We are truly honored to receive the Ron Sable Award for Activism from Crossroads Fund! Unfortunately, their annual benefit, Seeds of Change, has been canceled because of COVID-19. But Crossroads is creative... Tune in to their Facebook page for a Facebook Watch Party on Thursday, April 2, at 10am, as they honor us! You can watch the video here. #virtualseeds
Below is our prepared speech which was edited for time.
I am Jennie Biggs, parent of three CPS students and Raise Your Hand’s Communications & Outreach Director. I am here on behalf of our staff: Jianan Shi, Executive Director; Mary Fahey Hughes, Parent Liaison for Special Education; Jodi Lacy, Administration & Finance Assistant; Natasha Erskine, Parent Organizer for LSC Elections 2020; our founders, our board, and our countless volunteers; and also public school parents and public school supporters from all over Chicago and Illinois.
If we were up on a stage, receiving this award, you would see so many individuals who play such important roles in our organization.
Raise Your Hand is extremely honored and grateful at this acknowledgement of our work.
We would like to give a shout out to the many organizations who have fought these fights for decades, from whom we have learned so much, and with whom we are honored to fight in coalitions such as the TIF lawsuit, the Special Education advocates, and for the elected school board.
If we were with all of you, we would be looking out at a sea of organizers and supporters who have worked with us to defend and strengthen public education. We are forever grateful.
10 years ago, we had our first victory when thousands of Illinois parents joined together with our founder, Wendy Katten, for a “No to 37” campaign- sending over 20,000 emails- to fight against funding cuts. We have Wendy and many other early RYH parent leaders to thank for so many things, especially for bringing people together across class and neighborhoods to fight tirelessly for adequate and equitable school funding, to champion the needs of special education students, and to demand the learning environments children deserve -- schools that are clean & well maintained, free of unnecessary testing, neighborhood-based, with adequate staff including nurses and librarians, and serving as resources for students, families, and communities.
Raise Your Hand staff and volunteers have fought tirelessly for democratic, accountable and transparent school governance and spending. If you have spoken at a CPS board meeting, Raise Your Hand!
We have stood up for and stood beside parents at nearly all of them for the last 10 years, including this week at a virtual Board of Ed meeting.
Right now we are in the midst of an LSC Campaign to empower and support parents to participate in the upcoming LSC Elections, a democratic process rooted in engagement in our public schools.
Raise Your Hand has been spending this past chaotic week filling the gaps in CPS’ capacity and making sure that parents get the information and resources they need, while also providing space for parents to stay virtually connected to each other throughout this public health crisis.
This moment of coronavirus has laid bare the importance of parent advocacy. Parent voice has put the spotlight on the following:
- Building classroom communities and schoolwide restorative justice models is way more important and impactful than weeks of standardized testing.
- Multi-million-dollar no-bid contracts, privatized services, and delay and denial of special education rights must never happen again.
- We cannot accept schools with insufficient nursing and social work staff anymore. It is time to prioritize the health, safety, and mental well-being of our students.
- We must end the cycle of school closings and handing over buildings to private companies in favor of ensuring every community has the resources it needs.
- Most importantly, we must refuse to let tax increment finance districts and student-based budgeting schemes siphon tax dollars away from the schools and students that most need our city’s support.
This pandemic reminds us that schools and teachers are expected to handle so much beyond teaching and learning.
CPS schools didn’t close until a day after others in the area in order to get a food distribution plan in place because our current system relies on schools to be the first line of support to provide food for our children, social work, physical and mental health care, and so much more.
This system reflects decades of disinvestment and misaligned priorities and Raise Your Hand gives voice to the people living in this reality.
Our work is never done. We will not accept excuses that public funding is not available for our children’s futures while we commit to pay for luxuries for the wealthiest for decades to come.
We will not accept a system that pits students and families against each other. The false promise of competition will buckle under the force of community.
You will continue to see us:
- Nurture and support each other through information, organizing, and action.
- Fight for parent voice, power, and an elected school board.
- Work to make sure CPS parents and community members without documentation have the opportunity to serve on local school councils without fear.
- Demand the leaders in our city, our state, and our country acknowledge that coming out of this crisis our communities get a Learning Recovery Act to provide all students the resources they need to succeed.
Again, thanks to Crossroads Fund, its donors, and all of you for recognizing Raise Your Hand. Together in power we can secure the education our children -- ALL children -- need and deserve.
There are so many people who have joined RYH at many events, press conferences, rallies, parent trainings, fundraisers, CPS board meetings and hearings, IL State Board of Education meetings, Springfield trips, and so many others who have served on a RYH committee or took a parent leadership role within their school or broader community... way too many to list below! This slide recognizes our founder, the founding board and steering committee, former and current staff, and former and current RYH board members. We thank all of you for your commitment & dedication to public education!