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Partner Spotlight: Center for Popular Democracy




August 28, 2016

This month, we talk to a partner dedicated to equity, Center for Popular Democracy. Evie Frankl, Senior Orgranizer of Education Justice Campaigns, discusses CPD's current organizing work, and how much of it is grounded in supporting and advocating for the community schools across the country. Evie also discusses CPD's work with the Coalition and the Southern Education Foundation on Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools, a report that we helped release last year. 


1. Can you explain the overall mission of the Center for Popular Democracy?
 
The Center for Popular Democracy works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.
 
CPD’s model for change draws from the successful base-building and policy advocacy of partner organizations such as Make the Road New York (MRNY), CASA de Maryland, and PCUN in Oregon, as well as New York Communities for Change(NYCC), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and Action Now in Illinois, among many others. Around the country, base-building organizations are demonstrating that it is possible to grow to scale, with strong institutional infrastructure and innovative organizing models, and leverage that strength to win cutting-edge policy victories at the federal, state and local levels. CPD grows out of this experience, to bring a range of additional capacities to the field to help base-building organizations scale up even further, to deepen and grow the progressive movement infrastructure, and to advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice policy agenda nationwide.
 
2. What milestones has Center for Popular Democracy already reached or is currently moving towards?
 
Specifically, within the education sphere, CPD is a member of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), that includes both national teachers unions - National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), three other community organizing networks - Journey for Justice Alliance, Alliance for Educational Justice, and Gamaliel Foundation - and 3 national research and policy organizations - the Schott Foundation, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and the Advancement Project. AROS works to nationalize local fights for the "Schools All Our Children Deserve" by developing national tactics in which local groups can engage jointly, such as "walk-ins". This Oct. 6, AROS will host its 3rd national walk-in, which aspires to engage 100,000 parents, teachers and students in 200 cities. For information on the Oct. 6th walk-ins go to: http://www.reclaimourschools.org/sites/default/files/AROS-WalkInsOnePager.pdf 
 
3. How do the Center for Popular Democracy‘s principles tie into the Community School’s principles and philosophy? How do you see your work fitting into ours?
 
CPD has worked with the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS), AFT, NEA, AROS and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) to develop and move legislation that expands and resources community schools. Several legislative templates have been developed and introduced broadly; they have become law in MN and MD. CPD is paying particular attention to CA advocates use of Prop 47 dollars (garnered by re-categorization of multiple non-violent offense from felony to misdemeanor) to fund community schools. We see this as an example of an invest/divest strategy that divests from harmful, racially unjust policies of over-incarceration and invests in educational policies that work to promote an inclusive democracy.
 
Locally, CPD partner organizations in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Newark, Dallas and more have been instrumental in establishment, expansion and implementation of community schools. The CPD initiative, Local Progress, has pulled together a cohort of Board of Education members around the country who are working to move policies related to community schools in their school districts.
 
With CCS and the Southern Education Foundation, CPD co-authored the recent report: Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools. The report profiles a dozen examples of community schools at the individual school, district, city and state levels. Through these profiles it holds out an aspirational goal of all community schools reaching to tackle six specific goals: relevant, challenging curriculum; emphasis on quality teaching not high stakes testing; wrap around supports; restorative justice practices; authentic, transformative parent engagement, and; shared leadership.
 
4. What are some exciting things coming up for Center for Popular Democracy (i.e., events, publications)?
 
CPD is currently working on a new series of community schools profiles that will highlight implementation structures to help schools and districts move forward their newly won community schools.

5. How does The Center for Popular Democracy center equity in their agenda? 
 
Immigrant, racial and economic justice are central to CPD’s mission. Everything we take on is seen through those lenses.
 
We see community schools very much as a pro-equity strategy - with regard to access to services, restorative justice, relevant curricula and student-centered pedagogy, high quality teaching and parents and communities as part of the governance structures and life of the school. Community schools work, as we see it, also leads us to tackle questions of economic, revenue and budget policy priorities locally and nationally.

6. Finally, what is the most exciting thing about working at the Center for Popular Democracy? 
 
CPD’s frame is radical, in the sense of going to the root of things, and because the work is multi-issue, it is possible to make connections between education and economic and racial justice, for example. Also, we get to do a lot of exciting, ground-breaking work with wonderful pioneering external partners, like Coalition for Community Schools!
 
 
 

 

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