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Students Take On Teach for America—and Its Political Allies | The Nation

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Students Take On Teach for America—and Its Political Allies


Students march through Milwaukee. (Credit: Michael Macloone, Journal Sentinel)

E-mail questions, tips or proposals to studentmovement@thenation.com. For earlier dispatches on student and youth organizing, check out the previous post. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Amid Rising Protest, Napolitano Agrees to Meet With Opponents

On September 8, California’s Statewide Multicultural Student Coalition released a set of demands for Janet Napolitano, the new president of the University of California. The coalition calls for Napolitano to make the University of California campuses sanctuary sites for all undocumented communities, pressure Jerry Brown to sign the Trust Act and prohibit the use of riot police on campuses. Napolitano, who entered office with no background in education, oversaw record deportations as Secretary of Homeland Security and has already received students’ votes of no confidence, has answered our request to meet. On October 1, at her office in Oakland, coalition representatives will present our demands and make it clear that undocumented students and students of color in California do not support Napolitano’s presidency. This meeting is just the first step in ensuring our most vulnerable student populations are top priorities.

—Statewide Multicultural Student Coalition

2. Post-Occupation, Florida’s Dream Defenders Return to the Capitol

September 23 marked the first day of legislative committee in the Florida legislature. After sitting-in at Governor Rick Scott’s office for thirty-one days this summer, the Dream Defenders, a group of youth organizing for racial justice and community power, returned to the capitol to train Tallahassee residents and students from throughout the state on Trayvon’s Law. Prior to the training, ten Dream Defenders met with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to discuss the FDLE’s policies on bias-based—that is, racial—profiling. Come October, the group’s legal and policy director will travel to Geneva to present a report on Stand Your Ground to the UN Human Rights Council, which will be reviewing whether the statute violates promises the United States has made as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

—Dream Defenders

3. Resisting TFA in Minnesota

On September 18, the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development officially announced that it will partner with Teach for America to create an alternative pathway to licensure for corps members. This announcement came despite significant opposition from CEHD graduate students, faculty and the wider Twin Cities’ education communities who argue that TFA will contribute to the casualization of teaching labor across all levels of education in Minnesota while it profits off the perpetuation of education inequity. Soon after CEHD’s May announcement of the proposed partnership, a group of students drafted a letter of opposition, which garnered more than 300 signatures from students, faculty, local educators and alumni. Despite TFA’s and the administration’s attempts to repress critical dialogue and dissent, CEHD students are continuing to oppose the decision and connect to broader resistance efforts locally and nationally.

—CEHD Graduate Students Against TFA

4. Resisting TFA Everywhere

On October 1, Students United for Public Education will be launching its first national campaign, Students Resisting Teach for America. The goal is to raise awareness in prospective TFA corps members about the problems surrounding TFA; elevate the voices of students and TFA alumni whose stories are often overshadowed by TFA’s message; put pressure on TFA as an organization to change its ways; and, through this, resist the broader neoliberal movement in education. What started as a nonprofit dedicated to solving teacher shortages has become a highly political organization that threatens to perpetuate inequalities in low-income communities both through its teaching model and its connection to the corporate education reform movement. SUPE chapters and other college students across the country will be leafletting, holding teach-ins and panels and raising critical questions and consciousness about TFA to college students and campus communities.

—Students United for Public Education

5. In Bridgeport, Students Trump Machine Democrats

In the September 10 Democratic primary, challengers Howard Gardner, Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker, Jr., overwhelmingly defeated the slate of party-endorsed candidates for the Board of Education. The challengers’ message was simple: they will answer to the community, not the Democratic machine run by the mayor and corporate-friendly superintendent Paul Vallas; support policies that encourage parent and student involvement; and spend Bridgeport tax dollars on children and public schools. As a high school senior, I worked with teachers, parents and community leaders throughout the city and state to build neighborhood power by talking with people about why a change on the board would strengthen local control. As those most affected by the board’s decisions, students will continue organizing for an accountable board come November’s general election.

—Diamond Allen

6. In Milwaukee, Thousands March for Public Education

On September 21, forty students from Wisconsin’s Youth Empowered in the Struggle, the youth arm of immigrant rights organization Voces de la Frontera, joined a 2,000-strong, three-mile march across Milwaukee under the banner, “Public Education is a Civil Right.” YES spoke on the importance of bilingual education, free and public education and teachers’ right to bargain collectively. This action built on increasing grassroots momentum against the attacks on public education. On September 12, students, teachers and allies gathered at the Milwaukee school board to fight the attempts of St. Marcus, a local pro-voucher institution, to purchase Malcolm X, a Milwaukee public school. On September 17, a crowd gathered outside the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce to speak out against the company’s push for a state law that would restructure dozens of public schools and put them in the hands of a privatized district. At the Milwaukee Student Power Summit on November 2, students will plan further organizing for educational justice.

—Valeria Cerda

7. At Occidental, the Fight Against Sexual Assault Rages On

Despite the silencing of survivors who filed suit this summer, the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition continues its fight to promote just and equitable policies for survivors of sexual assault at Occidental College. During the 2013 spring semester, OSAC organized protests and sleep-ins to raise awareness and demonstrate student and faculty commitment to a safer campus. In light of the administration’s continued mishandling of sexual assault cases under President Jonathan Veitch, OSAC filed Clery Act and Title IX complaints in April; the school is currently under investigation by the federal government. To date, the administration has made only superficial progress on OSAC’s 12 Demands for a safer campus. OSAC maintains that rape and sexual assault cases continue to be handled illegally. With strong faculty support, OSAC and other student groups will continue to push for an improved campus climate on all fronts this school year.

—Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition

8. Insomnia Cookies Hit the Light

On August 18, workers at the Insomnia Cookies in Harvard Square went on strike—and four were fired. They were responding to poor working conditions: drivers delivering cookies on their bikes often made less than minimum wage, and bakers in the store weren’t always allowed their legally mandated break time. As college students are Insomnia’s target market, Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement is marching on picket lines and coordinating a student boycott of Insomnia until the company agrees to higher wages, healthcare, better job stability and the freedom to build a union. SLAM is also reaching out to students at other colleges near Insomnia stores to organize solidarity actions.

—Student Labor Action Movement

9. Deferred Action Double Jeopardy

The Arizona Dream Act Coalition has been helping DREAMers apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, so education becomes more accessible. As we continue to educate the community by reaching out to high schools and public officials, the Maricopa County Community College District has received backlash for granting DACA recipients in-state tuition. In June, in an effort to overturn the district’s decision, Maricopa County Attorney General Tom Horne went as far as filing a lawsuit against the community colleges. Meanwhile, this semester is the first for many DREAMers since receiving DACA. On September 24, ADAC gathered at the MCCCD board meeting to thank board members for their support. Following the meeting, we are working to strengthen awareness in support of tuition equality.

—Jhannyn Rivera

10. When Will the CUNY 6 Be Freed?

(Video: RT America)

—Ad-Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY

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