It’s Raining – Money

It’s still raining in Pennsylvania – campaign money, that it. As the elections have heated up, candidates pushing school privatization efforts such as vouchers have received a windfall from some well-organized and extremely wealthy out-of-state pockets. While we’re mopping up and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, we better take a look at what else has blown into our state, and the consequences we could be dealing with for years to come.

Remember Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children (AFC)? The former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and married to the heir of the Amway fortune, DeVos is the founder and board chair of the AFC, which works across the country to promote her “school choice” agenda. In the run-up to this spring’s primaries, the AFC funneled over $1million into Pennsylvania politics through the Students First PAC. (Last year AFC contributed $120,000 and in 2010 it paid $1.2 Million into Students First PAC.) [PA state campaign finance reports] In the past few weeks alone, the AFC has dumped another $400,000 into the superPAC. [Keystone State Education Coalition, 10-29-12]

A few years ago, Ohio fined DeVos’s group a record $5.2 million for illegally shifting money into that state to support “school choice” candidates. [Associated Press, April 5, 2008] Wisconsin also fined her group for political misconduct. Following these incidents, DeVos simple rebranded her organization as the current American Federation for Children. The AFC also accepts donations from the likes of Charles and David Koch, the ultra-wealthy and ultra-conservative brothers who are well known for their anti-union politics. [The Nation, May 2011; for more on the AFC, see It’s All About the Money, Money, Money”]

Joel Greenberg, who just made the list of Pennsylvania’s top political campaign donors, is on the board of the AFC. He and two of his financial investment partners, Arthur Dantchik and Jeff Yass, founded Students First PAC back in 2010 with $5.2 million they happened to have lying around. [Public Source, PA top political donors report] Now Students First PAC operates as the conduit for AFC campaign contributions. Since September 28th, the superPAC has spent $534,000 on Pennsylvania elections. Where is all that money going?

Far and away the top beneficiary these past few weeks has been Representative Jim Christiana, from right here in Southwest PA. The Republican from Beaver County received a deluge of $100,000 from Students First PAC – twice as much as any other single candidate. The superPAC gave a handful of candidates two donations, but Christiana received no less than five separate checks, totaling about a fifth of all their giving. Why?

It’s certainly not because Rep. Christiana faces any serious political challenge. His opponent hasn’t had a campaign event since August and has just 40 “likes” on his Facebook page. (Honestly, this is the best the Democratic Party could do in what should be an extremely important race? Even the word “Endorsements” is spelled wrong on his website.) [Elect Bob Williams site] So why shower Rep. Christiana with cash?

The answer is pretty obvious. Christiana has become the go-to guy for Governor Corbett’s school privatization legislation. Back in June, he introduced our shiny new Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, a voucher-in-disguise that will divert $200 million in public money to private and religious schools. (See “2-4-6-8 Who Do We Appreciate?”) Christiana hails from Monaca in Beaver County, site of the proposed Dutch Royal Shell cracker plant, which Gov. Corbett intends to hand $1.675 BILLION to do business in Pennsylvania. (See “Can Shell Educate Our Kids?”) Just a few weeks before Christiana brought the EITC bill forward, he received a nice fat check for $25,000 from “Fighting Chance PA,” another new superPAC started by – you guessed it – Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik and Jeff Yass, founders of the Students First PAC.

These guys have also taken notice of a more tightly contested race in our neck of the woods, funding Republican senate candidate Raja who is running against Democrat Matt Smith, currently a representative in the state house. [Keystone State Education Coalition, 10-29-12] Fortunately for public education advocates in the South Hills area, Rep. Smith offers the clear choice: he has met with Yinzercation parents and stands solidly behind adequate and equitable public funding for our public goods.

But we better be asking ourselves just what Philadelphia hedge fund operators are doing, dumping their spare cash in political races over here on the other side of the state. And we have to pay attention to the millions flooding into Pennsylvania from Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children. It’s still raining campaign money, and there will be a lot of storm damage if public-education advocates don’t get out to the polls next week – come hell or high water.

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Evaluating What?

