February 2, 2024 2:22 pm

Grassroots Education Network- 2023 Roundup Newsletter

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The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 200 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 marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org

I am so proud to write that this is the fourth installment of the NPE Grassroots Education Network Roundup. Each year I create a small summary of some of the powerful victories, and work, organizations in the network have produced. It is a small summary but it is a big testament to all the work grassroots groups across the country continue to do. The roundup is divided into regions of the country.  To get a picture of the power of the NPE Grassroots Education Network please head over to the section of the NPE website that highlights the network and archives the monthly newsletters.  I am sure 2024 will continue to bring us more victories for children, their families, and public education. 

The Network for Public Education held the yearly conference in DC this year. Advocates from all over the country met in the nation’s capital to continue their work for children, families, and communities.  The conference was a great success. To read about the conference and view pictures from the weekend go here. NPE will be announcing in the coming months the location and time for the conference in 2025. First Focus Campaign for Children published a call for the Biden administration to take these actions and achieve FFCC’s shared goals for children in 2024.  To read their goals for 2024 go here. Parents for Public Schools National in 2023 Vanessa Marrero (Executive Director of PPS San Francisco) and Anna Barrett Smith (PEP Graduate of PPS Pitt County, as well as 2 term school board member) were selected to serve on the Regional Action Committees (RAC) for U. S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. Both were selected to serve on the committee within their region and participated in work that will ultimately impact public education within the U.S. During a debrief session, Barrett shared that, “It was just a fascinating experience, and I feel so lucky to have had a chance to be part of it.” Additionally, Marrero stated that, “The experience with the RAC was really nice and fruitful. I facilitated 7 focal groups across the state of California where we learned much about our priorities (opportunity gap, chronic absenteeism, social-emotional learning (SEL), and teacher retention). I was also able to connect with colleagues that I haven’t seen in a while! It was great!” Congratulations to Anna and Vanessa! Journey for Justice Alliance launched their successful Equity or Else Campaign Power Series in 2023.  The series will continue into 2024 so be sure to keep up with their events and actions here. Defending the Early Years had a successful Summer Institute in 2023. The theme What Works:  Learning from Early Childhood Educators, Advocates, and Researchers set the tone for a very powerful conference. To see the archived videos from the three days go here. Defense of Democracy coordinated peaceful protests around the country in 2023 against Brave Books. Brave Books (publisher of books whose main objective is to blur the line between politics and Christianity) coordinated a book tour featuring Kirk Cameron (author of the homophobic children’s story “Pride Comes Before the Fall). In The Public Interest in their October 2023 privatization report they featured a new report on the privatization of school support services. 

San Francisco Education Alliance looked into the governance consultant (AJ Crabill) hired by SFUSD and other districts including Seattle, Houston, Dallas, and Kansas City in 2023. What they found is that where AJ Crabill advises school boards, the “outcomes” are less likely to be student success and more likely to be less democracy and school closures. Evolve California exposed why the property tax cut given to the 49ers in 2023 hurts public schools.  To learn more go hereAdvocates for Public Education Policy board member Dr. Mike DeGuire published a report for NPE in 2023 which tells the story of how monied interests achieved their goal, turning the Denver School District into a “portfolio” of schools. Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco Executive Director Vanessa Marrero provided this blog that shows what PPSF does in lifting voices and why it matters. Montanans Organized for Education ended 2023 and began 2024 by working diligently with community members in Billings to resist book bans. The bans being pushed by representatives from a national anti-public education group attack and demean Montana public schools and teachers. MOFE is also coordinating public comment and lobbying the Montana Board of Public Education to oppose an online, for-profit charter school from stripping funding from Montana rural schools. As always, MOFE continues to fight for an adequate and equitable school funding formula that benefits all students, regardless of where they live.

Arizona Save Our Schools end of the 2023 news letter sums up the powerful and productive year that AZ SOS had. To view their end of 2023 newsletter go here.   Oklahoma PLAC shared in 2023 that after nearly two decades of advocacy, OKPLAC and its local chapters have updated the organization’s acronym. Now known as Oklahoma Parent Legislative Advocacy Coalition (OKPLAC). Pastors for Texas Children along with many other advocacy groups in Texas were able to fight off Gov. Abbott’s voucher bill in 2023.  For a great recap of this fight go hereCommunity Voices for Public Education started 2024 with a call to boycott STARR.  They spent a better part of 2023 helping to fight off the state takeover of the Houston School District. 

Illinois Families for Public Schools and Illinois Raise Your Hand shared some HUGE news this year that the Illinois House adjourned without passing an extension to the Invest in Kids Act. The provisions of the Act begin expiring on January 1, 2024. This is a huge win for public schools in Illinois. It is also a win for the principle of the separation of church and state and for ensuring public dollars are not used to violate civil rights and are spent with the oversight, transparency and accountability that public spending should require. To read the IFPS statement go here.  The Indiana Coalition for Public Education worked hard at the end of the year to inform their members of laws that would be coming in 2024. ICPE for 2024 is giving a heads up on the retention of third graders based on IREAD-3 and two Senate bills, SB 255 and SB 143, that will directly implement Milton Friedman’s plan to give school funding to parents and not to schools. For more information please visit their website. Public Education Partners won the 2023 Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing at the NPE/NPE Action Conference.  PEP summarized their amazing year and grassroots organizing in this essay discussing the award they received in October. In 2023 Wisconsin Public Education Partners ensured that all eyes were on the state budget with unified asks for responsible, fair increases in public school funding; while the budget passed in 2023 fell short again, WPEN amplified the advocacy of a majority of Wisconsinites and put public education issues front and center of public attention, positioning us well for stronger results 2024 and beyond. WPEN provided high visibility training and workshops directly to nearly 1,000 Wisconsin public school champions, supported local referendum committees and provided workshops for public education champions considering running for school board, and hosted an annual Summer Summit focused on the theme Accountability In Action. WPEN also developed toolkits and supports for combating attacks on equity initiatives and inclusive teaching and learning practices, messaging guidelines for uniting around the public schools we all love, and direct support for those looking to maximize their local-level action.

