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New effort will build community-driven school reform

To advance a community- and educator-driven agenda for public school reform, AFT president Randi Weingarten and leaders of parent and community groups announced a series of town hall meetings, teach-ins, workshops and other events in cities and towns across the nation. The Sept. 21 announcement follows collective action by parents, teachers and community groups in Chicago to win the tools and conditions needed to help all kids succeed.

These efforts, which will take place in Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Paul, Tampa and elsewhere, will empower teachers, parents, students and community members to act collectively to drive public school reform. These voices, which have not always been heard in the education debate, are critical to providing every child with the high-quality public education they deserve.

"Real public education reform comes from the bottom up, with teachers, parents and communities working together to help all children thrive," Weingarten said. "That's community-driven reform. And that's how we can make every school a school where parents want to send their kids and teachers want to teach."

In too many districts, teachers and parents have been shut out of the debate over how to transform public schools in favor of top-down reforms that focus on testing and accountability instead of teaching and learning, and on closing down instead of fixing neighborhood schools. And harmful budget cuts have taken teachers out of the classroom, increased class sizes, and slashed art, music, physical education, libraries and other critical subjects and services that help children learn and grow.

"We cannot have true education reform without the voices of students, parents, teachers and the community," said Ocynthia Williams, parent leader and secretary of the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice. "It's time to face up to the failures of the top-down, corporate-driven reform agenda."

Community partners present at the announcement in Washington, D.C., included Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens; Richard Gray, director of national programs for the Community Organizing and Engagement Group of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform; Dawn Hawkins, parent leader, Action United; and Melissa Erickson, parent leader, Hillsborough (Fla.) Alliance for Public Schools.

The groups also released a vision statement to guide community-driven reform efforts.  [AFT press release]

September 21, 2012