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12/1/2017 | Advocating for Community Schools, Organizing for Education Justice

CPD Leads Community Schools Panel at NPE Conference in Oakland

On October 14, CPD’s Education Justice team organized a panel discussion at the 2017 annual Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Oakland, CA, titled, “Community Schools as a Bulwark Against Privatization.” The panel featured Irene Robinson from Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), Martha Sanchez from Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Elzora Cleveland from Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), and Kate Terenzi from the Center for Popular Democracy.  

Panelists began by telling the audience about the devastating impacts of underinvestment in public schools and the proliferation of education privatization (and other kinds of privatization) experienced by communities across the country. They described: school closings, the destruction of neighborhoods and communities through gentrification, food deserts, and the influx of charter and voucher schools that implement harsh disciplinary practices and pull public tax dollars from the public schools. Often, public schools, particularly in Black and brown communities, are starved of essential resources, then deemed to be "failing" before they are closed or handed over to charter schools. Each panelist shared stories about local organizing work and campaigns aimed at reversing these trends, but also highlighted Community Schools as both tactical responses to the proliferation of charters and vouchers and as a visionary solution to struggling public schools.

CPD’s own Kate Terenzi highlighted the fact that NYC spends around $764 million dollars a year on policing public schools overwhelmingly attended by Black and brown youth -- a fundamental contributor to the city's school-to-prison pipeline. She also described the Young People’s School Justice Agenda, developed by the Urban Youth Collaborative, that demands the divestment of at least $66 million dollars from policing schools and investment in restorative justice programs and policies instead. Restorative justice, rather than punitive and exclusionary discipline, is one of the key pillars of the Community Schools model.

While education privatization has long been touted as the only solution to struggling public schools, the panel not only demonstrated this to be a false narrative, but also provided critical examples of ways communities are resisting the privatization of education and calling instead for sustainable Community Schools. For example, more than 20 CPD affiliates across the country have already been building campaigns to demand Community Schools, while saying no to privatization, and no to charters and vouchers. To learn more about the value of Community Schools see CPD's report Community Schools: From Struggling Schools to Thriving Schools.