Grassroots Arkansas invited Superintendent Jermall Wright to meet with them at the end of 2023. The community meeting that Grassroots Arkansas and some SWLR neighborhood associations were hosting in early 2024 to accommodate Superintendent Jermall Wright’s schedule was canceled. Dr. Anika T. Whitfield, on behalf of the Grassroots Arkansas Family, published this statement:  Superintendent Jermall Wright is unwilling to meet with organized community members and has made it clear that some persons are advising him not to do so. Question is, who’s advising him not to meet with SWLR community members? And, why?  What could he lose by keeping community members informed and addressing concerns and suggestions from the public members he serves? To learn more go here. Hillsborough Public School Advocates (Florida) launched their highly successful grant program this year. They were proud to share photos of the Frameworks Workshops at Brandon High School which was made possible by a 2023 HPSA Grant Program. We look forward to all the great things this grant program will bring to the Hillsborough community in 2024. The Georgia Youth Justice Coalition marched at several events in 2023 and worked hard for both the community and their public schools.  In early 2024 they launched their Young People’s Platform.  To learn more go here. Step Up Louisiana shared that success in organizing takes many shapes. Sometimes it looks like a conversation with a policymaker. Sometimes it looks like a ride to the polls. Sometimes it looks like a worker picking up a megaphone and sharing their story. But Step Up Louisiana knows that winning good jobs and good schools for every Louisianan requires doing all of these things at scale. As they make plans for the year ahead, here’s a snapshot of their impact in 2023, by the numbers. Public Schools First NC hosted a series of fantastic webinars in 2023 and early 2024.  By educating the public they are able to be successful as a voice for public schools in NC.  Go here and here to see a few of the successful webinars they hosted in 2023/2024. Pastors for North Carolina Children continued their monthly faith leaders and advocates gathering in 2023.  They will continue these meetings into 2024.  Here is information on that.  They also sent out very informative newsletters each month to let NC citizens know what is happening in the public education landscape.  Go here to view one of their amazing letters in 2023. The Florida Freedom to Read Project released this end of the year statement:  2023 has been a mountain of a year for our students, teachers, and school districts – a landfill-style mountain manufactured by the garbage of those with political power doing everything possible to purposely pile onto the issue. While we cannot accurately measure our work in the number of books returned to the shelves, the number of headlines where our work appeared in 2023 is evidence our volunteers made a difference holding power to account. Thank you to all those who helped support our work with your time, social media shares, and donations. We are ready for the year to come, and we will need you even more in 2024! Families for Strong Public Schools put boots on the ground in 2023 and fought for full funding of schools and for recess.  By presenting at local schools, taking part in Town Halls, and attending local festivals, FSPS worked very hard this year to save public schools in their area and to educate the public about the efforts to privatize public education.  Please visit their open Facebook page to check out all they did in 2023.   

Citizens for Public Schools spent most of 2023 working hard to stop the use of MCAS as a graduation requirement.  With their work and the work of other grassroots organizations they got lots of momentum coming into 2024.  CPS also ended the year honoring the Unsung Heroes of Public Education. The heroes included the New Bedford Coalition to Save Our Schools, the Concerned Educators of Color, and three extraordinary bloggers and podcasters – Jack Schneider, Jennifer Berkshire and Maurice Cunningham. Save Our Schools NJ also worked hard in 2023 to end testing as a requirement for graduation in New Jersey.  Their effort was successful when Governor Murphy signed a law in 2023 waiving graduation tests for the Class of 2023.  We are sure that SOSNJ will continue to fight in 2024 for full removal of exit testing in NJ.  Paterson Education Fund is a force in the Paterson NJ school district and the state.  They continued to work hard in 2023 to support the parents and students of Paterson.  They inform members about board meetings and also hold a successful BookEnds program that provides students with books for the holidays.  We look forward to seeing what wonderful work that PEP does in 2024. In June 2022,  NYC students, parents, and teachers had a great victory with the passage of a new state law that would require class sizes be lowered in our  public schools, starting this fall.  In 2023, Class Size Matters worked to try to ensure that the law will be followed by the DOE, by publicizing how class sizes had instead increased this year, protested the ongoing cuts to school budgets and the capital plan, reached out to the State Education Department to urge them to demand a real class size plan from DOE, and contributed to the Class Size Working Group report,  with actionable and equitable proposals about how classes could be and should be reduced.  To learn more about this work go here. AQE NY was very busy in 2023.  Their largest campaign was the Empire State Campaign for Child Care.  This campaign urged Governor Kathy Hochul to sign the Decoupling Bill. She had until December 23 to do so and make child care more affordable for working families. Here is the recap of that campaign. Education Voters PA published their report on discrimination in Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) schools.  It is a powerful report and a great resource for everyone.  You can access it here. Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools are staunch advocates for Philadelphia public school children and continued keeping an eye on the Philadelphia school board in 2023.  They ended 2023 by publishing a blog on how the school board must do more to defend public schools in 2024. 

NPE Grassroots Education Network – Resources and Graphics

Here is a link to our resources page. It will help you navigate resources covering a variety of topics. This is a live document and will be updated, so check back for new resources. 

Here is a link to our graphics page. It will provide powerful visuals for you to share on social media. This is a live document and will be updated, so check back for new graphics.