Submitted by: Tammy Gurowski
Purpose of Report:
Colin O’Malley, Organizing Director of AQE Rochester, asked me to look through my notes and identify key work that had been done in the past, tactics that were assessed as being successful and key people who were involved in the work. In creating sustainable interest and commitment for the organization, he thought it would be helpful to understand some organizational history that was effective. Below are major initiatives that work was planned around and the tactics employed that were utilized.
Funds named Foundation Aid were allocated to districts to begin the down payment of overdue funding and the settlement of CFE (Campaign for Fiscal Equity landmark lawsuit). This lawsuit initiated in 1993 and finally settled in 2006, asserted that NYS inadequately funded education. Programs designated to be most effective and eligible to receive this funding were called Contracts for Excellence in order to track the money, how it was spent and account for results in a systematic way.
FAIR (Fairness, Accountability, Innovation and Results) was an attempt by the Brooks Administration to divert sales tax revenue to school districts to pay for the county’s portion of Medicaid. The proposal undermined a long standing and bipartisan agreement (the Morin-Ryan agreement) and drew a firestorm of criticism. The resulting backlash created such momentum that all school districts banded together in a show of solidarity to fight back. The ensuing lawsuit, joined by all the Monroe County school districts, challenged that the Brook administration did not have the authority to change that agreement and that it would place school districts in a deficit position mid-year. The court ordered payments back to school districts.
AQE NY had an agenda but AQE Rochester altered it slightly to address what the local committee identified as Rochester’s needs- a unique, local platform was created to primarily address three major issues: literacy, parent involvement, racial justice. Meetings were conducted to inform and educate RCSD, parent groups, ally organizations and other interested parties.
Platform for local AQE chapter (1).doc
Another local effort involved the Maintenance of Effort which is a local mandate for City of Rochester to comply with involving forwarding of city tax dollars to Rochester City School District. The city must comply without a voice in how the money is spent and wanted to lend structure and accountability. I think fear that money would be diverted from schools pitted the City of Rochester against RCSD and lead to the mayoral control issue.
There were federal dollars slated for facilities improvement, another area needing attention and upgrades. I am less informed about this large amount of money, and believe the project was postponed because funding was threatened; I am not sure about the status.
FAIR Share Tax Reform is a statewide initiative with resulting revenue targeted to fill the education budget gap. The initiative supports a tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to alleviate the strain on school budgets; the amount collected could address widening gaps and stave off damaging cuts to education. This initiative included postcards, letter writing and legislative visits to persuade local legislators to vote in favor of implementing the plan.
Tactics that Worked and Were Implemented in Above Initiatives:
¶ Forums- invite allies to align thinking and develop strategies and goals
¶ Define issues and develop platforms of common interest and concern
¶ Meet with local Regents to learn their positions and ask for assistance, advice and direction
¶ Meet with local legislators to learn their positions and ask for assistance, advice and direction, learn from them which tactics work best
¶ Create an email group of interested people and provide ongoing information, updates, from local, statewide and national perspectives. Regular, ongoing communication keeps people informed and up to date and eliminates the need to back track and re-educate.
¶ Identify professional allies, RCSD administrators, Warner School of education, Boards of Education, Superintendents
¶ Hold Press Conferences to highlight public education issues
¶ Create alliances to strengthen momentum and align thinking
¶ Create media contact charts and update
¶ Furnish talking points to committee members to create common message
¶ Encourage people to write letters to the editor to keep the conversation of public education and education issues in the forefront of the public’s mind
¶ Conduct rallies and marches for youth and adults
¶ Teen Empowerment is a powerful group, engage and maintain contact with them
¶ Camp Justice was held by Metro Justice a few years ago and was a great training model for constructive social justice engagement