PTA Spending Disparities and Police Accountability

Hi Friends!
For those who celebrate, Happy Halloween. I usually remind everyone sooner than this, but please be aware of avoiding cultural appropriation when it comes to costumes. Megyn Kelly’s recent disastrous comments are a tiny piece of how important this is.
The County PTA’s meeting this month included a discussion of appropriate PTA spending and a reminder of PTA spending inequities. For your reference, In 17/18 FY, elementary schools in the County raise between $20,000 and $190,000 each year. Analyzed on a per student basis, Elementary School PTA spending ranges between $42 and $304 per student. I have mentioned this before, but of the nine Title I schools in the county, eight of those are located south of Route 50. The County PTA is working on creating a flyer to improve awareness of these inequities and we’re also working to educate PTAs about appropriate spending and encouraging contributions to the grant fund, which is one way we’re trying to address these inequities.
Please notice that recent terrible events are highlighting the way the police treat people suspected of committing a crime, even a horrifically violent one — in general, white suspects are brought in alive and without violence, while POC (threatening or not, having committed a crime or not) experience police reacting with “fear for their lives,” often with deadly force. Look at the Charleston church shooting, the pipe bomb maker, and the Pittsburgh shooting for recent examples. Police have to be held accountable, or this double standard will just continue. Shaun King advocates changing the prosecutors in our country to address this — 95% of whom are white and the majority of whom are elected. Those races matter as much as the higher profile ones.
If you haven’t had a chance to comment on the potential changes to the Public Charge Rule, there’s a really helpful form you can fill out (and some useful suggestions) here.
The County recently made progress on improving affordable housing options. The County Board also approved a swimming pool in Nauck. If you aren’t aware of the racism behind swimming pools in America, check out this article.
IntegratedSchools shared an article highlighting how school choices for families of color are more fraught and stated specifically: “…we must be cognizant of the different realities facing parents of color. We talk a lot about why Integrated Schools is largely a white &/or privileged parents group; in part this is specifically because he work of disrupting school segregation can not be on the backs of families of color. Period.”
Upcoming Events:
(1) SURJ-DC is having an orientation/welcome session on Saturday, November 3 from 1–3 pm.
(2) VOICE is doing a nonpartisan Get Out The Vote in part of the 10th District (Manassas and Sterling) on November 3–6 with a half hour training beforehand.
(3) VOTE VOTE VOTE November 6. If you need any help deciding who deserves your vote, the ACLU has a great tool that will tell you how candidates measure up on a bunch of different issues.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Staying on Top of Things

Hi Friends!
A couple of our group members have mentioned development along Lee Highway recently and I haven’t been following that very closely until now. There’s a Lee Highway Alliance and you can subscribe to their Google group for updates. Can one of our more knowledgeable members give the group a snapshot of what is happening and what antiracist affordable housing advocates would like to see happen? If someone in this group is interested, how can we advocate for those goals?
There’s a second elementary school boundary proposal out, and the school district is again seeking feedback. I watched part of the October 17 “What We Heard” Community Meeting and it was quite heated at times. Deadline this time is October 29.
Challenging Racism is holding a reception fundraiser on November 16 from 7–9 pm, which will include the Vice Chairman of the County Board as a special guest. Tickets are available. If you need help getting connected, let me know and I’ll try to help.
There was an interesting story in the New York Times about Charlottesville and an in-depth look at its segregated schools and the context around them.
There was an article in Black Enterprise about Pfizer’s VP of Corporate Affairs, Karen Boykin-Towns, who has been working on African-American healthcare equity issues.
The Administration is trying to sneak this one under the radar and it has huge implications for all immigrants — a change to the “public charge” law that would make receiving certain types of public benefits. Public comment is open until December 10.
K.A. Dilday wrote a very interesting piece about why she doesn’t support the effort to integrate New York’s specialized high schools and it’s worth a read.
The Administration is attempting to restrict the definition of gender, which will have huge implications for inclusion, equality/equity, and basic rights and safety of anyone who doesn’t conform to male or female.
For an uplifting example of people taking care of each other (and white people using their privilege for good), there was an article in the Washington Post about a family who started taking care of their son’s friends and who now run a nonprofit helping DC kids transition to adulthood.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Change Takes Time

