Since its formation in 2016, Central Valley Movement Building has worked to build the power and capacity of students and families most impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline, and to expand networks of connectivity among the many powerful organizers working toward education justice in the nine counties of California’s Central San Joaquin Valley.
In 2019 our goal was to reach parents in new areas of concentration, including Madera, Stanislaus, and Kings Counties, and to build the strength of our existing partnerships with powerful grassroots organizers in Fresno, Merced, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kern, and Sacramento Counties. We also worked to build relationships across communities, counties, and the state, and to link those priorities with the rest of the Valley.
Our work is to share organization goals and strategies for addressing the systemic problems of racism and police in schools, high suspension rates, lack of support for special education students, and the need for parents and students to be strong voices in their schools and districts.
The foundation of our grassroots organizing involves first holding listening sessions in areas where we’re invited. In these sessions we both listen to the concerns and complaints of parents and students about what’s taking place in their schools and districts, as well as share data to give parents an idea of how their struggle fits into the larger Central Valley Educational Justice landscape.
In order to support our existing partners, we do regular needs assessment, strategic development support, and relationship brokering.
In this report we highlight some of our key successes this year, provide information about how movement building works, and what our goals are.
One of the goals of CVMB has been to initiate, develop or support on-the-ground parent activist groups throughout the nine counties of the Central Valley.
This year that meant connecting parents through Listening Sessions in Modesto, Madera, and Hanford in order to connect and support local parent activist groups engaging in the movement to hold local school districts accountable for school suspensions, SROs on K-12 campuses, recommendations for Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP). Through our partnerships with the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Black Parallel School Board, Fresno Barrios Unidos, and Legal Services for Children, CVMB held focus groups in to develop vital resources to aid in referral to direct services that many of our families needs.
Listening sessions are key to grassroots organizing because we’re building a movement from the ground up, instead of top-down. CVMB and our partner organizations understand that true systemic change must come from parents and students in their own communities, not from politicians and policy groups.
In the sessions, parents, students, and community members share their stories and experiences about forms of discrimination in classrooms, school push-out through suspensions and expulsions, engagement with police on campuses, and also how they are trying to combat the problems.
California City Parent Group
The CVMB continues to track the progress of the Neighbors United, the DHF parent group from California City that was able to establish a District African American Advisory Council (AAAC) at Mojave Unified School District (MUSD). One year after the formation of the AAAC, it is now a district committee with the most parent participation, whose members advocate for the academic improvement and experience of Black students.
This year, the AAAC has participated in the LCAP process and has been successful in getting multiple recommendations adopted into MUSD’s LCAP. The recommendations include hiring a parent liaison, increased funding for sports, cultural performing arts, and parent education.
Also this year, after being notified that black students were not allowed to participate in their graduation activity, the District African American Advisory Council (AAAC) and parents were able to advocate for 28 students to walk across the stage for graduation.
Education Justice Forum
In April of this year, CVMB convened a gathering over a hundred local parents, organizers, and youth for our first annual Education Justice forum (read full article here).
Presenters at the forum included Tia Martinez of Forward Change who gave a powerful presentation on the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Nicole Bates, Julia Love, and Melina Hettiaratchi of Legal Services for Children provided a much needed Know Your Rights training.
The forum drew together parents, community members, and youth from the nine Central Valley counties—Kern, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Merced, South Sacramento, Stanislaus, and Tulare.
The forum also included a student-lead breakout session, and the gathering concluded with participants sharing their stories about issues with police in schools and other forms of racial discrimination.
The Education Justice Forum will convene again in 2020, and we look forward to increase participation of existing and new groups, organizations and individuals who are advocating for bold, just, and systemic change in schools and districts across the Valley.
Merced Black Parallel School Board
This past July, the Merced Black Parallel School Board (MBPSB) celebrated their first anniversary as an organization advocating for Black students and parents in Merced.
MBPSB consists of former teachers, district personnel, community activists, and parents. Working with the BPSB and attending CVMB forums, the Merced group has also been successful in actively attending school board meetings, including Atwater and Weaver Union, and making recommendations to the district LCAPs.
Though their LCAP recommendations only received a total budget of $12,000, it’s a huge accomplishment for a group that’s only been in existence for one year.
MBPSB members are moving forward to address problems of the high suspension rates of Black students, and the lack of adequate support of Black special education students and students with disabilities.
DSC CA Parent Convening
One of the most successful and most impactful events of 2019 was the Dignity In Schools Campaign–California Parent Convening. This gathering comprised of parent groups throughout California, and CVMB and its partner were very much a part of it.
As part of CVMB’s mission, the annual forum critically examines the school-to-prison pipeline which hinders positive interactions from students in school. Instead, punitive practices follow students from schools into the juvenile and adult criminal system, innocently pushing him into prisons.
For more information, read our write up about the convening, and also report posted on Dignity In School’s website.
Fresno Education Justice Coalition
Our Regional Connector, Carrie Lorraine Ayala, supported CVMB anchor organization Fresno Barrios Unidos in bringing together Fresno’s most passionate and dedicated education justice organizers at a shared table to begin developing a vision and long-term movement building strategy at the local level.
The collaborative has since convened several local partners, developed a work plan, provided rapid response at Fresno Unified School Board meetings and a mayoral forum, and participated in the Dignity in Schools Campaign Week of Action by hosting the first ever School Freedom Party.
The event was geared at sharing information about participating organizations and Education Oppression, lifting up voices of local youth organizers, and standing in solidarity with Black Organizing Project in Oakland as they move to remove police from schools by 2020.
DSC Week of Education and Solidarity with BOP
CVMB also participated in the Dignity In Schools annual Week of Action Against School Pushout. As part of this year’s Week of Action activities, CVMB developed a solidarity message for the Black Organizing Project’s campaign to removing police out of the Oakland Unified School District.
CVMB partner organizations also produced videos of students and parents speaking out about their vision for reimagining safety in our schools.
It’s so important that we raise our voices against school policies and discriminatory practices that hold our students back and send many of them into the school-to-prison pipeline.
Central Valley Legal Resource Guide
Throughout the Spring, CVMB collaborated with Legal Services for Children (San Francisco) in holding Focus Groups in Sacramento, Merced, and Sanger to develop a Central Valley Legal Resource Guide.
We were able to identify the areas of need for additional legal support for youth, parents, and organizers. Although we do not provide direct services, we recognize that these services enrich the work of our most impacted families by providing Know Your Rights Training, Pro Bono and sliding scale advocacy and representation, and general counsel for Special Education, Civil Rights, Constitutional concerns, et cetera.
The guide includes contact information for over 150 legal groups services in the nine county area, including the ACLU, California Rural Legal Assistance, Special Education Needs Consulting, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Office of Clients Rights Advocacy, and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. The full guide for the nine county area can be found on our website.
Moving Forward in 2020
The work and achievements we made in 2020 doesn’t allow us to rest and wait for schools and districts to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. We know that there’s much more work to be done, even with the limited capacity to do that work.
The Central Valley Coordinating Team will be convening in the January to draft plans for the new year. We know that will have to expand and deepen our work because real change doesn’t happen without parents, students, and community activists organizing and and speaking out.
We appreciate the working collaboration with our partners and groups in the Central Valley, and we look forward to providing continued support and leadership to help make changes in schools and districts throughout the Valley.