If only they spent this much time worrying about adequately funding our schools. The state Department of Education just released a complicated new formula for evaluating teachers that will take effect next fall. One of the new components is a “building score” that will account for 15% of each teacher’s evaluation. That score includes a variety of measures, including students’ PSSA scores, graduation rates, attendance, and whether or not the school offers Advanced Placement courses. Half of every teacher’s score will be based on direct observation, 20% will come from locally developed factors (approved by the state), and 15% from “correlation data based on teacher level measures.” [Post-Gazette, 10-29-12] Whatever that means.

Do I think teachers ought to be evaluated? Sure. And I’m glad to see the state urging the use of more than just students’ standardized test scores. But there is still cause for concern here, especially with that new building score. The state proposes using a detailed accounting to arrive at that score: 30% based on student test scores, 10% for whether the school is closing the racial achievement gap, 2.5% for third grade reading scores, 5% for promotion rates at K-8 schools … and on and on. The idea is that the quality of a school can be exactly measured with these scores.

The very premise assumes that individual teachers should be held responsible for things largely outside their control. State deputy education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq says this will make education more of a “team sport,” where everyone shares responsibility. But that’s not quite accurate. Other than attendance rates, where is the student accountability for their own education here? Student motivation, completing homework, paying attention in class – these things matter a great deal to learning. And where is family accountability in this equation? Making sure students get to class, supporting their learning at home, and parental engagement are probably the most important factors in student achievement, but they are not being measured here.

Missing entirely from this quantification is a sense of what really matters in education: real student learning (not just learning how to take standardized tests). Well rounded knowledge outside basic reading and math skills. (Where is art, music, science, history?) Character development. Citizenship. The building score misses the point of education. Yet the state intends to make these scores public and then evaluate teachers on them.

Which begs the question, why does the Department of Education plan to exempt charter schools from this teacher evaluation plan? Charters are quite fond of claiming they are public schools, so why shouldn’t building scores apply to them?

I hate the idea of assigning each school what amounts to a grade. But if we’re going to do that, why don’t we turn this into what education historian Diane Ravitch calls “positive accountability”: use those grades to support and improve schools. What if every building that receives the equivalent of a “D” or “F” score immediately receives extra resources from the state and offers of help, instead of effectively undermining the careers of the teachers working in our most struggling schools?

Good teaching matters. It’s just that this is a terribly difficult thing to quantify as the state is trying to do. Especially with standardized tests that were designed to measure a student’s performance, not the teacher’s. All this hyperventilating about teaching effectiveness masks the other giants in the room impacting student learning: massive state budget cuts, the loss of 20,000 Pennsylvania teachers over the past two years, the elimination of tutoring and summer school programs, the erosion of school libraries, slashing of the arts, and serious reduction of early childhood education and Kindergarten.

So do I think teaching evaluation is important? Of course. Are there a few poor teachers in the system? You bet. But when I look around at public education today, teachers do not strike me as the real problem. What if Governor Corbett and his Department of Education spent half that much time worrying about ways to adequately and equitably fund our public schools? What if we evaluate how effective our legislators are in supporting real improvement in public education? Now there’s one score I’d like to see made public.

Libraries (and Librarians) Matter

First the good news: Today is the day to celebrate our Manchester Miracle! Just a few weeks ago, Pittsburgh Manchester preK-8 had only 40 books in the fiction section of its library. Now, because of the incredible response of the networks we have built together through this grassroots public education movement, those bare shelves are teeming with books. And because the local community embraced this effort, the Manchester school library now has completely new paint, carpeting, lighting, furniture, circulation desk, and even student computers. The new space will be unveiled today at a ceremony open to the public at 3PM (1612 Manhattan Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15233).

In addition to the incredible list of volunteers and contributions we’ve already documented (see “The Manchester Miracle” for details), many other folks have recently stepped up to the plate. In consultation with the school’s teachers and students, Perlora interior designer Craig McDonald designed the new library, which will also feature murals donated by illustrator Dave Klug (you have seen his work in Highlights magazine, among other places). Much of the makeover occurred just this past week, courtesy of a group of Sam’s Club executives recruited by Manchester neighbor Kezia Ellison. Ms. Ellison runs an organization called Educating Teens, Inc., which also roped in CORO Pittsburgh’s NEXT Leaders Northside program to launch a new “Manchester Reads” project.