Hi Friends!
I don’t often use this group email as a soapbox for myself, but I’d like to start with a morale check-in, since I’m sure I’m not the only one sometimes overwhelmed by the pace of things (elementary school boundaries, for one), and it’s hard to remember that the changes we seek are part of a slow process. There is no immediate fix. No single change will make everything better. These are long-lived, complicated issues, and it will take time and patience and persistence to make a difference.
I think the bottom line is that the School Board won’t do anything radical without a groundswell of support from parents. The kind of upheaval that intentional integration would have will make many parents upset and needs to have grassroots support. That’s what our group can make happen, by encouraging people to speak up, empowering those who feel the way we do, encouraging others to join us, showing that we are a coalition with accountability and diverse perspectives and views, and the willingness to make choices in our own families that express our values. The more people who speak up on this goal, the more likely it will be politically possible to act on.
Which is also why the county-wide approach I mentioned last week makes sense — it refuses to pit planning units and schools and neighborhoods against each other — it focuses on giving families equal access to information and opportunity for their children to succeed, to support the right for each family to make the best choices they can for their children when it comes to what kind of school environment and support they need. I think everyone can get behind that. And then, we work to make sure that families with less privilege, less mobility, less wealth, have the same access to quality education no matter where they live in our community, no matter who they know, no matter what language they speak, no matter what their income might be.
The boundary process is happening fast and while I definitely want our voices to be raised each time we have the opportunity, we also need to take the long view about change. This boundary process is not going to fix segregation in our County. I would love for improvements to happen, and they might, but it’s not going to solve the problem. That’s going to take longer. It’s going to take conversations over time, changing the culture in our County so more people consider the common good more often and more people are informed about the realities facing many of our families. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep showing that there is growing support for equity measures, even when those measures require some sacrifice (or perceived sacrifice) to improve things for all of our students.
*stepping off my soapbox*
I found out a little more about how the County schools calendar can be changed (regarding Columbus Day). School Board policy would need to identify that day differently from the federal government holiday list. I’ll try to find out more about what a change like that would require. I don’t know what it will take to get some traction at the County level, but if anyone knows or wants to find out, let me know!
We’ll plan to do the movie screening of “The Uncomfortable Truth” after Election Day. I’ll keep you posted about our plans for that.
One of our group members let me know about a workshop series called “None of us is free until all of us are free” by Jews United for Justice (JUFJ). The first one is October 25 and the details are here.
I sent out an email to all PTA Presidents last week from the County PTA about our grant fund and setting up meetings with each PTA Executive Board to learn about each school’s resources and needs. I haven’t received many responses yet, so if you’re involved in your school’s PTA, please feel free to ask about participation in these meetings (and in donating/applying to the grant fund — the fall application deadline is November 26). I’ll also be presenting about this at our October 22 County PTA meeting.
VOICE has been sending out issue briefs that are a wonderful snapshot of talking points and context around race-related issues ahead of their event on Sunday, and are great reference documents if you’re unsure about the specific issues. Go here to see them (as of right now, Criminal Justice (Cash Bail) and Schools are posted, more will be posted soon).
Significant voter suppression efforts are taking place (Georgia in particular has been in the news). The NAACP, among others, is working very hard to get out the vote next month.
I leave you with an article by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. in Time, a beautifully written and insightful piece that ends with “Forward movement is halting, inhibited, interrupted. Our history, if we’re honest, suggests we will fail. No matter. We go on — together.”
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

