This week’s racist mudslinging from congressional Republicans toward Ketanji Brown Jackson is just the latest chapter in the party’s strategy to fire up its voters for November’s midterm elections.
Their battle cry continues to be “critical race theory,” or “CRT,” a catch-all for attempts by public schools and other institutions to raise awareness about systemic racism or address racial injustice.
Since the start of 2021, 41 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching “critical race theory” or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism. Groups of mostly white and conservative parents have popped up from Washington State to Florida to pack school board meetings, library meetings, and council hearings. (Though, many of the groups appear to be funded by corporate executives and wealthy Republican donors.)
Lost in all the noise about what (again, mostly white and conservative) parents supposedly want and don’t want taught to their children is the story of a truly grassroots movement. A movement of parents, students, and teachers coming together to transform not only what their public school teaches but how it meets their needs.
Like in Gibsonton, Florida, where the elementary school organized an effort to have the local government install new streetlights near campus after learning from parents that many students felt unsafe walking to school in the dark. Attendance immediately increased—which, along with other factors, helped improve test scores.
Like in Los Angeles, where the school district is developing a culturally responsive curriculum as part of its Black student achievement plan. The plan was funded after a multiracial coalition of parents, teachers, and students demanded more resources for the city’s public schools.
Like in San Francisco, where, every night, Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School converts its gym into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, the first public elementary school in the nation to do so.
Like in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where Hot Springs High School was able to re-engage nearly 80 students who had stopped showing up to online or hybrid learning during last school year, boosting attendance and graduation rates.
Hot Springs High’s principal and staff called, texted, and emailed every family and then began going door-to-door. The message to families, a consultant at the school told journalist Jeff Bryant, was: “We know this is hard. What are your problems? How can we help?”
We can call this a “movement” because what all these schools have in common is an innovative—yet simple and commonsensical—approach to public schooling. These schools are “community schools,” in that they actively seek out input from parents and the broader community.
Community schools aim to fulfill educational, social, emotional, and material needs with solutions guided by the community with those needs. They understand that students (and their families) need resources and support to show up to the classroom ready to learn.
Groups like Moms for Liberty (which has received substantial funding from GOP-funded PACs) claim to “understand what moms really want.” The growing community school movement is showing that they don’t.
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages.