion of parents, teachers & students during all pandemic schooling planning: #CPSTalkToUs. We recently hosted an event, Air Filtration Q & A, to inform parents & teachers and to give ideas on what they should be asking at their school. In 2021, we will continue supporting LSC members, connecting them across the district, and hosting training as members of the LSCs.4.All coalition. We will continue to provide spaces for parents to connect, discuss, and create solutions that can be brought to schools and to the district as a whole. CPS is slated to reopen school buildings with some students and teachers in early January and with a wave of many more in early February. We will continue to provide parents with reliable information, news, and resources, and we will respond to CPS by demanding parent voices be heard.” Illinois Families for Public Education began to publish a News You Can Use this year. It is a helpful resource for families in Illinois. The Indiana Coalition for Public Education sent in their Top Five Accomplishments 2020: They organized a Rally for Public Education at the Indiana Statehouse in partnership with ICPE Monroe County, Northwest Indiana ICPE, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), Indiana PTA, Concerned Clergy, AFT Indiana, the IPS Community Coalition and the Washington Township Parent Council Network. They kept voucher expansion out of a bill before the Indiana General Assembly (House Bill 1066). They continued to facilitate regular meetings with key state-level public education groups. Normally the groups meet only during the legislative session. This year the group met all year long to share information and responses regarding the pandemic, school closings, school reopening, hybrid models, broadband access, and CARES Act funding. ICPE also participated in the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction’s advisory group for reopening schools. Finally, they issued the ICPE Legislative Report Card 2020. Indiana Coalition for Public Schools – Monroe County held important webinars this year in their continued effort to inform the public about equitable schools. They invited the community and University partners to participate in a School of Education virtual gathering intended to create opportunities to discuss the role of the school in creating equitable schools with Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig (who is also an NPE Board member!). It was a difficult year for The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education as they worried about their colleagues and their public school teachers “in the trenches.” NEIFPE salutes our teachers, essential workers, as they do their best in the classrooms. In January and February, NEIFPE sent members to candidate forums and interviews with local candidates. In March, once the lockdown took hold, they continued to inform their followers about candidates and their positions on public education issues. In 2021 they will follow the legislative session in Indiana and gather support for public education among their followers. They expect to be fighting for more funding for public schools, less funding for privatization (vouchers and charters), and rational testing policies. They invite you to visit their blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, Pinterest board, and search NEIFPE under Groups on LinkedIn. Northwest Indiana Coalition for Public Education was instrumental in exposing the fact that Tech Prep Academy, a virtual charter school, was wooing families with dollars, which state education officials say could be an illegal enrollment incentive. To read more, go here. Stand for Schools cosponsored the Equity Starts with Education virtual rally with Nebraska State Education Association and a range of partners this year. To view the rally, go here. Stand for Schools also released a powerful statement on special interests and Nebraska education this year. Ohio BATs had a busy year! A record number of candidates across the state sought an endorsement from Ohio BATs in 2020, and nearly one-third of them won their races. In August, Ohio BATs helped organize a car caravan urging remote learning until Covid is better contained. They will continue to push for fair school funding, meaningful changes to the state report card system, and graduation requirements less reliant on standardized testing. Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education began 2020 with a focus to defeat the expansion of the voucher program (EdChoice). Dan Greenberg reported that nothing about the program makes sense, but the metrics that the state is using defy logic. In some places, schools were on the voucher list because students scored so high on standardized tests, they could not show improvement. Some of the wealthiest, highest achieving districts across the state were slated to have schools on the voucher list, meaning children living in those districts would be able to receive vouchers every year for the rest of their K-12 schooling to attend private schools. The money for vouchers is/was being paid right out of the local school district’s funds. To address the issue, NWOFPE sponsored a community forum, “Stand up for Public Education” where State Senator Teresa Fedor spoke, as well as Susie Kaser from the League of Women Voters and Steven Dyer, who was the Education Policy Fellow for Innovation Ohio at the time. They had a strong turnout for the event and received media coverage. Ultimately, the issue was not fully addressed by the legislature due to Covid. They have not expanded the voucher program, but the schools and districts that were already on the list continue to lose millions of dollars annually. During the pandemic, NWOFPE continued to post information on social media relating to critical issues, like school funding and high stakes testing. They did not advocate for