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Charter School Supporters Unveil Battle Strategy Against Push to Restrict Growth In California

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Thousands of charter school supporters gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento recently for a high-powered rally meant to send a clear message to legislators: Don’t pass laws that harm their schools.

Dubbed the “Stand for All Students Rally,” it was hosted by the California Charter Schools Association and was a highlight of the organization’s annual four-day conference in Sacramento. Speakers included at the March 13 rally were Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education during the Obama administration.

At the rally were charter school administrators, teachers, parents and students, many of whom came by bus from schools across the state. They held signs that said “#kidsnotpolitics” and “Defend Great Schools” and were led in chants by adults on a stage flanked by giant screens projecting their images across the park.

“When charter schools are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” chanted the crowd.

“People, we are in a crucial moment in public education,” Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association told the crowd. “2019 is a watershed year. We have two choices. Do we stand divided, separated and fighting with each other or do we unite?”

Referring to the California Teachers Association, she said, “Let me be clear, we can’t be united if the CTA keeps taking bills out to kill us.”

“We have to be loud,” she said. “We have to activate. We have to talk to our allies, make new friends and build coalitions of support.”

The rally came exactly one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation requiring greater transparency in charter school operations. The charter schools association ended up supporting the bill and joined Newsom in a signing ceremony that seemed to promise greater collaboration between the opposing sides of the charter school conflict.

The introduction  on March 7 of four new pieces of charter school legislation has aroused passions among charter school advocates. It has raised fears among advocates that California’s charter school sector will face the greatest restrictions on its growth since the state’s first charter law was enacted a quarter century ago.

If approved, the bills would eliminate the right to appeal to the county or the state if a district denies a charter application; place an unspecified cap on charter schools; allow charter applications to be rejected based on their financial impact on a district; and prevent charter schools approved in one district from setting up in another.

“These broken charter laws need to be fixed and the ongoing misuse of taxpayer dollars has to stop,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association in an interview Thursday. “We worked at the direction of our members, who work day in and day out with students, for years on trying to secure transparency, accountability and equal access for all students and this current package of bills, brought forth by a wide-ranging coalition of community groups, lawmakers and school employees, parents and labor partners, is much needed to ensure all students get the quality education they need and deserve at these corporate charter schools.”

Together, the bills would result in charter schools being banned in California, feared Margaret Fortune, the new board president of the California Charter Schools Association. Fortune heads an organization that runs seven charter schools. Six are in the Sacramento area and one is in San Bernardino.

California has 660,000 students in 1,323 charter schools, comprising just over 10 percent of the state’s public school population. Castrejon said conference-goers have been strategizing for two days about what to do and how to tell the charter school story.

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Celebrates Birthday at Mills College

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.

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Maurice Arnold with Rep. Barbara Lee at a birthday party on the Mills College campus.

On July 24, Congresswoman Barbara Lee returned to her alma mater, Mills College, for a dual engagement.  As the guest of honor, she conducted a local meet-and-greet among special guests, friends and supporters and she also belatedly celebrated her belated, which was on July 6.

Mills College Lokey School of Business and Public Policy hosted the event for Lee.  The   special guests included Oakland’s Councilmember Treva Reid, District 7; BART Boardmember, Lateefah Simon, District 7, Candidate Mia Bonta, AD-18, Post Newspaper Group Publisher Paul Cobb and many more.

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.  Her political future was decisively shaped when she took a government course that required her to participate in a presidential campaign. “I invited Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak at Mills, and learned that she was running for president,” Lee recalls. “I helped organize her Northern California campaign, and I registered to vote for the first time . . . and the rest is history.”

Whether standing alone as the sole congressional vote against a blank check for endless war, authoring legislation on ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, or representing the U.S. House of Representatives in the United Nations General Assembly, Lee carries her Mills education with her. “Mills instilled me with the confidence I needed to achieve my goals,” she says.

Accordingly, we say happy belated birthday and much success to Team Barbara.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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Activism

Young Adults Speak Out at Climate Adaptation Seminar

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.

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From top left: Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Skyler Kriese, Moiz Mir, Catherine Foster (Photo by Godfrey Lee)

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.
ARCCA is a coalition of the Local Government Commission and represents leading collaborative networks from across California that strive to build regional resilience to climate impacts.  ARCCA members work to enhance public health, protect natural systems, build economies, and create resilient, livable communities throughout California. 

ARCCA members effectively bolster their individual and collective efforts by sharing best practices and resources, identifying strategies to overcome key barriers and challenges, and conducting joint campaigns and projects.

ARCCA believes that the youth have been under-represented in the climate initiative. “It has become more apparent over the years that the youth, with their activism and experience, can have a pivotal role to play in our adaption to climate change. It is the goal of ARRCA, in their work in climate change, to expand the youth’s participation in their projects and actively include them in our leadership phases and decision-making processes,” said Catherine Foster, the moderator of the seminar, and ARCCA’s Climate & Energy Project manager, LGC.

Three college graduates who were involved in the environmental movement on their campuses spoke during the seminar.

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, and graduated as the first Black Valedictorian for the Class of 2021. She served and led many of the prominent campus environmental activism groups. “We all work with people who are different places, so recognize the gaps in your knowledge, and also what the other person does and does not know,” Wakeman said.

Skyler Kriese graduated from Santa Clara University in 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. She is a 2020-2021 CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow supporting Butte County Department of Development Services on three grant-funded, long-range planning projects. Following her service year, she will continue her studies at the University of Michigan, pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Kriese says that local governments need to identify environment justice communities and address environmental justice in their general plans. This is important so that processes and policies can begin to work and ultimately create healthier communities. 

Moiz Mir was the president of the Environmental Student Organization at California State University Sacramento from 2017–2019. As an intern at the Sacramento Mayor’s Office, he organized youth summits to include students’ voices in the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and served on the commission’s Community Health, Resiliency and Equity Technical Advisory Committees. 

Mir advocates building toward inclusivity, to reach out to a more diverse people in the work toward climate adaptation. 

For more information on ARCCA and their upcoming seminars, go to https://arccacalifornia.org/embedding-equity-in-adaptation/ 

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