SOS Steering Committee 2013 – 2015 Vision Statement5

Bess Altwerger – Baltimore, Maryland

The Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action was created in order to mobilize and organize educators, parents, students, activists and civic groups to defend public education from corporate education reform. After decades of corporate-driven education policies that ignored the experience, research and knowledge of those closest to classrooms and kids, it was time to make our voices heard in the nation’s capitol. It was our hope that the 2011 conference, rally and march would mark the beginning of a mass movement, led by a strong, vocal and courageous Save Our Schools alliance. With hundreds of endorsing organizations and individuals, including some of the most notable educators of our time, Save Our Schools was poised to take a leadership role in the resistance against corporate education reform.

For a number of reasons, it seems that SOS has lost the momentum and sense of hope that was built nationally through the 2011 mobilization. Although SOS held an excellent conference in July, 2012, it failed to attract the attendance or attention it needed to hold its place in the national leadership. If elected to the Steering Committee I will work to help rekindle the activism and optimism that was initially sparked by SOS and to help it re-emerge as a stronger and more unified voice for public education. With its new governance structure and new leadership in place, SOS will have the potential to become a stronger activist organization capable of changing the national discourse and policies in education.

I have been involved with Save Our Schools since its inception. I worked on numerous committees as a member of the Executive Committee leading up to the 2011 mobilization. I helped draft the founding principles. Although I declined from accepting a nomination in the last election, I stayed involved as a volunteer and advisor and continued to be active on committees. My involvement over the last two years has given me a clear perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of SOS and on its potential for the future. I believe that I have the commitment, experience, organizational skills and passion to needed to take the organization into the future.

My vision for the future of SOS includes (but is not limited to) the following:

1. Re-establish and form new alliances with other activist organizations to work together on national and local levels to combat corporate reform measures. Recapture the sense of SOS as a coalition of endorsing and allied organizations. Reconfirm our commitment to unite families, teachers, students and civic activists in all our endeavors. Regional coordinators and IC’s should seek opportunities to partner with other groups on issues that face teachers, students and families at the local school district level.

2. Establish a strong presence in the national dialogue on education through communications with the popular press and social media. Press releases, position papers, newsletters and alerts, website postings should be on-going so we establish ourselves as a consistent voice. We should become the “go-to” resource for viewpoints and opinions. We might consider launching our own web-based or XM radio station to take our messages directly to the public.

3. Organize and/or facilitate national and coordinated actions that may originate at any organizational level, from the IC network to the national leadership. While SOS is one of many sites that provide informational resources on-line, our role should not be limited to this. We must revitalize the action orientation of SOS using a wide variety of organizing strategies. Annual conferences, though important opportunities for networking and learning, should augment rather than substitute for organized actions.

4. Commit ourselves to supporting vocal, courageous and democratic teachers’ unions at the local, state and national levels. We need to support to the utmost extent possible all strikes and other actions called by unions, as occurred in Chicago recently. We need to support the union memberships in their efforts to pressure their leaders to take strong stands against corporate reform measures in their negotiations.

5. Continue to remain politically independent from both Democratic and Republican parties and politicians, and remain steadfast in our principles and positions regarding education policies. It has become abundantly clear that the corporate reform movement is bipartisan in nature. We need to expose corporate influence and power as the driving force behind the education policies of both parties. Overall, our goal should be to reclaim public education as a democratic institution that operates in the interest of our children rather than corporate profit.

6. Ensure that SOS operates as a democratic and inclusive organization that values diversity in every aspect of its work. From its leadership to its membership, SOS should reflect the diverse constituencies and communities that are impacted by harmful education policies. We should make it a priority to reach out to linguistically diverse communities through publishing materials, offering on-line resources, and conducting direct communication in non-English languages. Every effort should be made at national, regional and local levels to collaborate with and seek guidance from organizations and activists who most authentically represent the public school communities we aim to support.