“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”
― Herbert Spencer, Philosopher
This spring, Turning the Page staff supported the efforts of parent leaders from Ward 8 schools to testify at DC Public Schools’ Budget Oversight Hearing for the City Council’s Committee on Education, which took place on April 14th. This hearing influences the school budget review process for the coming year and ensures that the public has the chance to advocate for changes in the proposed allocation of funds. In preparation for the hearing, TTP team members researched relevant issues of importance to parent leaders and explored the ins and outs of the testifying process. While public hearings invite testimonies from affected communities and can create more equality in whose voices are being heard, TTP recognized the barriers for parents from Ward 8 who may not have access to the many resources needed to testify such as internet and computer access to sign up and type copies of their testimonies. In order to assist parents’ navigation of the testifying process, TTP held a “How-To” session that covered the basics of testifying and provided each interested leader with relevant statistics to support their central argument. In addition, TTP’s Partnership Coordinators prepped parents during the week prior to the hearing to ensure they had typed copies of their testimonies to submit to the Council members and that they felt ready and able to testify their concerns for their ward, school, and family to the larger DC community.
These testimonies were backed by anecdotes,
statistics, and facts gathered from all over the District. They were used as ways to lift the filters covering much of the information around budget allocations to DC Public Schools. Requesting more transparency in the allocation of school funds and in the building of budgets, parent leaders testified for school repairs, the shortage of after school programs available to students, concerns around an extended-year calendar, and violence prevention to address crime near schools.
TTP’s mission engages parents as partners in the education process to expand the opportunities and resources available for all students. Representation matters when it comes to equity and social justice work, and TTP sought to address the equity gap by ensuring the community was represented in these critical conversations. Knowing that our Ward 8 parent leaders wanted to address the larger community and that TTP could support them in doing so meant that our work as organizers assisted in facilitating their advocacy efforts. Helping parents through this process meant that the DC City Council would know of the worry parents and guardians face when simply sending their students to a neighborhood school. These testimonies meant, most of all, that there was now a chance for the decision-makers to have a genuine interaction with all those that their decisions directly affect.
This type of advocacy in a community can uplift all members. By encouraging the DC City Council to allocate funds proportionate to the needs of students, communities, and schools, they allow all students the best chance at a free, appropriate, and high-quality public education as guaranteed by law.