The United States has a new president-elect. After the results, it is only natural that we take some time to think and reflect. At the end of a long, divisive election many feel a fresh wave of apprehension and a heightened level of concern. However, while advocates prepare for the hard work of ensuring the president-elect and Congress continue to increase children’s opportunity to learn, public education advocates also have reasons to celebrate. In two states, Massachusetts and Georgia, because of students, parents, educators, and advocates, the public took a strong stand in favor of public education. These local advocacy efforts provide inspiration and hope for the battles and victories to come across the nation.
In Massachusetts, a ballot initiative to dramatically expand the number of charters in the Commonwealth was defeated soundly, 62%-38%. Question 2 proposed to increase the number of charter schools across the state without regard for — or accountability to — local communities. Proponents claimed that it would increase educational choice and improve educational standards across the state. Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected their claims.
A cross-sector grassroots coalition in cities and towns across Massachusetts — youth, parents, teachers, and community members working together — spearheaded by Save Our Public Schools and many Schott grantees, educated the public about the dangers of Question 2, trained new organizers and activists, connected their activism to voter turnout and defeated the measure.
Schott has worked to improve public education in Massachusetts for twenty-five years. In the wake of Question 2’s defeat, we will refocus our efforts to the real systemic policy changes our children need, such as providing wraparound services for children and families who need additional supports, promoting more student-centered learning opportunities, and stopping the school-to-prison pipeline.
Georgia voters defeated Amendment 1, which would have allowed for state takeovers of entire school districts and, in some cases, shifted control away from the local community into the hands of private charter management corporations. Georgia residents took a stand for public education and democracy, rejecting the measure 60%-40%.
There is a growing understanding in key states that our children need supports and personalized resources, not just political shuffling of the deck chairs. Our democracy needs all our children—not just a lucky few—to have access to healthy living and learning communities that provide them with substantive opportunities to learn and to thrive.
While the federal education agenda may be uncertain in the future, let us remember that under the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the most important work will continue to be at the state level. As such, Schott plans to continue to resource grantees and advocates and serve as a partner, to roll up our sleeves and continue working in communities across the country to build the strong social movements needed to advance a positive vision for public education, and build the political will to make the systemic policy changes that will turn that vision into reality. The struggle for justice continues, and our resolve today is stronger than ever. We owe our children nothing less.
John H. Jackson
President & CEO