Beyond Sanctuary Schools. Más Allá De Las Escuelas Santuarios.

Sigue abajo para leerlo en español

Mirella Rangel grew up in the Bay Area and in Mexico and began doing community organizing for educational justice while studying biology at the University of California at Berkeley. She is an Oaklander and Xicana mother working for a more just, loving, and sustainable world. Follow her on Twitter: @mirella_rangel.

I’ve worked in Oakland schools for 19 years as an educator, administrator, and organizer. During that time I have met hundreds of relentless family leaders. I have learned from the Jingletown families who didn’t ask for permission, and instead demanded decision-makers hear their demands, and the persistent families who launched the Small Schools Movement that started schools like ASCEND, Think College Now, EnCompass, MetWest, and many more.

And more recently families in East and West Oakland who have sounded the alarm about the unacceptable learning conditions at their children’s schools.

Oakland’s families of color are boss. And I am not talking about the regular attendees of school board meetings whose children attend some of the most sought-after schools in OUSD. I am talking about the families whose access to a great school feels largely out of reach.

For those families, especially Oakland’s immigrant community, it has never been so hard to advocate for change at their school.

I write this blog from the perspective of some of the families I have worked with who have given me permission and blessing to share their story.

Organizing to change power relationships is never polite. These families tell stories of being pushed and shoved in school hallways, and yelled at by school staff for their organizing efforts. They took this in stride, and even when they feared for how their children would be treated at the school site, they persisted.

But what made them pause was when they had school staff threaten to call ICE on them. I don’t mean a casual comment in passing, I mean letters sent home telling families that ICE would be contacted should they continue their organizing efforts. Steps were taken to address the issue with this individual, but the fear lingered.

Recently, I met with a few of these leaders to discuss local and national education issues. In that meeting, one leader told me that in reflecting on her organizing efforts from previous years. She shared that she and the other families would have NEVER organized at the school site if Trump had been president. The risks now are too great.

My heart sank. Second guessing your every move is a daily reality for immigrant families leaving under the threat of deportation, but now under the new regime, mothers who would stop at nothing to advocate for their kids feel silenced. These are the families whose voices need to be heard and it is a loss to our schools and community. Recent reporting across the country reflect that immigrants are changing their relationship to social services and opting to stay out of institutions that are perceived to increase risk of deportation.

I applaud OUSD’s declaration of being a Sanctuary District and the charter schools who have followed suit. And I was glad to see Superintendent Dr. Trammell’s op-ed on July 17th reiterating that OUSD does not ask for proof of immigration status and sharing resources for the Oakland Immigration Project.

Oakland is doing groundbreaking work here, but it is not enough. If those who are closest to the pain are to demand and identify solutions, we must do better as a city to ensure that families can live, work, play and organize, without the fear—even if we disagree with them.

What are we doing to make sure all employees see themselves working in solidarity of immigrant families and those under attack? In addition to striving to provide excellent education for all students, we need all staff in all schools, district and charter, to commit to making schools welcoming environments for students and families regardless of their citizenship status, race, gender and ability.

 


En Espanol

He trabajado en las escuelas de Oakland por 19 años como educadora, administradora y organizadora. Durante ese tiempo, he conocido a cienes de líderes familiares implacables. He aprendido de las familias de Jingletown que no pidieron permiso, y en cambio exigieron a los que toman decisiones escuchar sus demandas, y las familias persistentes que lanzaron el Movimiento de Escuelas Pequeñas que comenzaron escuelas como ASCEND, Think College Now, EnCompass, MetWest y muchas más.

Y más recientemente familias en East y West Oakland que han sonado la alarma acerca de las inaceptables condiciones de aprendizaje en las escuelas de sus estudiantes. Los que mandan son las familias de color.  Y no estoy hablando de que asisten las reuniones de la junta escolar con frecuencia cuyos estudiantes asisten a algunas de las escuelas más solicitadas en OUSD. Estoy hablando de las familias cuyo acceso a una buena escuela se siente fuera de su alcance.

Para esas familias, especialmente la comunidad de inmigrantes de Oakland, nunca ha sido tan difícil abogar por el cambio en su escuela.

Escribo este blog desde la perspectiva de algunas de las familias con las que he trabajado y que me han dado el permiso y la bendición para compartir su historia.

Organizar para cambiar las relaciones de poder nunca es amistoso. Estas familias cuentan historias de ser empujadas en los pasillos de la escuela, y gritadas por el personal de la escuela por sus esfuerzos de organización. Ellos tomaron esto como campeonas, e incluso cuando temieron por cómo sus estudiantes serían tratados en la escuela, persistieron.

Pero lo que los hizo detenerse fue cuando el personal de la escuela amenazó con llamar ICE a ellos. No me refiero a un comentario casual al pasar, me refiero a las cartas enviadas a casa diciendo a las familias que ICE sería contactado si continúan sus esfuerzos de organización. Hubo respuesta de la escuela acerca esa persona pero el miedo se sintió por mucho tiempo.

Recientemente, me reuní con algunos de estos líderes para discutir temas de educación locales y nacionales. En esa reunión, un líder me dijo que al reflexionar sobre sus esfuerzos de organizar compartió que ella y las otras familias NUNCA habrían organizado en la escuela si Trump hubiera sido presidente. Los riesgos ahora son demasiado grandes.

Mi corazón se hundió. Las vidas diarias de los inmigrantes consiste en calcular los riesgos cada dia y ahora con Trump de presidente estas madres que pararian a nada para mejorar la escuela de sus estudiantes se sentían silenciadas. Estas son las familias cuyas voces necesitan ser escuchadas. Es una pérdida para nuestras escuelas y comunidad. Se ha reportado que en todo el país los inmigrantes están cambiando su relación con los servicios sociales y optan por mantenerse fuera de las instituciones que se perciben aumentar el riesgo de deportación.