“Manchester Reads” will recruit mentors from the community to read to students at the school. Ellison also plans to use images of local adults reading their favorite books on a series of outdoor posters that kids will see to “drive home the point that people they know and live near them enjoy reading.” They will also have middle school students reading to elementary students, to reinforce skills and serve as role models. And the program will recruit volunteers to assist with library circulation during the week.

This is going to be an amazing program and much of this work is far beyond what even a well-resourced school library could ordinarily manage. But that last item – recruiting volunteers to assist with circulation – points to the much bigger underlying problem of inadequate funding and staffing in our school libraries.

And so the not-so-good-news: Here in Pittsburgh, only 14 out of 51 schools currently have a full time librarian. Most of the district’s librarians have five schools assigned to them, which means that students are only getting a professional librarian at their school one day per week. That librarian can’t see every kid in a school on a single day, which means that most students are really only getting to their library once every few weeks at best. In some schools, shelves are stacked with gorgeous books that essentially cannot be checked out, hostage to insufficient staffing. But the problem goes far beyond merely getting books into students’ hands. We have forgotten the real, tangible educational benefit of having school librarians.

Want some evidence? A new study released yesterday finds that students in our state with access to a full-time, certified school librarian have far better educational outcomes. Researchers from the Colorado based RSL Research Group looked at Pennsylvania’s standardized test scores (the PSSA) in reading and writing and tracked student achievement against five school library factors: staffing, collections, digital resources and technology infrastructure, library access, and funding. [Education Law Center Library Report, 10-23-12] By far the most important factor was having a full-time library professional. In other words, it’s great to have all those new books and digital collections and a space open for classroom teachers to take their students when time allows, but without a full-time librarian in each of our schools, we are still short-changing our kids.

Here are some highlights from the report that ought to make all of us concerned about equity and our racial achievement gap sit up and take notice:

  • Students who have access to a full-time, certified librarian scored higher on the PSSA Reading Test than those students who do not have such access. This finding is true for all students, regardless of their socio-economic, racial/ethnic, and/or disability status.
  • For several student groups that tend to experience achievement gaps—economically disadvantaged, Hispanic, Black, and those with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs)—Reading and Writing results are markedly better when those students attend a school with a librarian and library support staff, according to the research. In fact, they benefit more proportionally than the general student population.
  • Nearly twice as many high school students who have access to a full-time, certified librarian scored Advanced on the PSSA Writing test as those students without access to a full-time, certified librarian, according to the report.
  • Considering all students, those students with access to a full-time, certified librarian are almost three times as likely to have “Advanced” scores on the PSSA Writing Test as those students without access to a full-time, certified librarian.

This is apparently the first time anyone has tracked the impact of librarians on student’s writing, and the results suggest just how short sighted it is to slash library budgets. Debra Kachel, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Legislation Committee Co-Chairperson, explained, “The overall findings fit with research we’ve seen in other states—access to a full-time, certified school librarian significantly impacts students achievement in reading.” And she noted that the new data on student writing “underscores the larger impact having a full-time, certified school librarian has on skills, such as writing, that prepare students for college and the workforce.” Nancy Potter, Education Law Center Attorney, agreed that reducing library resources “has extreme consequences for Pennsylvania’s public school students, especially the most vulnerable students.” [Education Law Center Library Report, 10-23-12]

If you would like to learn more about this new study of libraries and public education, please join the Pennsylvania School Library Project on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Homestead at 5PM. (More information and registration here.) In the meantime, I plan to go celebrate our Manchester Miracle today and hope to see you there!

Charters are Cash Cows

Charter schools are cash cows feeding at the public trough. Oh, there are a few good ones here and there, to be sure. But if there was ever any doubt that charter schools have become Big Business, take a look at the list of the largest campaign contributors in Pennsylvania. Three of the top ten on a new “Power Players” report are throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars into state politics to gain favorable legislation for charter schools and we need to be asking why. [Public Source, Power Players report]

Weighing in at #5 is Van Gureghian, who founded Charter School Management Inc. back in 1999 to run a school in Chester, PA, a struggling former industrial town near Philadelphia. Today Gureghian’s company operates 150 charter schools in nine states, and that first school now has half of the district’s student enrollment and is the state’s largest charter school. Gureghian was Gov. Corbett’s single largest campaign donor and served on his education transition team. This is the same guy who is fighting the state’s Right to Know laws to keep from disclosing his salary – which is public knowledge for other public school administrators – while he recently bought two Florida beachfront lots for $28.9 million. He and his wife, another Charter School Management Inc. employee, plan to build a 20,000 square foot “French-inspired Monte Carlo estate.” [Palm Beach Daily News, 2011-11-18; Also see “Soaking the Public”]

At #8 and #10 on the list are Joel Greenberg and Arthur Dantchik. Public Source, which put together the report, notes that these two “act as one when making political contributions,” and that if we “consider them as a contributing team, you must include Jeff Yass,” who would be #11 on this list. Greenberg, Dantchik, and Yass went to college together and are founding partners of Susquehanna International Group, a financial broker-dealer in Philadelphia.

Greenberg is on the board of American Federation for Children, a national group with mega-billionaire backers supporting state vouchers for private school students. Dantchik is on the board of the Institute for Justice, a law firm that promotes school choice and Yass is on the board of the Cato Institute, a think tank dedicated to limited government and free markets. [Public Source, Power Players report] In 2010, these three men started Students First PAC to channel millions of their dollars, plus those from out of state donors, into races of pro-voucher candidates. (For more on the American Federation for Children and the Students First PAC, see “It’s All About the Money, Money, Money”.)

For those of you keeping track, that makes four of Pennsylvania’s biggest campaign donors so far this year with school privatization at the top of their to-do lists. Why? Lest you think these men are dabbling in education for the sake of students, take a closer look at the Big Business of charter schools. Back in August, CNBC interviewed the CEO of a major investment company who clearly explained why charter schools are such a great moneymaker. David Brain heads Entertainment Properties Trust, which owns movie theaters, destination recreation sites, and charter schools in 34 states.

When the interviewer asked why people should add charter schools to their investment portfolios, he replied:

“Well I think it’s a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It’s a very high-demand product. There’s 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools … the industry’s growing about 12-14% a year. So it’s a high-growth, very stable, recession-resistant business. It’s a public payer, the state is the payer … if you do business with states with solid treasuries, then it’s a very solid business.”

The anchor also asked if he could buy one type of real estate asset right now, what would it be, and Brain answered:

“Well, probably the charter school business. We said it’s our highest growth and most appealing sector right now of the portfolio. It’s the most high in demand, it’s the most recession-resistant. And a great opportunity set with 500 schools starting every year. It’s a two and a half billion dollar opportunity set in rough measure annually.” [CNBC, 8-15-12]

Brain also told a nice whopper when the anchor asked him if there was any investment risk due to some public backlash against using taxpayer money to pay for charter schools. He claimed, “Most of the studies have charter schools at even or better than district public education.” Actually, most of the studies have shown the opposite: charter schools consistently rank at even or worse – sometimes much worse – than traditional public schools. For example, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that students in every single Pennsylvania cyber charter school performed “significantly worse” in reading and math than their peers in conventional public schools. [Stanford/CREDO report summary, 2011] That’s a 100% failure rate. (See “Dueling Rallies” for complete details on charter school performance research.)

With such dismal results, investors really ought to be asking why Gov. Corbett’s administration keeps approving new charter school applications. Cyber charters in particular are charging taxpayers far more per student than it actually costs to educate them – to the tune of one million dollars per day sucked from our public coffers into the pockets of charter school operators. (See “One Million Per Day”) Pennsylvania already has 16 cyber charter schools – including four approved just this past summer – giving us one of the highest concentrations in the country. Yet the Department of Education just scheduled hearings on eight new cyber charter school applications. [Post-Gazette, 10-22-12]

Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who studies charter schools, told the Post-Gazette, “Pennsylvania, as far as I know, has the most lucrative funding for virtual schools. It’s very favorable. It doesn’t surprise me more companies and entities want to come there for virtual schooling.” [Post-Gazette, 10-22-12]

Indeed. This is not about doing what is best for students. Charter schools have become investment opportunities for the wealthy and their portfolio managers, businesses that must be protected with favorable legislation bought by strategic campaign contributions. As these charter school operators feed at the public trough, they strip our public schools of desperately needed resources. It’s time to fight back. Public education is a public good, not a cash cow.

A Victory

Put this down as a victory for our grassroots movement! The proposed charter “reform” that Governor Corbett tried to ram through the legislature this week had died, in no small part because of the loud protest we mounted. The bill passed through the Senate last week and appeared to be ready to sail through the House this week, until public education advocates all over the state raised serious questions about many of its pieces. Most egregiously, the bill in its original form would have exempted charter school operators from Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law, taken away local control and accountability, and concentrated power in a state committee stacked with political appointees. (See “Where are the Real Republicans?” for all the details.)

Remember the story about the boiled frog? If a frog jumped into hot water, he’d hop right back out again, but a frog sitting in a pot slowly brought to a boil doesn’t realize until it’s too late that he’s cooked. The devil is in the details of these bills, and it’s these incremental legislative changes that will slowly boil our frog (and our schools). That’s why it was so important that we pay attention to those policy details and take action, like we did this week.

By Wednesday night, legislators in the House were working overtime before going into recess until after the election – and it was becoming increasingly clear that they didn’t have the votes to pass Senate Bill 1115. Many of our legislators agree that the charter funding formula in particular needs to be fixed. The state Auditor General estimates we are currently over-paying charter school operators $1million every day – that’s a huge pile of public taxpayer dollars going to line some very deep, private pockets. (See “One Million Per Day.”)

But rather than tackle this problem directly, this ill-fated bill would have formed a commission to study the problem, and loaded it with charter school operators. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican from our neck of the woods, admitted that, “the funding for cyber charters, in particular, is an issue that has to be addressed,” but the proposed “commission wasn’t going to satisfy a lot of members [of the House].” [Post-Gazette, 10-19-12] Representative Paul Clymer, a Republican from Bucks County who chairs the House Education Committee, said legislators “felt there were ways in which the bill was more favorable to the charters and cyber charters than to [traditional] public schools,” and that the commission “was too stacked with pro-charter people.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10-19-12]

What’s most disappointing is the way that the Corbett administration tacked these charter “reform” measures onto a much needed special-education funding bill that had previously gained wide bi-partisan support. Shooting down SB1115 also meant tanking efforts to get more money to children with the most severe disabilities and those districts with large numbers of those students. When the legislature returns to this issue in January, which everyone expects they will do, our representatives ought to look to House Bill 2661 for guidance. Introduced by James Roebuck, a Democrat from Philadelphia and Democratic chair of the House Education Committee, this bill would a big step forward in really reforming the rules governing charter and cyber charter schools. (See “Now That’s More Like It”) But we’ll have our work cut out for us, since many of our state Senators – including a surprisingly number from Yinzer Nation – voted for SB1115 before the bill died in the House. (See Senate Roll Call.)

Meanwhile, it’s time for a little celebration in the grassroots. We have to recognize these achievements for what they are – real victories in saving public education from the fate of the boiled frog.

Write to the President

Here’s a quick thing you can do today that could have a big impact. We’ve had a state level call-to-action this week with the charter reform bill, which is being voted on by the PA House today. (See “Where are the Real Republicans?”) We’ve had a local call-to-action for the PIIN public meeting tomorrow. (See “Please Come Thursday”) Now here’s a federal level call-to-action to help put the battle for public education in full context:

Eminent education historian Diane Ravitch has launched a letter writing campaign urging us to write to President Obama today. Ravitch explains, “Our campaign is meant to include everyone who cares about public education: students, parents, teachers, principals, school board members, and concerned citizens. We want everyone to write the President and tell him what needs to change in his education policies.” She is hoping for thousands of letters from across the country to really make a statement to the White House today.

Ravitch has written a model letter for teachers to send. I have revised this slightly for parents and others in our grassroots movement here in Southwest Pennsylvania and pasted below. Please feel free to use this letter or change how you wish. Here are the instructions:

  1. Email your letters to anthony_cody@hotmail.com. Or you can submit your letter as a comment to Ravitch’s blog post about this campaign. All letters collected through these two channels will be compiled into a single document, which will be sent to the White House.
  2. If you want, you can also mail copies of your letters through US mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500
  3. You can also send them by email to the White House. If you choose to write or email the White House, please send a copy to Cody or Ravitch so they can keep track of how many letters were sent to the President.

Ravitch says, “Let’s raise our voices NOW against privatization, against high-stakes testing, against teacher bashing, against profiteering. Let’s advocate for policies that are good for students, that truly improve education, that respect the education profession, and that strengthen our democratic system of public education. Let’s act. Start here. Start now. Join our campaign. Speak out. Enough is enough.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Sample letter:

Dear President Obama:

I am part of Yinzercation, a grassroots movement battling to save public education in Pennsylvania. You have invited our representatives to the White House twice this year to meet with your senior policy advisor, Roberto Rodriguez. But when you continue to tout Race to the Top, as you did in last night’s debate, we don’t think you are listening to us parents, teachers, students, and concerned community members who are fighting on the front lines for our schools. Our governor has used your policies – which label our public schools as “failures” – as convenient cover to slash $1 billion from public education.

Given the choice between you and Mitt Romney, who seems to view public education with contempt, we want to help you win back the hearts and minds of the grassroots in this country. Here are ways to do that.

Please, Mr. President, stop encouraging the privatization of public education. Many studies demonstrate that charters don’t get better results than public schools unless they exclude low-performing children. Public schools educate all children. The proliferation of charter and cyber charter schools will lead to a dual system in many of our big-city districts and tear our communities apart. Please support public education.

Please speak out against the spread of for-profit schools. These for-profit schools steal precious tax dollars to pay off investors. Those resources belong in the classroom. The for-profit virtual schools get uniformly bad reviews from everyone but Wall Street.

Please stop talking about rewarding and punishing teachers. Teachers are professionals, not toddlers. Teachers don’t work harder for bonuses. The teachers I know want to teach, they’re not expecting to win a prize for producing higher scores.

Please withdraw your support from the failed effort to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students. The American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education issued a joint paper saying that such methods are inaccurate and unstable. Teachers get high ratings if they teach the easiest students, and low ratings if they teach the most challenging students.

Please stop closing schools and firing staffs because of low scores. Low scores are a reflection of high poverty, not an indicator of bad schools or bad teachers. Insist that schools enrolling large numbers of poor and minority students get the resources they need to succeed.

Please, President Obama, recognize that your policies are demoralizing teachers and undermining the public’s confidence in our schools. President Obama, we want to support you on November 6. Please give us reason to believe in you again.

I am a public school parent.

/signed,

Please Come Thursday

What are you doing Thursday evening? If you care about public education in Pittsburgh, I hope you will bet at the PIIN Public Action Meeting. Over 1,200 people will be there, including a veritable who’s who roster of local leaders and politicians, all coming together to commit to action on four issues: education, transit, the clean rivers campaign, and voter turnout. Yinzercation has been asked to help represent the voice of parents and the community on the key issue of public education.

PIIN is the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Action Network, a coalition of Pittsburgh area congregations and community organizations that have been working together in a powerful way for the past twelve years. On the issue of education at the community meeting, PIIN will be “seeking a commitment from Dr. Linda Lane, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent, and Nina Esposito-Visgitis, President of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, to continue to work with PIIN and our partners to achieve equity for all of our students.” [PIIN Public Action Meeting invite]

I have had a number of conversations with PIIN organizers and volunteers over the past few weeks and I’ve been particularly impressed with the way that they understand the big picture. Just like our grassroots movement, they are focused on the issue of equity – and see the connection to funding cuts as well as state and federal level policies that have colluded in this attack on public education. I particularly appreciate their call to education advocates for this public action meeting, which states that equity “can only be achieved with a partnership of parents, community, administration and teachers.” Real community engagement is too often missing in the education world. And PIIN has deep roots in communities – including many of our African-American neighborhoods – where meaningful engagement is absolutely essential.

All of us in the Yinzercation family have been asked to sit together towards the front in a special reserved section so that we can stand as a group when asked to support education. Many of us education advocates are already active in Pittsburgh area congregations and community organizations that will be sending delegations to the public meeting: if you wish to sit with Yinzercation to show a strong united front for public education, please leave a note on our Facebook call-to-action post so we know how many folks are coming. This is an excellent way to send a strong message to other community leaders that the grassroots will play a vital role in this battle for our schools.

Join us Thursday at Rodef Shalom (4905 Fifth Avenue / 15213). The doors open at 6:15PM, and the program begins promptly at 7PM. It will be an empowering evening.