On Monday, July 28th, between 6 and 9pm, the WCAT will do half-hour interviews with candidates for the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education. We will then issue our endorsements for the four positions that come open on November 4th and work to get the candidates we support elected.
The WCAT has agreed to serve as the organizational umbrella for a broad coalition of parents of school kids, teachers and tax payers who believe that the institution of our public schools is a sacred trust that we have inherited over many generations of struggle, and that the institution functions best when governance is shared among the administration, faculty, staff, parents, and community.
We also believe that there has been a sustained and systematic political and economic attack aimed at destabilizing and destroying our public institutions in recent years, especially our public schools, and that this has reached a crisis point for our students, our school families, and our regional community and economy.
Many of our members belong to organizations that have been actively organizing with allies statewide to change the makeup of the legislature and reverse short-sighted and damaging policies in Lansing. These include the artificial and unnecessary crisis in public school funding, the expansion of poorly-regulated charter schools, and the failed experiment of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), all of which are seriously failing our students and the larger community.
Our coalition is united in our strong belief that schools are not businesses, but rather the heart of our community. We are particularly opposed to any further moves toward privatizing services in our schools, since evidence is clear that reliance on for-profit entities generally reduces the quality of services provided; changes the personal relationships between staff and the children, parents, and teachers; and harms the entire community by pushing more working families out of the middle class and into poverty and reinforcing policies that deepen social inequality.
While we fully acknowledge the challenges facing public institutions in Michigan today as we work to ease these challenges, we also believe that local units of government, including public school boards, are not without options in the meantime that can avoid or limit damage to our children, schools, and community.
At this crucial point in history, we believe we need public school board trustees who can demonstrate a clear understanding of several realities:
1. The times call for creative, foresighted solutions that do no further damage to the larger community and to the hard-won fabric of our local public school systems.
2. Such solutions today and into the future can win the support of a very broad, unified, and rapidly growing movement of which we see our labor and community based coalition, organized around the Washtenaw Community Action Team and the Huron Valley Central Labor Council, to be a key component, both in grassroots electoral action during the upcoming election and policy-based action in the coming years.
3. The combination of such new solutions and the presence of this grassroots political base creates a new and powerful context for reversing the grave and unacceptable damage that some in our state and community have chosen to inflict on our public schools and by extension on our students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and the larger community.