LP School Board Download 📚 | New steering committee members, removing SROs, attacks on DEI, & more! | April 2024

Welcome to the LP School Board Download, our regular newsletter about all things school board! Today, we’re sharing updates on new members of our School Board Steering Committee and some stories we’re following around the country. 

Updates

🧑‍🏫 Meet Our New School Board Steering Committee Members

First things first, we’ve added three new members to our School Board Steering Committee! We’re so excited to welcome Lynn Boswell, Jessica Bueno, and Dr. Tarece Johnson to the steering committee this year. These amazing school board members from across the country are joining our 15-person strong leadership team to help steward our work in over 16 states. Lynn, Jessica, and Dr. Johnson have been incredible champions for our mission and Local Progress as a whole. We can’t wait to get to work with them, fighting for students and schools across the country.

🌱 Chicago Takes Big Step to Remove Police From Schools

Speaking of our work, school boards nationwide are fighting to remove harmful police presence from our learning spaces. You might have seen that just this February, the Chicago School Board voted to remove school resource officers (SROs) from the classrooms. With this victory, one of the largest and most heavily policed school systems in the country has joined dozens of communities that have put the needs and safety of their students above harmful rhetoric. We’ll continue to follow SRO debates around the country and keep you updated. If you’re looking to start a campaign in your district around school safety rooted in restorative justice, please reach out so we can help!  

👀 A Worrying (and Racist) Move to Undermine DEI

While it’s wonderful to celebrate victories, we also need to be vigilant about the challenges our school communities are facing. The far-right has set its sights on a new boogyman, targeting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives across the country. Education Secretary Cardona has raised the alarm that Republican State Legislators and their right-wing school board allies have targeted DEI efforts in their latest culture war back-and-forth. As of March, there are 30 active pieces of legislation targeting DEI practices, with laws on the books in Florida, South Dakota, Texas, North Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, and Alabama attacking school funding streams and DEI. We’re deeply concerned by this coordinated right-wing assault on basic equity practices and are monitoring how this impacts school funding across the country. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support or to share how these laws are impacting your school community. By working together, we can fight back against these outright racist attacks.

Upcoming Local Progress Trainings

May 9 Briefing: Leveraging Historic Federal Funds for Racial, Economic, and Climate Justice

With local elected champions leading the way, we have a historic opportunity to expand publicly-owned renewable energy for cleaner, healthier communities and good jobs. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, tax-exempt entities like local governments, schools, hospitals, public housing administrators, public utilities, and community organizations can get Direct Pay tax credits when they build renewable energy projects like solar, wind, or electric vehicle charging stations for the first time ever. Join us and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center (CPCC) on May 9th at 1pm EST to learn more about Direct Pay and hear examples of how cities and counties can seize this opportunity. Sign up here

Policy & Strategy Primers in May and June

Local Progress Impact Lab’s Policy & Strategy Primers are a series of foundational learning sessions on policy tools and strategy designed to help local electeds and staff figure out where and how to get started on key issues. Open to all local electeds, upcoming primers include Budgets & Finance on May 30, and Understanding Governance and Oversight Tools on June 4. Sign up here.

Resources 

Local Progress and The Local Progress Impact Lab just released a Messaging Guide to Support New Arrivals to help local elected officials speak proactively about welcoming and supporting new arrivals. These messages will help us reframe the negative, crisis-oriented narrative to a positive one rooted in empathy and dignity. Together, we can tell the stories that highlight our communities’ readiness, willingness, and capacity to welcome new arrivals.

Cal Matters is a nonprofit and nonpartisan state newsroom in California that helps keep many of our staff members informed and updated about state politics. They recently hosted a talk entitled “Book Bans & Pronouns,” which focused on the timely debates filling up school boards across the country. The panel was moderated by Cal Matter’s education journalist and featured a professor and two local Assembly Members, one Democrat and one Republican. Let us know what you think!

Also, Local Progress is working with our partner HEAL Together on a Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) toolkit for school board members. This resource should be available sometime in May, and we’ll be sure it’s right at the top of your inbox when it’s ready.

Latest News

In Florida, Governor DeSantis’ signature “Don’t Say Gay” bill was gutted in a recent legal settlement, scoring a massive victory for LGBTQ students. While the Parental Rights in Education Act will remain on the books, the settlement makes it clear that references to LGBTQ people or relationships are not outlawed in the classroom, and queer student organizations are fully permitted. There’s still so much ground to make up on queer rights in Florida, but this is a critical win – especially for students and young people in our schools.  

Additionally, a recent investigation in Minnesota found that over half of all students in the public school system have access to free mental health services, and the benefits have been extraordinary. This life-saving assistance has made a major difference in the lives of students across the state, which is especially important as many school boards discuss cuts in the face of budget gaps.

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