By Jennifer Doeren
In 2019, the Partnership for Equity & Education Rights (PEER) moved to its new home at Education Law Center, bringing with it campaigns for full and fair school funding in seven states around the country. As the new year begins, PEER partners are deepening their engagement with parent and community organizations, students, teachers, litigators, researchers, and lawmakers to build and strengthen advocacy in their states to ensure public school children have the funding and resources needed for success in school. Below is an update about school funding reform campaigns in the PEER states.
The Legal Aid Justice Center and a coalition of teachers, advocates, organizers and community leaders recently launched the Fund Our Schools campaign to address the significant shortfall in state funding for public schools and demand the Legislature allocate an additional $1.2 billion annually for education. This funding is necessary to comply with new state standards for public schools, remediate Virginia’s teacher shortage, and increase staffing levels for critical positions, such as school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses.
A long-awaited, court-ordered expert report in North Carolina’s Leandro v. State school funding litigation was released in late 2019, and, on January 21, 2020, the court entered a consent order adopting the report’s extensive findings and recommendations. The court also directed the State to present a plan for short-term funding and other improvements by March 23. The North Carolina Justice Center is leading a broad coalition of lawyers, advocates, organizers, families and young people holding community meetings across the state and working to make the report recommendations a reality.
The Chicago-based Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights have convened city advocates to begin work on addressing longstanding inequities in the school-based budgeting formula used by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The advocates are also preparing to map out a strategy to secure adequate funding from the state, which has not provided full funding under its own evidence-based funding formula enacted in 2017; the state acknowledges that CPS schools remain underfunded by about $2 billion.
The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline (Gwinnett SToPP) and Georgia Appleseed recently joined advocates, civil rights groups, lawyers, budget and tax experts, and youth and community organizers to identify shared priorities for school funding reform and prepare to tackle proposed tax and education-related budget cuts by the Georgia Legislature. Both Gwinnett SToPP and Georgia Appleseed continue their ongoing work to advance juvenile justice reform and school-based behavioral health supports, respectively.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP), as counsel for the plaintiffs in the Yazzie v. State of New Mexico school funding litigation, is working to secure State compliance with the 2018 court ruling in Yazzie and the companion Martinez v. State lawsuit, declaring the State’s system of education violated students’ rights to have the opportunity to be college and career ready. In late 2019, NMCLP filed a court motion asserting the State had failed to achieve compliance with the remedial directives issued in the Yazzie and Martinez ruling. The motion is pending before the court. NMCLP is also part of the Transform Education New Mexico (TENM) coalition, composed of education, tribal and community leaders leveraging the Yazzie and Martinez ruling to advocate in the New Mexico Legislature for fundamental reform of the public education system.
482Forward convenes the Michigan Education Justice Coalition, a statewide community-labor coalition. Building on town hall meetings across the state to highlight the $3.7 billion funding gap for Michigan’s public schools, the coalition is now in the process of launching a statewide 2020 ballot initiative to raise a graduated income tax in Michigan to support K-12 schools and infrastructure. The coalition’s long-term goal is reform of the state’s current school funding formula and creation of a weighted student formula.
Unite Oregon (UO) is working with a statewide coalition of advocates and organizers to monitor implementation of the Student Success Act, which is expected to add $1 billion annually to Oregon’s education budget. This effort includes participation on a rules committee to support school districts in developing plans to use this new funding.
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