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 honor of #GivingTuesday on November 29th, the Schott Foundation has reached out to some of our grantee partners to get the low-down on what they do, who they’re doing it for, and the challenges that they handle like rockstars every day.
In this Boston Globe op-ed, award-winning educator and author Jonathan Kozol makes a comprehensive case for why Question 2 is the wrong direction for our commonwealth's schools. We need a fairer, more equitable, and better-funded public education system in Massachusetts that works for all our children: Question 2 would push us away from that urgent goal.
Kozol joins countless local elected officials, school boards, parents, and community groups who have declared their opposition to Question 2, including Schott Foundation’s President & CEO Dr. John H. Jackson. Dr. Jackson recently co-wrote an open letter with Josie Greene, a Director of the Josephine & Louise Crane Foundation, detailing how Question 2 would divert funds from public schools, erode local accountability, and take us further away from the educational quality, equity, and opportunity all our communities deserve.
Schott President & CEO Dr. John H. Jackson spoke at a recent forum at Howard University on public education & charter schools, hosted and moderated by Roland Martin.
Question 2, which will appear on Massachusetts voters’ ballots on Nov. 8, claims that it will increase educational choice and improve educational standards across the state. In fact, it would do the opposite.
For the past decade, Massachusetts has led the nation in academic achievement. Our students have even been top ranked internationally in a time when the country’s educational outcomes have slid year by year. Massachusetts accomplished this by taking bold steps that impact all students, most importantly changing the state’s school funding system to invest more in schools in high need, low-income areas so that all students have a better opportunity to achieve. There is still critical work to be done to close persistent opportunity gaps in the system, but we won’t get there if we go in completely the wrong direction. This would be to allow state officials to give up on investing in improving a system that serves all students in need.
This year, The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights released data collected from public schools in the 2013-2014 school year, which aimed to highlight equity and opportunity gaps in our nation’s public schools. One statistic further set in stone what too many parents and students already know through experience: black public preschool children are suspended at higher rates than whites. Specifically, “Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as white preschool children.”
In 2003, parents and advocates marched 150 miles from New York City to Albany to herald a court case that claimed New York State was failing to provide quality education to public school students. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and the state committed to allocating $5.5 billion distributed throughout the state’s public school districts. This is when the story should have ended, but it didn’t.
$3.9 billion is still owed to New York State public schools. And that is why this October – ten years after that first court hearing – parents and advocates have made the same walk again. Another 150 miles from New York City to the steps of the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany, fighting for educational funding long overdue.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, reauthorizing President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, enacted by President Bush in 2002, sparked controversy regarding federal overreach, high-stakes testing and harsh accountability measures, but also provided disaggregated information regarding student achievement by demographics such as race, gender, and English language proficiency. According to ed.gov, the goal with ESSA was to “create a better law that focused on the clear goal of fully preparing all students for success in college and careers.” The law first and foremost provides states with more latitude when it comes to education policy. On October 5, 2016, the Schott Foundation was joined by Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson and California State Board of Education President Dr. Michael Kirst for a webinar, “Protecting an Opportunity to Learn Through ESSA State Accountability Plans,” to discuss how schools can use ESSA as a tool to improve public education.
They were selling – and fast.
When Diana Kane English noticed how quickly her new line of gold-lettered “Feminist” t-shirts was flying off the shelves of her Park Slope boutique, she was stunned. Her inspiration for creating them, after all, was born of a typical designer frustration: “I wanted one, and Googling wasn’t turning up what I wanted.”
Her first shipment sold out in two days, and, months later, her shop is still buzzing. “The excitement just keeps growing,” says Diana. “People are buying them for themselves, their girlfriends, sisters, kids, mothers – even husbands.”
Why are advocates walking from New York City to Albany?
In 2006, New York State’s highest court ruled on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) school funding lawsuit. The CFE lawsuit was brought by parents against the State of New York claiming that children were not being provided an opportunity to receive an adequate education.
The Schott Foundation was among the first to fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in the mid-1990s which sparked a movement — and a victory. In 2006 the Court of Appeals ruled in CFE’s favor and found that New York State had violated students' constitutional right to a “sound and basic education” by depriving schools of needed funding. The Court ordered the NY Legislature to distribute $5.5 billion in basic operating aid (also known as Foundation Aid) to schools statewide over a four-year period, from 2007 to 2011.
Yet — ten years later — New York still owes its children $3.9 billion in Foundation Aid, most of which is owed to districts with high percentages of students of color. The state has only allocated $2.3 billion in Foundation Aid to schools thus far due to funding freezes during the fiscal crisis and further cuts to school aid.
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