any specific plans to return to school but tried to support the efforts of public schools to meet the needs of students. Dan was able to share some thoughts which seemed to strike a chord with the public. Around this time, NWOFPE co-sponsored a virtual town hall with a local school district (Sylvania, which is where Dan is a teacher), where they shared plans for reopening schools and fielded questions from community members. Public Education Partners (PEP) had a very busy 2020. Here is their year in review. Wisconsin Public Education Network Executive Director Heather DuBois Bourenane reported that WPEN’s statewide partners worked hard this year to support students and communities through the pandemic and make the needs of students and public schools a focus of the fall election. They also adapted to virtual organizing with a well-attended Summer Summit, a 6-week 300-person book study of “Despite the Best Intentions,” and a series of Action Workshops (follow the link for video archive) on a variety of topics that helped support local action and continue to hold elected officials accountable for delivering a budget and policy that works for kids in 2021. WPEN is also gearing up to make sure what’s at stake and where candidates stand for the spring 2021 State Superintendent of Public Instruction race. All seven candidates responded to their questionnaire, and will attend their Jan. 7 candidate forum, both of which were co-sponsored by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. They continue to work with Network partners and issue allies to support organizing around the 2021 state budget, and are working with partners at the ACLU of Wisconsin to co-host a series of Budget Action workshops and events in the new year. It Takes A Village To Tackle HB70, and It Takes A Village helped to plan a statewide town hall on the future of public education this year. Here is the archived video. Both groups also worked hard this year to freeze statewide report cards and to get waivers from state tests. Schools and Communities United asked parents, guardians, and students to fill out a survey and let them know how remote learning is going this year. Parents for Public Schools Milwaukee, Schools and Communities United, and the Wisconsin Public Education Network have worked together this year to make a difference. One big action they did together was to sponsor a Grab and Go Giveaway to show support for public education.
Fund Education NOW Co-founder Kathleen Oropeza published several opinion pieces this year in the Orlando Sentinel 100. Here is a sample of one that she published. Pastors for Florida Children participated in a Florida Clergy Convening this year. The convening was called Building a Faithful Democracy: Hope to Face the Future. Rachel Gunter Shapard, co-founder of Pastors for Florida Children, edited Why Should Christians Care About Public Education, written by Angel Pittman. You can read it here. Dear JCPS and Kentucky SOS podcast did some powerful work this year. They covered important topics such as local and statewide election results. Dear JCPS also conducted a survey on a safe return to school. More than 100 survey respondents weighed in. Go here to see some of the early results. SOS Kentucky exposed a new super PAC attempting to boost candidates who support school choice this year. Pastors for Kentucky Children issued a call for Pastors, clergy, lay leaders to pray for our teachers, administrators, parents, and students this year. To read their call to prayer, go here. Pastor Sharon Felton shared a devotion for educators, and all of us, as we begin this new year. Step Up Louisiana was extremely busy in 2020. They took part in a mass march to renew the eviction ban in New Orleans and all of Louisiana. They held a New Orleans Parent Union Town Hall this year. To see the archived video go here. They continue their fight for living wage jobs, sustainable community schools, affordable housing, stopping city worker furloughs, and public defender equity. Finally, this year Step Up Louisiana had a Facebook live event called Is School Choice the Real Choice for Public Schools in New Orleans? You can view that event here. Public Schools First NC and Wake County held a live stream event this year called Leandro Upheld: What’s Next? They also hosted a Conversation About Public Education with Governor Roy Cooper. They hosted Strategies for Creating Trauma-Informed Schools/Classrooms and a webinar called School Psychologists: Supporting Children In School, At Home, and In Life this year. North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform launched a successful petition this year to keep High School students safe and waive the end of course (EOC) exams. Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods held several Organizers’ Circles this year. Go to their open Facebook page to check them out. Pastors for North Carolina Children held a fantastic Public Education Advocacy and Faith Forum in September. To see the archive video go here. Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County had an important meeting with Pitt County Schools regarding reopening this year where they asked their members to submit questions. They also launched their YouTube channel this year. The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, Pastors for Oklahoma Children, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, Oklahomans for Public Education, and many of their allies showed that advocacy, and coalition building, is important this year. Their coalition sent more than 1,200 emails to the Governor sharing their concern over his nominee to the State Board of Education. The nominee ended up withdrawing from consideration, but it’s important that Gov. Stitt understands that the public outcry against the nomination was from bipartisan, grassroots, parent volunteers. Here’s their statement in response. Pastors for Tennessee Children held an email campaign this year to ensure that CARES Act funds would NOT be used for vouchers. They also hosted a discussion of Community Schools with Dr. Robert Kronick. Dr. Kronick is the founder of University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS), a program he developed while serving as a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. UACS is a full-service, grant-based program that extends the regular school day for at-risk students in twelve local schools. Each day, UT students, faculty, and staff provide school children academic support services, physical education, music, and art programs after regular school hours. Through these programs, UACS is able to enhance the interpersonal skills, critical-thinking skills, and academic success of participating children. Florida BATs are gearing up to fight for public school students and teachers. Florida BATs reported that their state legislators are not supportive of traditional public schools, so they will be working hard to communicate the reasons they support public education. This will be done by connecting with FEA and other groups that share their values. Florida BATs will also be supporting an action being led by the Brevard Federation of Teachers to accomplish the following goals: “The Brevard Federation of Teachers, with help from Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex, are working with Brevard Public Schools to incorporate teaching of the Moores into the school curriculum, ensuring their place among other civil rights heroes in the minds of Brevard students. The union has also asked the Brevard School Board to go a step further by posthumously reinstating Harry and Harriette Moore as teachers. It’s a symbolic gesture they say would help restore the Moores’ legacy and go some way toward erasing a black mark on the school district’s rocky racial past.” More here on this story.
Baltimore Algebra Project launched a survey in June to find out what Baltimore students need during the COVID crisis. They also launched a YouTube channel this year. Check it out here. Lisa Guisbond shared this about Citizens for Public Schools. “Citizens for Public Schools focused a lot of work and attention on our campaign for an MCAS testing moratorium, to build on our successful effort to press the state to suspend MCAS testing this spring. We released our report, MCAS is the Wrong Answer: Six Ways High-Stakes Testing Has Failed Students and What to Do Now, looking at a wide array of evidence showing that Massachusetts’ MCAS-based accountability system has failed to advance equity and racial justice in our public schools, and instead has been associated with several major disadvantages for historically underserved groups. It’s posted on our website, along with fact sheets summarizing our findings, in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Cape Verdean creole. CPS’s Action Network campaign generated 952 emails to state legislators supporting Sen. Jo Comerford’s and Rep. Jim Hawkins’ legislation calling for an MCAS moratorium: CPS and many of our members and allies also submitted written testimony Monday to the Joint Committee on Education for their virtual hearing on S.2814, Senator Jo Comerford’s MCAS Moratorium bill. Back in March, with the closure of schools, and DESE’s initial failure to acknowledge the obvious need to cancel MCAS, CPS launched a two-phase campaign to suspend the MCAS, generating more than 5,000 emails and many calls to legislators, Riley, the BESE, and Sec. of education. The emails and calls definitely got some attention, and the legislature then passed legislation to allow for MCAS testing to be suspended this year. Then the BESE adopted a sensible policy to allow seniors who had fulfilled all other graduation requirements but the MCAS to graduate based on their performance in a course related to the MCAS exam that they had not passed. They took pains, however, to say that this was a one-off decision in response to the COVID-based school closures. With our allies in the MA Education Justice Alliance, we launched phase two of our Fund Our Future campaign to make sure the state keeps the promises of the 2019 Student Opportunity Act (to update and make state education funding more equitable) and invests in public higher education. We put on two successful webinars, one on June 10, titled “Healing our Students and Schools: A Community Conversation to Resist High-Stakes Testing and Reclaim Public Education.” The second webinar, part of a series organized by MA Peace Action, on Sunday, June 14. Public schools at a crossroads: Reclaiming public education and fighting for justice in the COVID-19 era, with me, Merrie Najimy, Suzie McGlone, Zac Bears, and hopefully a student. CPS had a well-attended, successful, and inspiring event with Diane Ravitch, who discussed her new book, Slaying Goliath, which featured Maurice Cunningham and Barbara Madeloni for their roles in the No on two campaign to keep the cap on charter schools.” New Bedford Save our Schools staged a protest in August to oppose any kind of in-person return to classrooms. They also held a drive-in rally to protest the privatization of public education. Go here for the video. SOS NJ published several op-eds and opinion pieces this year. Here is one opinion piece in the NJ Spotlight on how NJ should move forward on education. They also initiated an action alert to call Gov. Murphy this month. In Governor Murphy’s proposed budget, there were cuts to School-Based Youth Services by the NJ Department of Children and Family Services. The programs these funds support provide students with access to many services, including suicide prevention, mental health, counseling services, and other student supports. SOS NJ made it clear that these funds must not be cut. Paterson Education Fund, in