Grassroots Education Network- 2021 Roundup
The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 175 grassroots organizations nationwide that 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
As the pandemic continued into 2021 we saw many organizations mobilize to help their communities navigate difficult times. As you read the year-end roundup, you will see that this small summary is a big testament to all the work our grassroots groups continue to do. As a reminder, the 2021 roundup is organized into regions. Thank you to all the organizations that sent me their year-end summary. As I stated last year, I know that 2022 will be a year of continued solidarity and hard work for our communities.
NPE launched Chartered for Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain in 2021. The report was followed by a powerful campaign to get Pres. Biden to end the funding of charter schools using federal dollars. That campaign influenced the House of Representatives to add Section 314 to its 2023 budget, which would deny federal funding to charter schools run by for-profits. NPE also laid out its plans for early 2022 in its December newsletter. You can read it here. FairTest led a powerful charge to push universities to become test-free in their admissions policies. Defending the Early Years had another successful summer institute this year. Go here for the archived videos. In the Public Interest pumped out article after article on the impact of privatization on our schools in 2021. Go here to see that archive. Schott Foundation ended the year with new data on racial equity and racial justice that is funding education philanthropy. Journey for Justice Alliance launched the powerful Equity or Else campaign this year.
The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy published several blogs this year informing the public about both federal and state privacy issues. Go here, and make sure to scroll, to see all the amazing articles they published on their website. The Badass Teachers Association partnered in several coalitions for healthy schools for students and teachers. First Focus Campaign for Children ended their busy year supporting Senator Portman and Senator Rosen’s bill that would help foster youth pursue higher education. Equal Opportunity Schools hosted Educational Equity Convening at the end of their busy year. National Educators United held several Town Halls this year. To view them all go here. Parents for Public Schools (PPS) Chapters reported that Parent Engagement Program (PEP) cohorts (parents and community members) spent one day each month learning more about public education. Each parent planned a project that would improve public education in their local area. Topics addressed during sessions included: school budgets, data and accountability, and learning and leadership styles. They also held #FiresideChatFridays – a weekly opportunity for civic leaders to discuss the state of education; chats featured candidates, school board commissioners, educators, and other education experts, families, and students. Parents were introduced to the “Learning @ Home, Surviving to Thriving” series to learn about policies and recommendations regarding distance learning. PPS-Greater Cincinnati worked in tandem with Miami University to assist them in developing case studies on the types of issues that arise in education. PPS also conducted virtual Parent Engagement Program (PEP) training for the first time. Architects of Excellence initiative recognized parents and guardians of students of the month as a means of supporting a new Resource Coordinator to improve parent engagement in local schools.
Rethinking Schools reported that thanks to your generous past support, they helped people fund curriculum and community, truth, and solidarity. In 2021, the community helped them: Work with teachers and activists to share imaginative and inspirational stories of social justice education in the pages of Rethinking Schools, provide lively free online webinars for thousands of educators, support dozens of study groups across the U.S. reading our book Teacher Unions and Social Justice, working to harness educators’ collective power to organize for the schools and communities our students deserve through social justice unionism and celebrate their 35th Anniversary. To date, they’ve published nearly 150 issues of the magazine, over 2,000 articles, and over a million books. The Zinn Education Project, which is coordinated by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change has great news. People’s History is reaching more classrooms. More than 16,000 teachers signed up to access people’s history lessons in 2021, bringing their full registration at the Zinn Education Project to almost 140,000 teachers from every state in the country. So far in 2021, they have: organized national days of action to protest the wave of right-wing attacks on teaching, developed new lessons on How the Word Is Passed, McCarthyism, and the Green New Deal, offered a new series of “Teach the Black Freedom Struggle” online classes, expanded the number of Teaching for Black Lives Teacher Study Groups from 30 to 100, supporting educators in 29 states, and produced a national report analyzing K–12 curriculum standards on Reconstruction across the country as part of their Teach Reconstruction Campaign — to be released in January. After 20 months of education and activism and with over 1200 members, When Public Schools Reopen ended its social media presence on December 31. The highlight of the past year was hosting two Study Groups for the book Black Lives Matter at School edited by Denisha Jones and Jesse Hagopian. Denisha participated in two of the sessions. Peter Rawitsch, the founder, will now focus his energy on ending out-of-school suspensions for 4, 5, 6, and 7-year olds in New Hanover County, North Carolina. He is the Co-Leader of Love Our Children.
Taxpayers for Public Education reported that along with Advocates For Public Education Policy and education advocates throughout Colorado, they have successfully stopped a neo-voucher program that would have increased marijuana tax to cover part of the expense for “outside of school learning opportunities.” This voucher program, had it been successful, would have decreased funding for public education by taking monies from the State Land Trust, creating an independent agency to run the program, all without accountability or transparency. They were outspent by over $2.5 million, yet, passion and true belief in public education were able to once again keep vouchers out of Colorado. The Douglas County Colorado School Board election was a bit different. They were unable, unfortunately, to keep a pro-public education majority in Douglas County. Unfortunately, their opponents were far better funded. Parents for Public Education Hawaii held a series of successful Talk Story events this year to engage the public about public education and school community councils.
