Education Means Business

Organizing to Effect Change
As the school reform debate intensifies, a number of low-income minority communities don’t believe business models offer solutions for all problems. For instance, the NAACP stirred controversy after joining a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers in May to stop the New York City Department of Education from closing 22 failing institutions and locating 15 charter schools in traditional school buildings. While many scratched their heads, others were in complete agreement. Among them were members of the Coalition for Educational Justice, a community-based organization made up of diverse parents, students, educators, and community residents. Concerned that the nation’s largest school system wasn’t following proper procedures nor meeting the needs of the vast majority of students (the 96% not enrolled in charter schools), CEJ supported the lawsuit. “What needs to happen in charter schools and [traditional] public schools is no different,” says Zakiyah Ansari, a CEJ volunteer and one of the parents who signed on to the lawsuit. “If you really want sustainable transformation and change in schools, it has to [involve the] community.”

NAACP President and CEO Be

njamin Jealous maintained that the suit wasn’t about charters but about providing a quality education for all, as well as involving parents and community members in the decision-making process.

In light of movements such as Occupy Wall Street, grassroots activism among fed-up parents and communities is expected to grow. Says Ansari, a married mother of eight (four of whom are school-age) who works for the Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide advocacy group: “We want to be included in the conversation at the state, local, and district levels. That’s the only way change can be sustainable.” Ansari, who has one child in a charter school, does not oppose charters, but she’s convinced more must be done to serve traditional public school students.

She and others have been empowered by examples of communities effecting change in historically neglected school districts. For example, CEJ’s efforts led to the establishment of a success fund of nearly $30 million for middle school reform. And the Brooklyn Education Collaborative (

a precursor to the CEJ) purchasing much-needed science labs for middle and high schools in Brooklyn. AQE unites more than 230 organizations tied to parents, teachers, clergy, and others who have been able to expand pre-kindergarten projects, create school-based literacy initiatives, and avoid educational cuts as part of the state’s deficit reduction plans. Other such community organizations are becoming a force in Austin, Texas; Chicago; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee, and other cities across the nation.

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  • Paul W. W

    Great article! Great man leading the parade, keep up the good work.

  • WALTER WEBB / FREELANCE WRITING

    THE WORLD EDUCATION HAS GROWN SO MUCH IT SEEMS AS THOUGH IT STREETS ARE PAVED WITH GOLD. TIAA CREF (TRIEX) TEACHERS ARE NOT ONLY INVESTING IN THE WELFARE OF THEIR STUDENTS, BUT A NEST EGG FOR THEIR FAMILIES. FOLLOWING PRINCIPLE PATH OF WISDOM, INVESTING IS EDUCATION IS A SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS THING TO DO. TAKE STRAYER UNIVERSITY (STRA) EVEN AT A WHOOPING $100 DOLLARS OR MORE PER SHARE PRICE THE SCHOOL HAS CARVED AN EDUCATIONAL
    NICHE MARKET WITH WORKING ADULTS. TWO PARENT FAMILIES, WORKING SINGLE MOMS, VETERANS OF THE MILITARY, AND EMPLOYEE EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE FINDING CONVIENCE FOR THE SCHEDULES. AND WITH STRAYER’S SHARE PRICE AND ASSETS IT LIKE GOING TO THE MOST GIFTED UNIVERSITY SCHOOL. ANOTHER IS CORINTHIAN COLLEGES (COCO) WITH THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARD SPIRITUAL EDUCATION
    IN ITS CURRICULUM. MANY OF THEIR STUDENTS LOOK AT SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS INVESTMENTS LIKE CAPSTONE CHURCH FUND (XCBFX) AS A MEANS IN THEIR OVERALL
    GOALS AND OBJECTIVES. DeVRY (DV) EDUCATION OFFERS TECHNICAL SKILLS WHICH
    RIVALS THAT OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES. AND THEY PUT THEIR EARNINGS BACK INTO IN HOUSE MARKETING BY PURCHASING TELEVISION AND RADIO SPOTS TO PROMOTE ITS
    OBJECTIVES. A GREAT FUTURE IN ITT EDUCATIONAL SERVICES (ESI) IS IN STORE
    FOR THIS EDUCATION ROOTED SOFTWARE CURRICULUM. THEY HAVE ONE OF THE FASTEST PRODUCT DEVELOPED STUDIES SUPPORTING THE TECHNOLOGY FIELD. AND REAL ESTATE WITH AMERICAN CAMPUS COMMUNITIES (ACC) ARE SPRINGING UP ALL
    ACROSS AMERICA EDUCATIONAL CAMPUS WITH A MIXTURE OF DORMITORY AND CAMPUS
    APARTMENTS FOR STUDENTS. COMPANIES IN EDUCATION ARE PREPARED TO MEET THE
    FUTURE, NOT JUST IN LITERATURE, BUT A COMMUNITY RESOURCE ALSO.

  • Mechelle Brown

    This is a great article; however, the school where the student’s pictured with Mr. Thornton attend is not mentioned anywhere in the article.
    As a parent of a student who attends the school, I am happy to fill in the missing information your writers omitted.
    The school is Scholars Academy Charter School, located in Riverdale, Georgia.
    We, too, are doing great things with a limited budget and are in need of partnerships to help enhance the education of our students.

    • Mechelle Brown

      Please excuse my typo.

  • Abby

    Linda: Just cauhgt up with your blog sounds like you are fully engaged and lovin it! While you are missed, you’ll be back soon with new ideas. Enjoy!!! Joe

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