Mass. Jobs With Justice Tackles Charter Schools, Poverty, Bargaining in Community Conversation

Mass. Jobs With Justice Tackles Charter Schools, Poverty, Bargaining in Community Conversation

A small group of parents, community members, activists, bloggers, and educators gathered this week for a Mass. Jobs With Justice forum titled “Protecting Public Education.”

Mass. Jobs With Justice chose education blogger Jennifer Berkshire to lead the event. The forum focused largely on current public education reforms, the role of charter schools and poverty.

Below are three of the ideas discussed.

‘Break The Cycle of Poverty’

“What we need to do is break the cycle of poverty,” said Mass. Jobs With Justice Executive Director Russ Davis. He agrees that poverty is an obstacle. He said the key to improving education is improving conditions throughout the community.

He hopes to see more schools with wraparound services, in which schools partner with local services.

Services like job training, literacy training, English language learning and social work offered out of school buildings — perhaps on evenings or weekends as needed — will address community issues and see more local engagement.

Schools, he said, will then become hubs of the community.

Urban Parents Of Color Participation

Marlena Rose is an activist with Boston Truth whose children have gone through both district and charter schools. She wants to see more urban parents of color participating and advocating for schools in their communities and affecting change.

Rose, whose daughter did not thrive in a charter school environment, says there are many more like her and their voices need to be heard.

“Some of the stories that my daughter told me about the school’s punitive policies, I just couldn’t really believe that they were true,” she said. “How somebody would get suspended for dropping their pencil, or the way that they shamed young people who didn’t conform to their strict policies.”

Rose is engaging urban parents on a number of campaigns including exposing stories of students left behind by charter systems, lowering the state cap on charter funding, and voicing parents’ transportation safety concerns.

Interest Based Bargaining

Lynn Summerill is a doctoral candidate at American International College, who says interest based bargaining is a method with widespread benefits.

Interest based bargaining is a form of collective bargaining, sometimes used in negotiating teacher contracts. Before negotiations begin, each party attends trainings where they share the information, demands, and goals of each side.

“They bring out the salary scales, they bring out the budgets, they bring out everything,” said Summerill. “I find that if both sides have the information that this process allows them to have, then we can focus on the students.”

In interest based bargaining both parties are local to the issues, interested in improving the existing public school system, and want to address student needs, she said.

“It creates a culture that is going to support student achievement because the expectation is that its a program that has supported everybody.”

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What kind of education reform efforts are you excited about? How can people get involved? What needs to be done? Leave a comment and let us know.