Save Our Schools Arizona launched their #PublicSchoolProud campaign by organizing volunteers into Community Action Teams across the state. They talked to anyone and everyone about the importance of public education. SOS Arizona just published a report on “The State of Arizona’s Rural Schools,” which is available on their website. They relaunched their Speaking of Schools: The Power of Public Education webinar with “The Urgent Needs of Arizona’s Rural Schools,” where they interviewed a parent, teacher, and a superintendent in rural Arizona. Their Indigenous Perspectives webinar series is ongoing with a recent focus on Native American Education Programs. Arizona Educators United focused on healthy workplaces for teachers and children. They teamed up with the Arizona Council of Occupational Safety and Health this year to provide training and resources to help educators, and all workers, organize for safety and health in the workplace. They also put together a valuable school ventilation toolkit. The Coalition for Equity in Public Education spent most of 2021 educating the community on the dangers of charter school expansion and was instrumental in ensuring at least one charter chain, International Leadership Texas, was denied a permit in Dallas at the August 11, 2021 city council meeting. They also spent time advocating in the community for more robust school curriculums with less focus and reliance on standardized tests. RootEd continued to publish their informative newsletter called The Branch throughout the year. Pastors for Texas Children began their year with a very powerful letter to the Department of Education about charters. Then in May, it held a hard line on the voucher issue in Texas. Go here to read about that. In June of 2021, they praised Texas lawmakers for not renewing 4 of the 7 charter schools that had applied in the state. Over the summer they held a powerful prayer meeting with 25 ministers for Fort Worth ISD schools, teachers, and Superintendent Kent Scribner. It was an uplifting time of affirmation, gratitude, and support. Texas AFT summarized their year in the #WhenWeFightWeWin November summary. In its first year, the El Paso Alliance for Just Schools organized an accountability session for trustee candidates in the city’s largest school district and endorsed two successful candidates who support public schools unlike the candidates funded by a business pro-charter group. In summer, the Alliance joined forces with Masked Up El Paso and health providers in a successful decision to require children to wear face-masks in school–a feat ultimately undermined by Governor Abbott’s anti-mask mandates. The Alliance also issued a multiple-media-cited platform about the superintendent search process–a process which lacked transparency and community voices despite a district PR campaign to solicit opinions via ‘town hall’ meetings.
Trusted Voices continues to reframe the agenda for public education. As a nonpartisan advocacy group of educators, they are focused on building collaborative partnerships among teachers, administrators, and legislators to ensure every Michigan learner receives the highest quality of education. Their goal over the next few years is to establish a teacher-led, Trusted Voice, in every one of Michigan’s school districts. That leader will partner with her/his superintendent and local legislator to shape policy around education.. Their 2021-2022 campaign is asking teacher leaders to meet with their superintendents to learn how Covid relief funding is being spent and what impacts to teaching and learner it will have. Their goal is to get ahead of the legislature asking the question, “How have districts spent each educational dollar and what impact did it have on student outcomes?” Trusted Voices will continue to invite policy makers into their classrooms and tell their stories so when the relief funding runs out, legislators will know why funding public schools must remain a priority. The Washington Township Parent Council Network held monthly programs for their members. The programs consisted of legislative updates, diversity equity, and inclusion, special needs, curriculum updates, equitable achievement, school safety and security, a legislative forum, and student mental health. Some highlights from this year are as follows: Collaborated with their school board, administration, district equity leadership team, teachers union, foundation and community coalition to write a collective statement on Critical Race Theory, which you can read here. Wrote opposition letters on behalf of their organization to Indiana House and Senate education committee members regarding proposed harmful legislation. Advocated for increased school funding by mobilizing parents to contact their legislators during Indiana’s last budget session. Helped coordinate and provided talking points for several parents and teachers who testified in committees at the statehouse against the creation of ESAs and expansion of the voucher program. Public Education Partners had a very busy year in Ohio. From state funding to the State Board of Education’s Equity Resolution. Head over to their news tab on their website to get their year in review! Illinois Raise Your Hand celebrated the end to their busy year by hiring 7 CPS parents to join their team. This includes 4 part-time regional parent organizers focused on this upcoming LSC election. Also, they wanted to announce that Natasha Erskine will now be their new LSC director. Illinois Families for Public Education worked hard to get SB654, the Right to Play Every Day bill, passed this year. The bill requires that all students in kindergarten through 5th grade in IL public schools must have 30 minutes of daily play time. Time must be in increments of at least 15 minutes and can’t be taken away for punishment. The Indiana Coalition for Public Education, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, Indiana Coalition for Public Education-Monroe County co-sponsored a very powerful film this year called Indiana’s Choice. Indiana’s Choice is a documentary that demonstrates how school choice policies in Indiana enable segregation of students and discrimination against both students and faculty.
