By Diego Carlos, Kathy Staudt, and Aaron Waggoner
Public education is one of America’s most enduring investments in itself, a keystone for our country’s development. In Texas, it was considered so essential that taxpayer funded, universally available education was written into the state Constitution.
But the promise of equitable delivery of quality education for all, at both the national level and at the state level, has been elusive. Racial and economic disparities, inhumane standardized testing, and stagnant teacher salaries have held us back. Most recently, profiteers have threatened the very foundations of that promise, treating our schools as just another industry to be capitalized, monetized, and pilfered.
Court after court in Texas has found that our public schools are underfunded and that funding is inequitably distributed. Yet, charter schools continue to siphon public education dollars that should be used to improve our traditional system of public schools.
The El Paso Alliance for Just Schools is a group that has formed to seek justice in all aspects of our education system:
- Financial: Inclusive quality public education, provided free from profit motive, as the fastest way to achieve racial and economic justice.
- Employment: Equitable and just staffing and pay of professional teachers and support personnel at the school level; a living wage for all staff regardless of position.
- Structural: Accountability from all trustees and administration, including transparency and anti-racist and equitable principles in planning, process, staffing, curriculum, infrastructure, and budgets; transparency and good stewardship at all levels regarding employee pay and benefits, potential external interests, and contracting.
- Environmental: Healthy and safe learning environments for all students, faculty, and staff, free from environmental pollution and hazards.
- Student-centered: Small classes where learning is measured by humane, evidence-based assessments designed by classroom teachers.
- Communal: Meaningful and substantive involvement of families and community partners in educational decisions at all levels; appropriate Spanish-language communications and bilingual staffing.
The alliance consists of current and former teachers, parents, and taxpayers who have seen enough erosion of that sacred public promise and are working to create just and equitable public schools in El Paso.
Four El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees seats are up for election in this current campaign. We know that charter school proponents are putting large amounts of money into the EPISD elections. It is worth mentioning that the same fight is happening in Socorro ISD, where there are also four seats up for election on May 1.
The El Paso Alliance for Just Schools will stand in solidarity with EPISD board member candidates and others from across our community who are committed to fighting the good fight to keep public schools truly public and with our friends committed to doing the same in our neighboring districts.
To that end, we invite the public to view our first accountability session at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 21, streamed live on Facebook. Taxpayers, parents, teachers, and other community stake-holders will share their experiences and expectations with the candidates. Those seeking public office will be asked to commit to concrete steps towards justice in the largest school district in El Paso.
Visit www.facebook.com/ElPasoAlliance for more information and to join the fight for just schools.
Diego Carlos, Kathy Staudt, and Aaron Waggoner are longtime educators and members of the El Paso Alliance for Just Schools.