So Many Folks Doing Good Work

Hi Friends!
If you have any doubt about why disparities in our county matter, check out the ArlNow article and the tool it used, called “Opportunity Atlas.” Interestingly, this is focuses on low-income rather than race, but as we know, the two are intrinsically linked. Thanks to several of you who told me about this article.
If any of you have been to events relevant to this group, I’d love for you to share your thoughts and observations with the group (or through me). I’m certainly not able to go to everything or read/listen to everything, so feel free to share with the group anytime.
Here are some upcoming events:
(1) VOICE is hosting Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring at its Assembly event on Sunday, October 21 from 4–6 pm in Fairfax.
(2) Destination 2027 and the Community Progress Network (CPN) are co-hosting an event on November 1 from 5:30–8:30 pm at Wakefield High School called: My Health. My Voice. A Community Conversation About Being Healthy in Arlington — the main goal is to hear from low-income Arlington residents. I’m sharing it with all of you because they need volunteers to help with set up, serve dinner, clean up, and help with other tasks. If you’re interested, please let me know.
(3) Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr. will be speaking at the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington on October 23 at 7:00 pm about his book “Bridge Builders of Nauck/Green Valley: Past and Present.”
I spoke at last week’s School Board meeting (let me know if you want to see it). My focus lately has been very much on the County as a whole and on the idea that student success should not be dependent on the volume of parents advocating on their behalf (and I mean volume in both senses).
I’ve been finding a huge number of resources lately that I’d like to share (sorry, this is a bit of a fire hose):
(1) The Office of Equity & Excellence at APS has started Black Parent Alliance Meetings. I’m hoping this means an improvement in listening, amplifying, and following their voices for progress in our schools.
(2) The ACLU put out a very helpful tool related to voting along the lines of criminal justice reform and they created a tool so you can see how the candidates measure up. Just put in a zip code to see the results.
(3) The National League of Cities has a Race, Equity, and Leadership (REAL) initiative, which includes a helpful powerpoint presentation (PDF) that one of our members forwarded to me.
(4) DC Reinvest is working with neighborhoods to divest from Wells Fargo (something our local chapter of NAACP is working on doing as well) and might provide a model if community members want to push for this in our community (if it hasn’t already divested).
(5) Brooklyn is changing its middle-school admissions policies into a lottery for which schools must set aside a certain number of seats for low-income students. This could be a great model for choosing integration.
(6) A group member led me to the Zinn Education Project, which led me to rethinking schools and Teaching for Change. These organizations give me hope for improving education content. If any of you are interested in instructional content, please consider being the Advisory Council on Instruction rep for your school.
I’ll leave you with yesterday’s oped by Petula Dvorak.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Identifying Whiteness and Speaking Up For All Students

Hi Friends!
The news has been overwhelming (still/again) — I hope you can take the time for self-care and news breaks so you can still focus on the good work that needs to be done.
IntegratedSchools has been hard at work, running a book club and creating a new Parent-to-Parent Program for experienced families to support families considering integration. Find out more here.
A story in the Washington Post recently highlighted the dangers of the proposed changes to the public charge law.
On a whim, I contacted the school district and the County about changing the County/Schools calendar to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, as many jurisdictions have already done. If you feel like adding your voice, please feel free to do so. Here’s an article with some background and history.
I saw an amazingly perfect image circulating on social media that reads: “White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard; it means that your skin color isn’t one of the things making it harder.”
Fall might actually be here! If you’re planning on taking any fall-related excursions, consider Cox Farms. If you’re not already familiar, Cox Farms is a wonderful family-run business that also has a very strong social justice streak, including most recently inviting the Challenging Racism team to participate in their employee training process last month. Here’s an example of some of their values.
I heard from a neighbor about a local non-profit called The Clothesline, which provides clothing for school aged kids free twice a year. They’re always looking for donations!
Ibram X. Kendi is speaking at George Mason’s Fall for the Book Festival on October 11 at 3 pm on “Understanding Racism in America.” For more information, go here. He’s also working on a new book due out next year!
An IntegratedSchools update includes a story about Austin, TX, which is segregated east/west and which has a strong parent contingent pushing for integration via rezoning, investments in east side schools, and embracing integration as a value. Families there are motivated to the point of asking for school board members’ resignations and suggesting that a lawsuit might follow if the quality of education is not made equal for all students. Read more here and there are other encouraging stories about integration efforts elsewhere in the country.
Robin DiAngelo wrote a great piece for NBC News about racial illiteracy for whites and how that perpetuates a white supremacist system. Whiteness must be named. Try changing the way you speak about people, especially to your children, even if it’s just in the books you read. For example, in Brown Bear Brown Bear, all of the colors and the animals are named, except the teacher — she’s just a teacher, even though she has white skin. Try “White teacher, white teacher, what do you see?” instead — notice how weird that is? Notice how much that could change everything?
Many of you have probably heard the news about the County Manager’s report of a significant budget shortfall this coming year, making next year harder than this year. Of course, this will also affect the schools, and the Superintendent is projecting a $43 million deficit this coming year, more than was projected. We’re going to need to raise our voices, support higher taxes (for example), and really push our community to find long-term solutions to our growth rather than picking away each year at essential services.
The Elementary School Boundaries process is going to be heavy this fall. I wasn’t able to attend or watch live the meeting last week (the power was out!). The latest information is posted and your input is needed before October 9. Please look carefully at the School Level Data Table to see how the F/R lunch population is being shifted (or not) and to which schools (if you really love data, check out the Planning Unit Level Data). Please speak up to support integration as much as possible while balancing what is best for the county as a whole. Note that some of the schools are significantly reducing their low-income population while other schools are staying the same or increasing that population. How can we find a balance? The School Board and school district are going to hear a lot from families concerned about their individual planning units — I’m encouraging all of us to try to take a county-wide approach and an equity approach for all students when we provide feedback.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.