Posted by: Gordon on 12/27/2013
(Photo by Emory Maiden CC BY-NC) from flickrThis item by Laura Barrett is cross-posted from Shelterforce's Rooflines blog.

Confusion, ambivalence and anger all seem to accompany many discussions of public education. High stakes testing, positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS), wrap around services, isolation rooms, and common core standards all have their advocates—each louder than the last.

What is a parent to think in the middle all of this chaos?

Like many issues these days, those motivated by greed seem to be dominating the discussion. The CEE-trust and other proponents of charter schools like Michelle Rhee have been getting far more air time than their feeble solutions for public education deserve, while real experts with holistic solutions like Diane Ravitch seem to be pushed to the sidelines.

On Dec. 9, parents, students and teachers in 60 cities across the nation decided to take matters into their own hands—they moved into action to lift up solutions we can all agree on. 

The coalition includes faith-based groups like PIIN, MORE2 and Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), union locals, and urban education advocate groups like Opportunity to Learn.  They are advancing a platform that they believe can "reclaim the promise of public education."

The principles include statements which should be basic to the public education, but in practice are often left out of the equation: "Schools should be welcoming and respectful places for all." Sounds simple enough, right?  However, just last year a New Hampshire school district was restraining children with disabilities several times a day and using isolation rooms as a go-to discipline method.

Luckily, ABLE New Hampshire took action and won a new discipline policy; parents are now involved in making sure the policy works.

The "Reclaim the Promise" coalition believes that when teachers, parents and students work together that we can come up with new models that will live up to their lofty, but realistic principles. 

"Our voices matter" is the start. We have to start listening to those who have the most important stake in public education: parents and students.

(Photo by Emory Maiden CC BY-NC)
Classroom by Emory Malden from flickr
Posted by: Gordon on 12/16/2013
Gamaliel at the King Monument
On Dec. 5, 2013, Gamaliel celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by visiting Dr. King's memorial--and then heading over to the Republican National Headquarters, where we called for and won a meeting with top officials. We'll be back with more to report in 2014.

Millions enter the holiday season without the promise of a secure future in this country. We are disappointed, but not discouraged. In fact, we are already planning for what comes next: victory in 2014.

We witnessed history June 27 when the Senate passed S. 744—Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act—on a 68-32 vote signaling strong bipartisan support for an issue that has long divided lawmakers along party lines.

We built strong relationships with many of our Senators and Representatives and called others to account through public actions that included prayer vigils, public meetings, marches, press conferences, congregation basement hearings, half birthday cake deliveries in celebration of the DACA anniversary and more. Right down to the wire, leaders from Gamaliel’s African American Leadership Commission and Civil Rights for Immigrants Campaign kept hope and continued to push with days and even weeks of fasting. Even so the House of Representatives concluded its first session of the 113th Congress without bringing a single immigration bill to the floor for a vote.

We are just one part in a true movement for immigration reform and we will continue to play our role. Our leaders will come together in January to plan for the next phase of this struggle. In the meantime we call on our House members to pass immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship at the start of the new year and on President Obama to stop deportations.
“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

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