coalition with other organizations in NJ, held a conversation this year about COVID and Beyond: Re-imagining our Future. NYC Opt Out members, along with some of their children and a few other allies, participated in a Zoom conference call with NYC Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack and Director of Community Affairs Sadye Campoamor. During the call, which ran slightly more than an hour, teachers, students and parents spoke movingly about why the DOE should eliminate competitive screening of students for the next admissions cycle. You can read their full statement on admissions post-COVID-19. You can also watch video testimony from the Zoom event here. Here is NYC OPT OUT RESPONSE to the Mayor’s admissions policy announcement on 12/18/2020 in response to post-COVID. Class Size Matters Executive Director Leonie Haimson provided a fantastic recap of 2020 for Class Size Matters. You can find it here. Also, Leonie began hosting a radio show on WBAI called Talk Out of School this year. You can find all the archived shows here. Last spring, Leonie Haimson was named the 16th most influential education leader in NY State by City and State magazine, ahead of such powerful people as Merryl Tisch, head of the SUNY board, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. New York State Allies for Public Education, in coalition with Class Size Matters and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy worked together this year to survey parents about which online apps or programs are being employed by schools throughout New York state and whether they are sufficiently protective of children’s privacy. Long Island Opt Out founder Jeanette Deutermann was selected to participate in the Regents task force for re-opening. Alliance for Quality Education released a “roadmap” for reopening NY’s public schools in September, capturing key themes from a series of 10 virtual community conversations that happened in June. View the report here. AQE also issued a new report this year. Set Up to Fail: How Cuomo’s School Cuts Target New York’s Black & Brown Students shows how 20% cuts in school aid would disproportionately cut from high need school districts, serving NY’s largest populations of Black & Brown students. AQE also launched a campaign to tell NYS legislators to support solutions, not suspensions. MORE-UFT released their Health Justice Agenda for NYC Schools this year. MORE- UFT also launched a petition to the Chancellor, Mayor, and UFT demanding remote professional development meetings. After a few years of pushing for a Black Lives Matter At Schools resolution, MORE-UFT announced that in collaboration with union leaders and educators within the Movement of Rank and File Educators and Black Lives Matter at Schools NYC Group, the following resolution was presented at the UFT delegates assembly, and PASSED! Jackson Heights People for Public Schools issued a powerful statement on remote learning this year. They also held a rally to support the use of permanent open streets. Finally, this year they had their Parent’s Survey of the NYC Teacher Shortage story featured on Spectrum News NY1. The Keystone State Education Coalition publishes a daily PA education policy roundup. Education Voters PA was very busily writing and fighting cyber charters this year. They co-hosted a webinar with their statewide partners in 2020. The webinar was about how we can come together to support our public schools. They also co-hosted a webinar with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and Public Interest Law Center about Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit. Karel Kilimnik reported for Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. “In 2021, APPS will continue our fight for transparency, accountability, and true parent & community engagement in our District. Philadelphia remains the lone school district in Pennsylvania without an elected school board; we will fight to end this disenfranchisement. APPS members are still fighting for an open process as the Mayor’s Nominating Panel, which has met behind closed doors, chooses candidates for three School Board vacancies–⅓ of the Board. APPS will press for reform of the District’s failed Renaissance Charter Initiative, which has expanded for ten years even as the schools failed to carry out their commitment to “effect dramatic change” at chronically under-resourced schools. APPS has issued several reports and will persist in demanding the Board regulate these schools and take back control of the many that fail to meet standards. APPS members attend every Board of Education meeting, including charter school hearings on non-renewals as well as new charter applications. Our website is often the only place to find articles documenting these sessions.” Providence Student Union announced they were excited to join forces with ARISE, CYCLE at RWU, PrYSM, Youth In Action, Inc., Rhode Island Urban Debate League, Rhode Island Center for Justice to form #ourschoolspvd. As a unified force, they will ensure that state control of the Providence Public Schools system results in a racially just and equitable public education for Providence Youth and their families. To learn more and to read their official statement, go here. PSV also took part in a Youth Empowerment Summit In 2020. Finally, PSV began publishing a new monthly newsletter for youth by youth. Check it out for upcoming programs, events, resources, and more! Want to contribute to the newsletter by sharing an art piece? Your project? Maybe even some free thought? Read on to see how you can share. The Vermont Coalition for Equity in Education hosted an incredible webinar this year on “Decolonizing the Classroom.” You can see and share that webinar here. Virginia Educators United held a rally in 2020 for education funding. They also conducted a webinar on Virginia’s COVID OSHA rules.