Aplaudo la declaración de OUSD de ser un Distrito del Santuario y las escuelas charter que han seguido el ejemplo. Y me alegró ver el Op. Ed. Del Superintendente Dr. Trammell el 17 de julio reiterando que OUSD no pide pruebas de estatus migratorio y compartiendo recursos para el Proyecto de Inmigración de Oakland. Oakland está haciendo un trabajo innovador, pero no es suficiente. Si aquellos que están más cerca del dolor son para exigir e identificar soluciones, debemos hacerlo mejor como una ciudad para asegurar que las familias puedan vivir, trabajar, jugar y abogar sin miedo aunque no estamos de acuerdo con ellos.

¿Qué hacemos para asegurarnos de que todos los empleados se trabajen en solidaridad con las familias de inmigrantes y los que están siendo atacados? Además de esforzarnos por proporcionar una excelente educación para todos los estudiantes, necesitamos que todo el personal en todas las escuelas, distritos y fundaciones, se comprometan a hacer que las escuelas sean acogedoras para los estudiantes y familias sin importar su estatus de ciudadanía, raza, género y habilidad.

 

Mirella Rangel creció en el Área de la Bahía y en México y comenzó a organizar para la justicia educativa mientras estudiaba Biología en la Universidad de California en Berkeley. Es una madre, Oaklandista, Xicana y organizadora que trabaja para un mundo más justo, sostenible, y fundado enamor. Síguela en Twitter @mirella_rangel

Here’s the Test for Charter Schools Under DeVos and Trump

As school choice advocate Betsy Devos assumes the role of secretary of education, charter school camps have formed for and against her. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools supported her, while the coalition of independent charter schools in New York City (representing over 100 schools) opposed her. And in California, while school leaders have almost universally opposed her, the state’s charter school association is sending somewhat mixed messages.

This should not be a surprise. As I’ve said before, there is no unified charter movement. There are simply many different actors who see charter schools and the autonomy they promise as a means to an end. In the big charter tent you have liberals, conservatives, and everything in between. But as I will argue, the sector still has some interests, and this nomination offers immense risk and potential opportunity.

Support for Choice in the Community

Any credible poll will show that Black, Brown, and low income families support charter schools. Many communities of color also have long histories of alternative and private schooling in the face of segregated, subpar or no public options. And a likely increase in support for charter schools and school choice from the federal government through Betsy DeVos might help free underserved communities from sometimes weak neighborhood options.

Charter schools can be our FUBU schools (FUBU stands for “For Us, By Us”—a hip hop brand from the 90s), empowering communities to control local schools and deliver high quality, culturally responsive programs to our children. It’s not that simple, and it is incredibly hard work, but many of us have been frustrated by the lack of responsiveness of the traditional public schools and wanted to do something different. Given the devil and the deep blue sea—we jumped.

Choosers and Losers

School choice is not a panacea. Choice by itself doesn’t necessarily improve quality or equity and may make things worse. There are choosers and “losers”—those who don’t choose. And the schools themselves may also start to pick and choose students, sometimes taking the “easy” ones and passing the more challenging kids on.

The federal government has a crucial role in setting some basic ground rules for equity and enforcing them. And because I don’t think we can trust local jurisdictions, those rules need to bend toward justice. Things like charter school admissions, charter authorizer behavior, as well as rules of the game in serving students with special needs or treating “minorities” with equal concern and respect. All of this can be influenced by federal spending and rulemaking.

And the secretary of education needs to be the secretary of all schools, given the reality that 47 of the roughly 55 million students in the U.S. go to traditional public schools, with 3 million in charters and over 5 million in private schools. Nothing D.C. does will change those ratios significantly. So the focus needs to be on that largest sector, and remembering the intent that charters would act as laboratories to feed practices into the traditional schools.

Evaluating the Secretary’s Reign-Quality, Equity, and Transparency

If, under this new administration, those of us who support charter schools sell our principles or forget who our master is, that stain will outlast any education secretary.

A rush to create more schools for more schools’ sake is an unwise one. Charters promise a set of academic and non-academic outcomes, and accountability is essential. Just opening the floodgates to more schools will likely reduce quality. And it won’t help families. (That seems to be the Detroit story, from my admittedly limited knowledge.)

Equity has to be at the forefront of accountability, for the sector to be credible and ethical. Charter schools have had some historical challenges in serving all students. This is a critique that hits some times and misses at others, but is equally applicable to the traditional public zoned schools or gifted-and-talented programs and specialized high schools. Authorizers and the public need to look hard at who is being served and who isn’t and why, with consequences for offenders.

Charter schools are public schools and need to be transparent with the public’s money and authority. I get that not all charters act like public schools, but they are and they should. And to build and maintain public confidence, we need to be transparent, and allow for public analysis.

The Charter School Final Exam

A school cannot serve two masters, to butcher a phrase. In this new administration, the charter sector faces new challenges and opportunities. But the real question that each school must answer is, “who is our master?”

In a time when many Black and Brown children and families are anxious, and immigration raids at schools are a real possibility, many schools and districts nationwide are declaring themselves “sanctuaries” that will defy the feds and won’t cooperate with ICE.

If that master comes calling, will the charters pick up the phone, or barricade the doors?

Charter schools were here before DeVos and will be here after her. The communities that charters draw their lifeblood from are here even longer, and communities have long memories. Charters sometimes are accused of not being of the community. If they want to assure their roots in the community, they need to pass this final test, and answer resolutely as to who their master is, lest short term gain turn to long term ruin.

 
This piece is adapted from one that ran in the Amsterdam News as Betsy DeVos’ Charter School Test on February 9, 2017.