Powerful Assembly Propels ‘Fund Our Future’ Campaign Forward

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“Are you trying to play the game or are you trying to change the game?” Jitu Brown asked attendees at the MEJA Winter Assembly on Saturday, December 15th.

We know that MEJA is here to change the game when it comes to racial and economic justice and funding for our public schools and colleges.

Throughout the day, local activists heard from compelling speakers like Chicago education justice movement leader and community organizer Jitu Brown, met with peers from across the state to build relationships, and planned next steps for the Fund Our Future campaign in local communities.

“You can’t talk about education justice if you don’t talk about race,” Brown said in the keynote address. “People are concerned about school funding. I agree, but if they had $20 billion they wouldn’t give it to us. They would find a way to deny it to black and brown children. To win [the fight against school closings in Chicago], we waged a multiracial fight for education justice led by the people who were closest to the pain.”

Jitu Brown’s speech grounded the work of the attendees and our larger Fund Our Future campaign in deep commitment to leading with race and demanding justice.

“Thanks to the inspiration of Brother Jitu Brown and the energy and ideas of hundreds of students, parents and educators in the room, the Fund Our Future campaign is off to a game-changing start,” said Lisa Guisbond, MEJA’s president and executive director of Citizens for Public Schools. “We are building a coalition and a movement to win the fight for funding and, more importantly, the schools all of our communities deserve.”

Sheldon Ross (Lisa Guisbond/MEJA)

Sheldon Ross (Lisa Guisbond/MEJA)

“I came to find out what the campaign is to get the bullet points. To find out what is the agenda and what I can contribute and what I can learn from the process? Why do we need to Fund Our Future?” said Sheldon Ross, an educator and Waltham resident. “It seems like a cliché. Children are the future, but more importantly, if we hope to maintain the well state of the nation, it is important to safeguard the children who will be the caretakers of the future.”

“I came today because I wanted to stay in connection with Jitu Brown and also the work that MEJA is doing,” said Mary Jo Hetzel, an author and educator from Boston. “I think that the whole community school movement is very, very important, and we need funding both to improve the schools we have as well as to build towards genuine community schools that meet the needs of the communities being served. That’s why I’m here. I’m excited, and things are good!”

Izi Epshtein (Lisa Guisbond/MEJA)

Izi Epshtein (Lisa Guisbond/MEJA)

“I think we should fund our future because, clearly, education in general is a right for all people, and there’s just a lack of accessibility across the country,” said Isabella Epshtein, a UMass Amherst student from Newton. “More specifically, we need to focus on being able to give access to all people and furthering their education from K through 12 to higher education. I think it should be a priority that organizations, coalitions come together and fight.”

“I teach at Fitchburg State University; I’m on the Leominster School Committee, my wife teaches at Leominster High School. I have two kids in Leominster Public Schools, one at Fitchburg State. So I’m a parent, an educator, I cover every base,” said Michael Stassen. “I really started this because I was paying attention to funding issues for Leominster schools, which got me looking into the Foundation Budget. I could see how costs were going up at one level and the Foundation Budget was going up at a lower level. So the gap between those gets bigger and bigger every year. And then this year, they didn’t even follow the formula. They took money away from poor kids to give to rich kids.”

Joe Herosy. (Lisa Guisbond/MEJA)

Joe Herosy. (Lisa Guisbond/MEJA)

“We need to fund our future because so many issues that come up in the classroom are because we don’t have enough space, we don’t have enough equipment, we don’t have enough people to be doing the jobs, mostly people to be doing the jobs, of all the various things that kids need when they develop,” said Joe Herosy, a Quincy resident and Marshfield teacher. “I often think that sometimes just having one teacher and 25 Kids is not a great arrangement. You need lots of more adults. We need counselors. They always talk about how we need to teach to the individual, which is true, but we’re not getting the resources to help us do that.”

“Working with our partners, we’re developing statewide structures and timelines big enough so you can plug in your work and feel less isolated and vulnerable,” said MEJA Director Charlotte Kelly.” We break through by being in these rooms together and finding alignment with one another. We’re going to continue to build!”

MEJA Winter Assembly stands in solidarity with the students, parents, and teachers of Los Angeles, CA. They gathered 50,000 people to march for public education on December 15th.

MEJA Winter Assembly stands in solidarity with the students, parents, and teachers of Los Angeles, CA. They gathered 50,000 people to march for public education on December 15th.