Last week San Francisco residents “overwhelmingly voted to oust the only three board members eligible for recall, including the particularly divisive Alison Collins (79 percent voted for removal), board President Gabriela López (75 percent) and even Vice President Faauuga Moliga (72 percent) … who tried belatedly to distance himself from the others,” writes Clara Jeffery in Mother Jones.
What did these school board members do to provoke this unprecedented rebuke from the voters?
“They prioritized performativeness over performance,” Jeffery argues. “You need to understand that SF schools stayed closed until the fall of 2021, longer than most districts in America … there was seemingly little effort to even talk about scenario planning. Instead, in interminable Zoom meetings, the board focused on… a risible process to rename 44 schools.”
“The process was a crowd-sourced embarrassment that placed Dianne Feinstein, Abraham Lincoln and Paul Revere among the names to be stricken and got many basic facts and even full identities wrong,” Jeffery explains. “Nevertheless, the board stood defiant in its defense of this shambolic process, which basically made a mockery out of scholarship.”
At the same time, the board continued to undermine efforts to open schools. “In June 2020, Vincent Matthews, the superintendent of the district, asked—honestly, begged—the board to sign off on a consultant to help advise on how to safely reopen schools,” Jeffery writes. “Finally, parents hoped, somebody would be spearheading this process. But the board decided that, because the consultant had once worked at a charter school, they wouldn’t allow it—even though Matthews warned there was no time to find a replacement. And so schools didn’t reopen.”
The overwhelming votes to recall the three board members serve as a clear warning to school board members up for reelection this year across the country: get busy putting learning first or get ready to lose your seats.
Inspired to get involved in your school board elections? Download our step-by-step Guide to Political Advocacy for free, written by 50CAN Executive Vice President and veteran political strategist Jonathan Nikkila.
Last time in The New Reality Roundup, we explored the importance of seeing the potential in every child by spotlighting two stories: one, of our Board Chair Michael Phillips and another of a child in Georgia who was given a new chance through a special needs scholarship.
This week, we call attention to the importance of holding the line on learning time, as well as a unique opportunity for aspiring education leaders who want to raise their voices on behalf of kids.
Give students more learning time, not less
What is it going to take to catch kids up after two years of disrupted education? Among other things, a lot more learning time. Unfortunately, a movement is underway to roll back the time kids have in school.
“It’s really important that we keep the promise we made to children and families about education, particularly after so much lost learning,” shares ConnCAN Executive Director Subira Gordon, who spent much of last week working to stop a bill that would have given districts the green light to shorten the school year. “The issue of maintaining learning time is incredibly important and the initial language that was proposed created too many opportunities to reduce learning time.”
Luckily for the students of the Nutmeg State, the hard work of ConnCAN carried the day. After a frenetic round of texts and conversations at the Capitol, the bill was shelved.
What’s needed is more opportunity for students instead of less learning time. We need to keep schools open for the full school year while leveraging the tens of billions in federal education funding sent to districts to offer families free tutoring, after school programs and summer camp.
- The task this week is to shut down these efforts to deny families a full school year and ensure federal funds support expanded learning opportunities for all.
Step up and speak out for kids
“If there’s a year for emerging education leaders to apply to 50CAN’s National Voices Fellowship, this is it,” shares Ned Stanley, our Vice President of Communications who helps to direct the fellowship along with 50CAN President Derrell Bradford. “Now more than ever, we need leaders who are armed with the communications skills they need to speak out on behalf of the fundamental changes to the education system. That’s what our kids deserve and that’s what this fellowship is all about.”
Launched in 2019, 50CAN’s National Voices Fellowship was designed to strengthen the public profiles of education leaders who are ready to elevate their commentary to the national stage. Fellows are trained in advocacy, communications, education policy and politics over the course of nine months as they write op-eds, speak at conferences and appear on television, podcasts and radio to advance ideas that truly matter.
Cohorts are designed to represent diverse geographies and backgrounds and are purposefully bipartisan. “We’ve had 30 fellows since we started this program and it’s been a solid mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” Derrell shares. “At a time when bipartisan cooperation is rare, our fellows are working across these lines of difference, together, to bring about change.”
Arthur Samuels, a 2021 Fellow, notes: “They’re friends, but it’s also like a little family. We’re texting all the time – bouncing ideas off each other, supporting each other’s goals. I strongly urge anyone who wants to make an impact in education to do National Voices. The program had a profound impact on me.”
If you are ready to take the next step in your advocacy for kids, we encourage you to submit an application. The deadline is March 1.
- The task this week is to seize this opportunity to lead in new ways by applying for 50CAN’s National Voices Fellowship.
This past week brought good news from the Land of Enchantment, where NewMexicoKidsCAN’s Executive Director Amanda Aragon obtained a key win in the last hours of the legislative session as she secured passage of HB43. The billexpands the facility funding for charter schools across the state and will be crucial in growing the sector and expanding options for kids. “I’m proud, most of all, that this bill passed with sweeping, bipartisan support,” Amanda told me. “It’s proof that good charter policy doesn’t have to be politically divisive.”
Things are heating up in the Peach State, as GeorgiaCAN and its allies are all-in on the push to secure passage of a bill that would create Education Savings Accounts (ESA) for Georgia families. The team hosted a legislative town hall with State Representative Wes Cantrell and tomorrow will lead a parent rally at the state capitol ahead of a crucial vote in the House.
The team at TennesseeCAN is driving forward the More Opportunities for Students in Tennessee (MOST) Act, HB2774/SB2389, that would establish a grant program to combat the learning loss challenges that students and families have experienced during the pandemic. The bill has been filed and assigned to the House K-12 Subcommittee and the Senate Education Committee.
At DelawareCAN, Executive Director Britney Mumford is fighting a request by the Christina School Board to have the state impose a charter moratorium. “Our focus needs to be on improving student outcomes within schools, rather than limiting parents’ choices.”
The Brookings Institution released a new policy brief that explores what role the metaverse might play in the future of education.
The American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution published a working group report on the state of childhood in America. The report argues for “substantially increasing public investment in children in the context of budget neutrality—in other words, rebalancing existing resources toward children.”
Education Reimagined interviews Dr. Sharon Tenhundfeld Chmura-Moore, director of Acton Academy Oshkosh. The school offers families a unique choice “because we weave the arts into our everyday. I, along with our founder, are musicians and are passionate that the arts provide deep pathways for learning.”
Writing for the Fordham Institute, Checker Finn asks, “Did public education have it coming?,” and spotlights the problems that have only gotten worse during the pandemic: putting adult interests above kids’ interests, disempowering parents and the failure to innovate.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that trust in public school principals dropped for the second year in a row.
Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum looks at district spending of pandemic relief funds and finds a lot of money going to facilities projects that will take years to complete.
HawaiiKidsCAN Executive Director David Miyashiro was recognized as one of the “20 for the Next 20” by Hawaii Business Magazine, which spotlights the leaders most poised to make a difference for the Aloha state over the next two decades. Hawaii’s economy has suffered more than nearly any other state the past two years, but its determination to lead through innovation has never been stronger. Mahalo David!