by Sam Anderson (New York City)
The fight for quality antiracist public education in NYC has pushed forward during the summer months. The Coalition for Public Education (CPE, http://www.forpubliced.org) has been in the forefront in the fight to return public education to the public. CPE includes Brooklyn and Bronx Chapters, Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence (BNYEE), Movement of Rank & File Educators (MORE) of the UFT, National Black Education Agenda (NBEA), Parent Union Initiative, Freedom Party, SEEDS, DC37 reps and unaffiliated parents and educators.
1. There is ongoing work on creating a Peoples Board of Education and writing the necessary legislation to bring it into existence. This work has been in collaboration with the municipal workers union- DC37 and NY State Assemblywoman Inez Barron. We are currently vetting the nearly 200-page draft legislation before we share it with the general public. From this Fall thru 2014, The Peoples Board of Education Bill will be an essential part of our organizing work
2. There is ongoing parent organizing as well as work on creating a student component of the Coalition. Over the summer, these have taken the form of local school meetings with parent leaders and holding meeting with several of the more active Black & Latino student activists.
3. For the second year, we have collaborated with OccupyWallStreet forces to run the Paul Robeson Freedom School for Middle and High School students located in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. Media Literacy and Media Activism were the focal points for this year's summer program. The challenge is to raise enough money to continue the Freedom School thru the school year as an after school project.
4. This year Coalition has also initiated Garvey's Gardens for elementary school children. This Project is based in the Bronx and Queens and brings urban school children closer to nature and at the same time, learn a bit of Black History and Culture. They start by planting a seed in a paper cup and begin to learn the relationship between water, dirt and seed. They learn a little botany, nurturing and patience while picking up on basic Black History thru learning about Marcus Garvey, Black Pride and the struggle for self-determination.
5. We have ongoing work around exposing and reversing the disappearing Black and Latino educator in NYC's schools. This has taken the form of public meetings, interviews in local papers and pushing the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) leadership to address the issue. This work has been done primarily by our teacher members. The latest on this is that some of our members have gotten this issue -which is also a national issue- discussed at the National Social Justice Unionism Conference held this past week in Chicago.
6. CPE is currently gearing up for our annual October convention as well as preparing to organize parents, students, educators and elected officials to resist and repeal the test maddening policies of the Common Core State Standards and Race to the Top. The first in a series of Informational Forums on the Common Core was held in Harlem on 4 August. This is being spearheaded by the CPE affiliate NBEA.
7. CPE maintains an active blog: http://www.forpubliced.blogspot.com which gets nearly 1300 hits/month during this past summer.