Today, our friends at Democrats for Education Reform bring us their thoughts on the power of community. Michigan DFER director Harrison Blackmond points to examples where community and grassroots action culminated in educational policies that upended the status quo, such as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. But, as Blackmond notes, “such efforts nationally are few and far between.”
In Michigan, like most states, the education reform movement appears to be led, for the most part, by those suspected of having other agendas. Whether true or not, this suspicion undermines the legitimacy of our efforts and authority to speak for those most adversely affected by the status quo — parents, students and the communities in which they reside.
As a participant in and observer of the civil rights, antiwar, environmental and labor movements, I have come to appreciate the value of large scale community organizing as a strategy to promote social change and specifically school reform. What seems to be missing, in large measure, from school reform strategies is large scale community organizing to force reform within urban school districts.