School Diversity Report, Proposed Budget, and Voting Rights

Hi Friends!
Spring may actually be here! This update includes some opportunities to speak up at the School Board coming up related to the Diversity Report and the proposed budget. I have a couple of questions for parents. And, of course, more resources to encourage you to keep working on learning about our country’s white supremacist, systemically racist system and our roles in it.
School District Updates:
(1) The Diversity Report was posted in relation to this Thursday’s School Board meeting. Please read through it to see what was recommended in order for the school district to improve its handling of diversity and inclusion. If you want to speak about this at the School Board meeting, it’s agenda item E-1. I’m feeling disappointed in the recommendations — I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m also concerned about the list of people who were interviewed for the study (which included me) because it doesn’t seem like a list representative of our community.
(2) The Superintendent’s Proposed Budget has been discussed some last week . An outline of the cuts is on pages 57–60, organized into three tiers. I’ve been hearing that it’s very likely Tier I and Tier II are both likely to happen. I did a word search for “equity” and another for “PTA” and found some troubling indications.
—The equity search revealed Tier II cuts of Equity and Excellence staff at the high schools and the position in the Department of Teaching and Learning. No additional Equity staff are being added to offset this cut. (pages 66–67, 88, 112)
— The PTA search revealed that APS considers it adequate to rely on PTAs to pick up the costs of cutting discretionary field trips (including the elementary swim program, planetarium, etc.) and transportation to sports practices and games. (pages 93, 118, 122)
—There will be opportunities for the public to speak about the proposed budget.
— A group member put together some budget analysis documents, looking at the ways in which special needs, economically disadvantaged, and ESOL/HILT students are particularly affected by the proposed cuts. Overall, the analysis shows that schools with low SOL scores are losing resources.
Some quick items for parents:
(1) If any of you are currently choosing a school for your rising Kindergartner and you have questions about how it all works, I’m happy to chat with you. It can be difficult to navigate the varied opinions you’re hearing, particularly if you’re hoping to make a choice in line with your family’s values around equity.
(2) I’m planning to put together a large group event around talking to kids about race. If you’re interested, will you let me know if you have specific questions or topics you would like to see covered? I’ll keep the group posted once that’s scheduled.
(1) Regarding voting rights and judicial nominees. If you want to read the US Commission on Civil Rights Report, you can find it here. From the Executive Summary: “While voter turnout is an imperfect indicator of voter discrimination, data indicate that minority voter turnout still lags behind white voter turnout. Moreover, voter turnout among non-black minority groups lags significantly behind white voter turnout. Similarly, minority voter registration lags behind white voter registration, especially among non-black minority groups. Compared to white voters, data show that minority citizens are more likely to say that their reason for not registering to vote is due to registration requirements or difficulties, as opposed to disinterest in the political process.” If you’re interested in helping the NAACP register voters and improve turnout, you can volunteer here.
(2) From a group member — Moving from Ally to Accomplice
(3) SURJ NoVa is holding a reading group on Feminist Accountability on March 22.
(4) I have linked to the Annie E Casey Foundation before, but a group member shared their Race, Equity and Inclusion Action Guide.
Keep working!
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Training, Dr. Seuss, and School Board Updates

Hi Friends!
Feel free to share these posts with anyone outside of our area or who is interested in the group and wants to know more about it before joining or anyone unable to join.
This has been a week of productive meetings and overwhelming to-do lists. I have had to remind myself, more than once, that progress does not solely rest on my shoulders, that many of our community members are also working hard on these issues, and that I’m not helping the greater good if I’m not taking care of myself. So. A friendly reminder to all of you about self-care and finding a balance — to do the work every day and to take care of yourself while doing it.
The next Racial Justice Allyship Workshop was moved to March 23 (I’m going to be there!):
Service Never Sleeps (SNS), a local non-profit organization that empowers communities through service and allyship, is offering their Allyship training for the community. Hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (UUCA), this workshop will teach you about the causes of racial injustice, how to be an effective ally for marginalized communities, and how to actively influence and educate others. This is not just “another racial justice workshop.” Most people walk out of this workshop saying it was the most impactful racial justice workshop they’ve ever taken in terms of how it helps them reflect on their own implicit bias while also providing actionable steps for how to act with friends, family, or strangers when they witness racism. Sign up here.
I grew up absorbing the definition of racism as “Anything that discriminates against someone because of their race.” Unfortunately, this is an oversimplified definition because it doesn’t apply to whites. For example, making a group only for a marginalized group (like an affinity group or “safe” spaces for POC) is NOT racist against other groups. Making a group only for white people is racist because whites hold disproportionate power over all other groups. Please read this for an illustrative example.
There are SO MANY opportunities to speak up. Pick one and dig in:
(1) Opinion piece in The Washington Post by Jan Miles about why the Green Book is still needed.
(2) “There’s No Such Thing As A Dangerous Neighborhood” from CityLab.
(3) VACOLAO shared its current legislative agenda related to anti-immigrant bills and pro-immigration bills.
(4) An encouraging article in the Washington Post. Our group is part of this. Keep the work going!
(5) From a group member regarding Dr. Seuss — “…the National Education Association (NEA) started Read Across America two decades ago to encourage reading. At the time, they chose March 2nd as the day because it’s Dr. Suess’ birthday. Last year NEA started a new campaign to encourage schools to read diverse and inclusive titles instead of focusing on Dr. Suess because of news coming out about Dr. Suess and racism. Unfortunately, schools are not really changing their Dr. Seuss focus. I’m sure some rationalize it as “that was then.” However, two reports have come out this year that really thoroughly investigate his books and his personal beliefs.” Here are the links: blog post, which also includes a wonderful list of resources at the end about the importance of diverse books for all children and the academic report. This is a big opportunity for advocacy at your child’s school and at the County level — I’ll let you know when I have a more specific person to direct feedback to.
(6) The Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU is a great resource for current events with a global perspective —
(7) Another example of systemic racism is found in civil asset forfeiture by police, which the SPLC has researched heavily.
(8) If you’re curious how your investments can be a part of social justice efforts, check out the NAACP ETF with Impact Shares. Where you put your money matters.
School District Updates:
(1) School District Budget Proposal — several group members have called attention to various inequitable issues with the proposed cuts. Please feel free to share your observations with the group. There’s a public hearing March 28, but I suggest that any advocacy should happen sooner than that.
(2) The School Board Work Session on Equity, Inclusion, and Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students took place on February 26. I have some questions about how participants in these work sessions are selected. An equity policy was not presented — it was more of a vision statement, so there is significant work to be done. The consultant’s report was also not presented, so I’m hoping that will be made available soon. If you didn’t get a chance to write a letter before the work session, please consider doing so — our input matters, even if it’s just to say that the leadership needs to listen to someone else!
(3) Related to the work session, the Advisory Council on Instruction has 13 subcommittees (made up of departments within Teaching & Learning, including Early Childhood, academic subjects, Gifted Services, and Special Education) and does not currently include a subcommittee on Equity, which is also a department under Teaching & Learning. Why not?
(4) I heard feedback from a parent recently that one of the ways the school district can really improve equity is to listen and consider the experiences of students, particularly students of color. It is worth encouraging school leadership to take student experiences seriously and elevate their voices to have an impact on policy and school culture. Keep this in mind as you advocate. Does anyone in the group connect with student advocates? The middle and high schools would be a great place to start.
(5) Ask the Superintendent (and have the School Board support it) to attend the National Association of School Superintendents Leadership and Advocacy conference in September this year — they’re focusing on educational equity!
Keep working.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.