Watch: Spotlight on the Southeast – What Can We Learn from Challenges in the Region?

Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Institute for Southern Studies, gave this interactive training on the Southeast at the 2012 Learning Institute. He provided key data on the important changes in the Southern landscape and engage them in strategic conversations about why those changes also matter to the rest of the country.


On the Future of Equal Opportunity in our Nation

By Maritza Guzman: Director, Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management

On October 10, 2012 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case; and while a decision could come at any time, it is not likely until spring or early summer 2013.  Fisher challenges the use of race as one of several factors when promoting diversity in university admissions. It is the first case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court since the Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld an admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School and broadly affirmed the educational importance of diversity. The Fisher case is being watched nationwide as an important determinant of future inclusive admissions policies at public universities.

We live in a global economy that requires experience navigating diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. This critical skill best occurs in a setting with a diverse student body. Inclusive admissions policies are good for our nation and good for our economy. The University of Texas uses a fair process to look at factors, in addition to test scores, in order to expand opportunity and create a diverse learning environment that prepares students for the real world. Many students of color face extra obstacles to success not faced by others. When students do well despite these obstacles, the university should be able to give them the opportunity to succeed.  Please visit here to learn more about why equal opportunity is good for our nation.

Public Interest Projects and its partners work towards a society that ensures justice, dignity, and opportunity for all people.  For example, since 2004 the Fulfilling the Dream Fund has been devoted to promoting and protecting equal opportunity in our nation. Galvanized and anchored by then President of the Ford Foundation Susan V. Berresford, the Dream Fund was created in the wake of the Grutter v. Bollinger decision, and sprang from a belief in core American values – that everyone deserves a shot at achieving their potential.

Before it made final grants last year, the Fund supported a number of key efforts across the country that helped advance opportunity for all. This included research that informed the field, as they communicate why equal opportunity and policies that promote it are needed, fair and important to our nation.   Many of the groups supported by the Dream Fund continue their work to advance and protect equal opportunity. To learn more about what’s at stake in the Fisher v. University of Texas case see Fisher v. Texas  and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Fisher v. Texas.

We’ve made great strides toward equal opportunity in this country. Our President embodies possibility and potential for all children of color. They now know that they can dream of one day becoming President of the United States. But there are still entrenched inequities across our nation. All too often, a child’s zip code dictates whether they attend a good school… or a substandard one. That child may have access to college placement courses…or none at all. Too often children of color face (and overcome) extraordinary barriers to a quality education. Those that apply to college are resilient and determined – precisely the qualities our society needs in future leaders and entrepreneurs. It is for these reasons that we must all continue a vigorous effort to make our nation’s colleges and universities opportunities for learning for all young people. And we must work to ensure that a quality education is offered to all of our country’s children long before they are old enough to even consider a college education.

Listen: The Power of Art & Cultural Organizing to Inspire & Build Movements

Audio from Learning Institute “Tough Times in Social Justice Philanthropy: Strategic Impact Through Stronger Collaboration, Capacity & Alliances

[**If your web browser does not show the SoundCloud player below, click here to listen.**]

Culture is the realm of ideas, images and stories; it is where people make sense of the world and where they find meaning and forge community. History shows that when culture changes, politics follows. Culture can reach audiences beyond the bounds of what community organizing and policy-based advocacy can do. While the media is laced with myths, stereotypes and misrepresentation of grassroots movements, cultural interventions can play a key role in pushing forward stories that help shift the public debate. A growing movement of artists around the country is using cultural tools to fight economic inequality, corporations and anti-migrant hate. In this session, artist-activists, writers and cultural leaders discussed models for connecting artists to movements for social change.


Listen: Reproductive Rights and Civic Engagement

Audio from Learning Institute “Tough Times in Social Justice Philanthropy: Strategic Impact Through Stronger Collaboration, Capacity & Alliances

[**If your web browser does not show the SoundCloud player below, click here to listen.**]

Since 2010, over 2,000 reproductive health provisions have been introduced in legislatures across the country.  Many of these provisions undermine women’s health by cutting basic health services and restricting access to breast exams, cancer screenings, birth control, and abortion.  Many of the women most affected by these cuts are low-income, immigrant women and women of color – the same women who are often most disenfranchised from the civic engagement process.  This session explored how issue-focused organizations are developing strategies that enable them to engage their constituents in civic participation efforts in order to advance their missions.


The Just and Fair Schools Fund October Newsletter: Highlights in Academic Justice


Miami-Dade Amends Code of Conduct

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) – the 4th largest district in the nation – set new rules that reduce lengthy out-of-school suspension terms and engage communities to boost positive student behavior. These revisions implement the recommendations championed by People Acting for Community Together (P.A.C.T.) on a M-DCPS task force, which was created in response to Power U Center for Social Change and allies’ organizing and advocacy over recent years.

Jacksonville Pilot Project Cuts Suspensions in Half, is Expanded Districtwide

Due to commitments secured by Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment (ICARE), two Duval County, FL, schools started restorative justice projects that reduced suspensions by more than half and Student Code of Conduct violations by roughly a third during the 2011-12 school year. Based on this succes, restorative justice programs have been opened to all county middle and high schools this year.

Commitments secured from city leaders to take specific action on youth crime, the low high school graduation rate, homelessness and jobs in Duval County.

Restorative Justice Helps Raise Academic Achievement in Denver

Denver North High School reported double-digit gains in reading, science, and Advanced Placement passing scores, as well as a 58% drop in suspensions, in the 2011-12 school year. Padres y Jóvenes Unidos youth leaders spearheaded reforms that created North’s restorative justice program, which is credited with spurring academic gains and is recognized as a national model. Read more

Partner Spotlights

Communities Expose School Pushout Crisis Around the Nation

As part of the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s (DSC) Week of Action on School Pushout 2012, thousands of youth-, parent- and education leaders in cities around the country promoted commonsense solutions to the school pushout crisis. For example, Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) held a rally in Buffalo, NY, where Assistant Superintendent Will Keresztes announced that the District will be “shifting from a punitive system for addressing student misconduct to a restorative one base on interventions.”

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For more news, resources and upcoming events, please read the complete Just and Fair Schools Fund Newsletter here.

The Just and Fair Schools Fund (JFSF) supports grassroots organizing initiatives that work to eliminate harsh school discipline policies and practices – and that uphold the right to education for all youth. Our newsletter shares updates on parent-, youth-, and congregation-led victories, partner spotlights, news, and resources to promote positive school climates and discipline.


Listen: Raul Pacheco of Ozomatli sings about Social Justice at September Learning Institute

Here’s some end-of-the-week music from Public Interest Projects’ Learning Institute last month in New York. Favianna Rodriguez helped incorporate a special “cultural organizing” track into the event. Here she introduces Raul Pacheco of Ozomatli

Listen and watch more Institute presentations from diverse speakers here.

Not Your Normal Funder Briefing

Funders and grantees gathered in NY Sept. 27 and 28 for the Public Interest Projects Learning Institute, “Tough Times in Social Justice Philanthropy.”

The Institute featured provocative dialogue and interactive workshops focused on creating strategic impact through stronger collaboration, capacity and alliances.

A special culture track was integrated into the Institute and socially conscious stand-up comedy by Negin Farsad and music by Raul Pacheco of Ozomatli kept participants laughing and rocking.

See the agenda, visit the links of the presenters, check out scenes from the Institute, watch an inspiring video of what inspires funders and advocates, listen to the stimulating closing plenary by Pedro Noguera and read the valuable resources provided at the gathering.