482 Forward is a “citywide educating network” that is neighborhood based throughout Detroit that aims to “win educational justice for [their] communities” by making sure all children in Detroit have access to quality education. According to their website, they work with existing neighborhood organizations to help build power, with their main objective being relationship building and fostering leadership within communities. One of their major victories was helping connect community organizations to a charter school that was considering opening in their neighborhood and forming a community advisory board to monitor the school’s progress and hold it accountable. They are working to expand this model throughout the city, with varying success. This group is also working to boost parent voice, battle chronic absenteeism, and fight the constant battle for equity. Based on their social media presence, this organization seems especially influential in Detroit.
Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES) works for educational equity in Detroit, with one focus on eliminating “discriminatory charter school policies” by working with congregations. This organization works to utilize already existing religious communities, “training leaders in churches, synagogues and mosques, [and] teaching participants how to articulate their shared values and work with their constituents to take collective action in the public arena.” MOSES organizes and trains these leaders to take action fighting the inequity present in the Detroit public school system, which they find especially present in charter school admissions policies.
The Detroit Parent Network was created for parents, by parents in 2002 in order to give parents more of a leadership role in determining their children’s educational trajectories. Their main objective is to give parents the “information and tools they need to help their own children succeed and to help forge better outcomes across the city.” A major victory and expansion of the group came from partnering with Detroit Public Schools to create Parent Resource Centers across the city. Importantly, they are neighborhood based, so that fewer voices get lost amongst the crowd. They are also proud that their organization is supported through parent membership fees ($10/year), and their board is directly elected by parents.
The Chadsey Condon Community Organization is one of the groups that partnered with 482 Forward (see above) in order to increase community input and elevate parent voices for charter school issues. A main tenant of their organization is the belief that “resident engagement and leadership is critical to sustained, large-scale change in their community.” Their work is grounded in “community partnership,” and their leadership team is divided by neighborhood to ensure that each group of parents and students has a contact point within the organization. They don’t specifically focus on education or organizing around charter schools, but are focused on what is best for their community, thus encompassing these issues.
Congress of Communities, another Detroit-based organization that has previously partnered with 482 Forward, is dedicated to improving education and community issues in Southwest Detroit. They saw a need for cross-community collaboration, and aim to serve as a bridge between students, parents, stakeholders, and other community members. A main objective is to “project the voice of our residents in our diverse cultural community,” and train leaders from all different backgrounds to enable them to enact change. Like Chadsey-Condon, they don’t only focus on educational issues, but were part of the team led by 482 Forward fighting for change in charter school accountability and community involvement in schools.
Southwest Solutions is a grassroots organization that was formed in order to address mental health issues in Detroit, but has since grown to address many city-wide issues, including education. One of their main focuses right now is partnering with Detroit Public Schools (DPS) in order to create Community Schools, thus strengthening the power and quality of neighborhood schools as an alternative to charters. They employ a Community School Site Coordinator at each school who works to make sure that parents and students have a voice to access the resources they deserve. The objective is to integrate students within DPS and give them pathways to success.
This Detroit based organization’s aim is to “protect the right of school choice” by educating parents how to advocate for choice. They seek to help parents navigate Detroit’s especially complex educational scene by providing information and training them as leaders so they can advocate for themselves. However, their overarching vision is to ensure that the school choice system remains, but just becomes more accessible to parents. Whether or not this is grassroots is a bit suspicious, but it reflects organizing on both sides of the debate, which I think makes it worth considering, alongside other organizations. However, we should remain wary of their true intentions.
Another pro-charter organization, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies is working to build community support for charter schools through engaging directly with communities. They work to “connect families to key resources that help them discover the best learning environment for their child,” so that all families have equitable access to the benefits of charter schools. As with many pro-charter organizations, it is important to be skeptical if they are as grassroots as they claim on their website, based on the amount of money being poured into Detroit by pro-charter philanthrocapitalists.
This alliance aims to “reclaim the promise of public education as our nation’s gateway to a strong democracy and racial and economic justice,” through organizing parents, kids, teachers, and unions. One tenant of their multi-focused platform is to “stop flooding our communities with underperforming and unaccountable charter schools,” which they see as harmful to education’s promise as an equalizer. They are working to stop cities from opening new charters until sufficient funding is procured for neighborhood schools and systems are put in place to hold charters accountable. Their main efforts seem to be supporting existing groups on social media platforms, and working to give people voices who might not otherwise be heard.
All images are retrieved from the organization’s website, the links of which are listed above.