GEM Points of Unity

Posted Oct. 26, 2010
Points of Unity: Grassroots Education Movement
WHERE WE STAND: We support public education and reject the assumption that the private sector can more effectively provide public services.  A democratic society is dependent upon the success of its public education system. Attacks on public education undermine democracy. In order to create a meaningful educational reform movement, it is vital that teachers, parents, students, school workers and community members organize and unite with the common goal of defending and improving public education.
Every child deserves a high quality free public education. The struggle for free quality public education is a civil and human rights issue. No matter the race, socioeconomic background, gender, home language or neighborhood, every child deserves a high quality free public education.
Democratic school governance is a critical component of a democratic society. Parent, teacher, and student voices should have significant weight in the decision-making process. When one elected official (a mayor, for example) controls a school system, the public’s ability to participate is limited or even eliminated.
Direct and meaningful support—financial, material and human—must be provided to public schools, especially those who encounter difficulty. Arbitrary restructuring, phasing out, and the closure of schools have serious consequences for students, teachers and their communities. These misguided practices have not improved education.
Access to a high quality public education is not something that should be won in a lottery—it is a most basic human and civil right. Charter schools allow entry only by lottery, and are not truly public schools. They do not serve our most needy students, and they frequently divide communities, sparking intense competition over resources. While charter schools are publically financed in part, they operate under complete private control.
Public schools must offer a curriculum that is meaningful, relevant and engaging. Student interest should be a spark for learning in the classroom. The emergence of scripted curricula has resulted in a degradation of teacher and student creativity. 
Full and equitable funding for ALL of our public schools. Urban schools have historically been underfunded, which has negatively affected the level of education our students receive.
Smaller class sizes that allow each student to receive the attention he/she needs and deserves. This is a key
pathway to ensuring our students receive a quality education. The differential in class sizes between urban and suburban schools is a major indicator of the disparities in education.
A humane and progressive system of assessment that assumes teachers are in the best position to assess their students. Using a variety of tools (including tests), teachers and students can work together to improve teaching and learning. A system based on high stakes testing results in a test-driven curriculum, which de-skills teachers, dumbs down the teaching and learning process, and stifles creative and critical thinking. We oppose both the use of high stakes test results to evaluate students, teachers and schools and merit pay based on these evaluations.
School security measures that are used to foster dignity, trust and a sense of community, rather than a police presence and system based on punitive control.  
Guaranteed job placement—at other public schools or programs—for educators who are displaced due to program or school closings. Educators must be contractually protected with seniority transfer rights. We oppose any political attempt to fire and scapegoat ATR’s (Absent Teacher Reserve teachers) who have worked in so-called “failing” schools.
A strong teacher’s union built on a foundation of an active, participatory and mobilized rank and file with a democratically elected leadership that is truly accountable to its members. We are committed to building such a union at the grassroots level.


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