Advocacy Educators Family Engagement Parent Voice

Unite don’t fight!

This conversation is about more than just “pods”—Don’t let those profiting off of crisis divide us!

Last Tuesday evening, during the Regular Board Meeting on July 28, 2020, we met to discuss the San Francisco Unified School District Fall Learning Plan. While I always hope to focus the discussion on efforts the district is taking, I anticipated there would be a number of families bringing up the “pod” conversation. 

So on that note, I wanted to put some recent observations out there for folks to consider. (Watch the video of my comments below or click this link to view the entire recordin on SFGovTV. This item begins at around 45:30 and my comments begin at 5:20:16)

I’m hearing lots of discussion #onhere and in the community about how the district and our larger community can and should better support distance learning and families this fall and it seems like there are two distinct conversations emerging.

One area of the discussion centers on the formation of what folks are calling “pandemic pods”. These conversations focus on small groups of often privileged families pooling resources in support of their children, thus excluding other families with fewer resources. As you can imagine, there are lots of equity issues here.

Dr. Roxana Marachi, am education researcher and NAACP leader always reminds me “inequity is baked into choice.” She has also highlighted that the explosion of pods or what many are calling micro-schools (and homeschools) is an extension of this choice-based privately managed model of schooling.

On the other hand, there are also many folks having dialogue which focuses on going in another direction—parents working together across race, class, or other socioeconomic divisions to collectively advocate for solutions that support all families and centering communities in most need: Black/Latinx, low-income, immigrant, and/or students with disabilities.

They suggest that solutions must focus on collective advocacy and tax reform to properly fund public education and resource historically underserved communities.

It’s important to note that both conversations highlight the fact that the current crisis facing families of all backgrounds is not new, and disparities that existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic catastrophe are getting even worse under our current administration and state and local leaders are not yet answering the call. 

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on this common crisis, our discussions often get sidetracked into debates that divide us haves vs. have nots or teachers vs. parents, District vs. City Hall.

When we get sucked into debating each other we miss the larger issues at play. Most importantly the lack of leadership from the White House which is currently trying to dismantle public education and was recently sued (last week by NAACP for diverting money from public education to charters and private schools. In line with this, tech companies are also making billions of dollars off of the pandemic in a state with the 5th largest economy in the world. Many of those tech leaders live right here in SF

As Superintendant Vicent Matthews said last night, the pod conversation has “caught fire”. I’d go further to say it’s actually being stoked! Many folks don’t know that pods are being fueled by folks who want to pull money out of our public education system: online charters, micro-schools, homeschools, edtech, venture philanthropists and impact investors and all the other folks who make money off of these ventures. — This is disaster capitalism in action.

Edtech companies and investment managers and education privatizers all want us to fight because it distracts us. They want middle-class white women to fight with low-income families and teachers when we could all fight the tech billionaires making money off all of us and making all women crazy trying to work and take care of our families!

Follow the money. Pay attention to who is pushing for micro-schooling, and forcing us to reopen our schools rather than working to advocate for full funding for public education, universal childcare, and rent/mortgage relief for working families among others. 

We aren’t going to get our of this crisis by hoarding educational opportunities any more than we are by hoarding toilet paper.

We need to work together with parents and educators, central office and sites, district, and City Hall to improve remote crisis learning during this dangerous time of COVID. We need to work collaboratively to support one another and fight for resources that we need from City, State, and Federal government.

Here’s what we can do right now to unite with one another in support of both public education, children and families, and working women of all backgrounds. 

  • Defund the police and advocate for the City to invest in community-based organizations that support social-emotional well-being and fund Community School Coordinators to help schools connect these resources with families.
  • Advocate for state and local investment in broadband access for all students and families
  • In California, push to pass Prop 15 to increase tax revenue to schools
  • Advocate to the senate to pass the HEROES Act to provide needed relief to families and schools.
  • Push for rent and mortgage relief to so families don’t have to choose between food and homelessness.
  • Amp up the community response to fighting COVID. 

How are you advocating for all families and students in ways that build community and center those most in need?

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