Pastors for Florida Children put together a short promotional video that includes some of their state-level partners in public education advocacy. You can access the download here. The Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida (DPECF) reenergized itself this year. DPECF has been recruiting new members and starting local chapters across the state. They engaged in helping shape public education messaging through a number of press releases and presentations. DPECF is keeping an eye on the upcoming legislative session and will fight for policies that best support public education. Pastors for NC Children remains watchful of the developments in the Leandro v. NC Court Case that began in 1994. They are in Coalition with Every Child NC partners to push for fully implementing the Leandro Plan and ensuring all NC children receive a sound basic education as required by the NC Constitution. On the day of the hearing on October 18th, 2021, PNCC held a Prayer Vigil outside the NC Legislature calling for the full Leandro Plan to become a reality. Media coverage can be seen here and here. Public Schools First NC held a successful fall conference on the privatization of education in NC. The movement to privatize education in NC has been relentless including the continued expansion of vouchers and charter schools. The efforts to dismantle NC children’s constitutionally guaranteed public school system is evident in both legislative policy and funding decisions made this past legislative session. The conference’s goal was to help educate and inform taxpayers, parents, and voters about this critical effort aimed at ending public schooling and helping them understand how fragile the future viability of public education is in North Carolina. The featured speakers included Dr. Noliwe Rooks, (Brown University, Author of Cutting School : The Segrenomics of American Education), Dr. Carol Burris (Executive Director for NPE- see her recent report: Chartered for Profit: The Hidden World of Charter Schools Operated for Financial Gain), and Attorney Jane Wettach (former Duke Law school professor and director of the Children’s law clinic- see her recent report on vouchers: School Vouchers in NC: 2014-2020). If you missed the conference, you can view it HERE. Parents for Public Schools of Greenwood & Leflore County, Inc. reported the following: PPSGLC has been engaged in expanding our advocacy for parents and other caregivers of children in our public schools by creating two new partnerships. We have established a partnership with the Mississippi Valley State University Director of Student Teaching and Field Experience. Her teacher candidates became members of their chapter during their last semester and PPSGLC provides parent training workshops for these teacher candidates. They established a partnership with the Greenwood Community Center (GCC), who embodies the needs of parents and children by providing many educational and social services for children year round. In August PPSGLC presented to their chapter and board the need for a Community-wide Parent Advisory Council. The first council will meet in January of 2022. PPSGLC created a program over four years ago called, “Voice of the Students” (VOS). They are engaged in the work to host their third “Voice of the Students Equity Summit”, in February 2022. PPSGLC, Inc. will take their annual visit to The Capitol for the convening of the MS Legislative Session in late February or early March 2022. Dear JCPS and Kentucky Save our Schools ended their year with a powerful blog post by Gay Adelman titled Listen to Black People. Gay Adelman noted that during a recent press conference, hosted by the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a heckler began talking loudly to the crowd while one of their local community leaders, Vincent Gonzalez, was speaking. The press conference, which was held at Central High School ahead of the July 27, 2021 JCPS School Board Meeting, focused on their community’s unapologetic support for the teaching of accurate history and the practicing of equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as halting recently proposed legislation that would make doing so illegal.
The Alliance for Quality Education had a huge win this year when their thirty-year fight for fiscal equity was guaranteed in the NYS budget. Foundation Aid will be a guaranteed and permanent part of the New York State budget after a three-year phase in. Class Size Matters fought very hard at the end of the year to get a class size bill passed in NYC. As of this writing, the bill did not make it to the floor. The Rochester Coalition for Public Education has focused on the following priority issues and created a diverse, collaborative group to develop a research-based list of skills, including anti-racism skills, that students need to grow and develop. They also plan to work hard with the NYS Board of Regents for the elimination of high-stakes standardized tests and their replacement with the performance-based assessment process. Their hope is to also have pilot schools to test this assessment process. The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools is the watchdog of the only appointed school board in the state of Pennsylvania. Members attend every meeting and post articles on their website.. The Board of Education has used this pandemic year to decrease community engagement and expand outsourcing. As of January, the Board implemented Speaker Suppression procedures limiting the number of speakers as well as shortening their speaking time. The ACLU is representing APPS and a youth led nonprofit, UrbEd, who are seeking to overturn this set of Procedures. APPS has worked supporting a demand for the Board to create a Student Voter Education and Registration Policy. Presently there is a Search for a New Superintendent. APPS members have attended numerous Board sponsored Listening Sessions. They continue to call for the reinstatement of Certified School Librarians in school libraries (there are 4); supporting the Fair Funding lawsuit; and continue to demand hearings on nonrenewals of charter schools. Education Voters PA ended their year testifying in a fair funding lawsuit and to drive their point home brought a toilet to the steps of the state capitol. Citizens for Public Schools had a strong opt out of MCAS campaign this year. New Bedford Save our Schools finished the end of their year working hard to stop the opening of another charter school in their community. Paterson Education Fund began their school year with giving away books and tote bags. They spend all year supporting the community with information and forums.