Public schools are the center of our communities and the bedrock of a healthy democracy. They are also a political battlefield for a coordinated right-wing strategy – focused on CRT, book bans, disempowering educators, and attacking LGBTQ+ students – in an attempt to weaken our public education system and, ultimately, undermine our democracy and stop social change. We need progressive champions stepping up to fight back and win the fully funded and equitable public schools we all deserve.
That’s why 40 school board members from 16 states across the country gathered in Baltimore for two days of strategy, peer learning, community building, and leadership development at our first-ever school board convening. In total, LP members came from 37 school districts that represent 1,644,557 students from across the country!
The convening marked an important evolution of our school board work – building on the establishment of our school board steering committee and the growth of our school board cohort over the past year (which now includes more than 265 members).
The convening kicked off with two amazing site visits to local schools Hampstead Hill Academy and Calvin Rodwell Elementary and Middle School – where participants learned from the schools’ community schools programming and models of restorative practices. Baltimore City Public Schools are represented by the Board of Commissioners composed of nine appointed seats, a student seat, and two elected seats – which were added in December 2022 when our very own steering committee member, Ashley Esposito, was elected.
As we dove into programming, our key partners in education justice organizing – including National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, and HEAL Together – helped us dig deeper on school board governance, budgeting, and campaigns that advance equity.
Together, we strategized about how to meet the needs of students and families through community schools, discussed the critical role school board members play in ensuring critically responsive curriculum can be implemented to help support students’ success, reflected on the affirmative things we know contribute to real school safety, and workshopped how to effectively build the power we need in our communities to defend our schools from politicized attacks. With support from School Board Partners, we discussed how to define strong relationships with superintendents, through clear and rigorous evaluation.
The convening offered an important reminder of how needed and important this work is. Despite the rise of conservative extremism in school board governance, there are bold progressive champions stepping up in this moment. And they need our support.
Our work with school board members is just beginning and this convening was in many ways a kickoff of all the work we must do moving forward. In the coming months, stay tuned as we:
- Convene dozens more school board members in St. Louis for workshops on coalition building and community schools at our 2023 National Convening.
- Launch new school board-specific policy resources on governance, school safety, and more.
- Support school board members in taking full advantage of the funds coming down through the Inflation Reduction Act to green their facilities and school bus fleets.
- Train a new cohort of school board members as trainers in the Progressive Governance Academy and schedule trainings for newly elected school board members.
- Present new virtual learning workshops for our school board cohort this fall.
Together, we can demonstrate what it looks like when schools advance the values of inclusion and equity and show how our public schools are the bedrock of multi-racial democracy. Join us!