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Taking back control of Philadelphia’s public schools, with Antoine Little and Arielle Klagsbrun

Philadelphia’s public schools have been a political football for years, under the control of the state and systematically underfunded. But after sixteen years of organizing, a new mayor and a new governor, the Philadelphia school district is going to come back into the city’s control. Arielle Klagsbrun and Antoine Little of the 215 People’s Alliance and the Our City Our Schools coalition join me to explain how, in the midst of a war for public education, they won a victory for public control.

Our City Our Schools coalition started about a year ago, under the 215 People’s Alliance umbrella. We started this fight a year ago because we knew that our children here in Philadelphia deserved more, so we decided to take on the challenge of getting rid of the SRC either through self-dissolvement or through whatever method needed to be done to get it done. We took on the fight.
It was a hard fight because we had to go out and organize communities, we had to have tons and tons of meetings with the powers that be, the stakeholders that are in place, and we had to sit down and have conversations with them and give them our vision of what the fight would take and what we would have to do in order to win the fight and be able to move forward and to regain local control.
Now, for myself, I got involved with the school situation when they decided to close sixty-four schools. One of the schools that they were deciding to close was, number one, my old alma mater, T.M. Peirce Elementary School, but it was also the school that my children attended. And not just my children, but many children in that school and from that neighborhood would be forced to walk almost over ten blocks just to get to the next school that they were talking about sending these children to. So, I got involved to say, “Hold up. No, we can’t do this.”
We went out and we organized the community, sat at different SRC meetings, testified, meeting after meeting challenging about having to walk this distance that some of these children would have to walk through and some of the communities and the neighborhoods that they would have to walk through in order to get to this school weren’t the best. So, we had to show them what he was deciding to do with this one particular school and then, from there, T.M. Peirce was one of the schools that was saved, but unfortunately, many of the other ones weren’t able to be saved. But, again, they were only in the Black and Brown communities.

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Disrupting education for fake free speech, with Thomas Gunderson

The battles over “free speech” on campus have loomed large in the era of Trump, with conservative provocateurs invited to campuses across the country only to claim that they are being silenced when students protest them. In one of the latest salvos in the battle to claim “freedom of speech” for the Right, Scott Walker and his allies in Wisconsin are pushing a policy that would suspend or expel students for protesting in ways the university deems infringe on the free speech of another. Thomas Gunderson is a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and is organizing against the policy.

It is especially annoying that they are just trying to do this in the UW system right now, because just in the recent year they have politically attacked both professors and students. Members of the state legislature have openly attacked professors and students whose expression, whose free speech they have found disagreeable. For anything like a free speech legislation to have any sort of legitimacy to it, the restrictions upon free speech have to necessarily be viewpoint and value neutral restrictions. That this would be the case in the UW system at the current moment is just completely unrealistic. I think that is what has many students, at least in my circles, very concerned about this, that they will be people who are targeted. Particularly a lot of minority groups at the university, those that are here are really worried about it.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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A platform for progress, with Nina Turner


Since the 2016 election, there have been a lot of debates about the direction in which the Democratic party should go. Our Revolution, the organization that grew out of the Sanders campaign and now headed by former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, has been working to provide an answer to that question, and is now backing a “people’s platform” of legislation to tackle inequalities of all kinds, from voting rights to abortion rights to slowing climate change. The Democratic leadership, though, didn’t exactly welcome Turner when she went to deliver the platform.

The reason why we decided to take legislation is because we did want it to be tangible. Sometimes we talk about these issues in ways where people can’t see that they can be realized, and the beautiful thing about the People’s Platform and the coalition that we have of supporting organizations of the People’s Platform is that it is tangible, it is real. The Education for All bill has been introduced that will require the federal government to pay 2/3rds of college. We know how important that is to make sure that we have a workforce that is highly educated and highly skilled. That is what this is about. It is about making that kind of investment.
Medicare for All, which is the signature, was the signature of Senator Sanders campaign. It is the foundation of what we do, which is affirming that we as a country can have Medicare for All, we can create an environment that doesn’t leave anybody behind, that is not attached to a job. To me, that kind of thing can spark an entrepreneurial spirit if somebody knows that their healthcare is not tied to a job and they can dream bigger and they can do things that probably ordinarily they would not do.
And what we are saying to the Congress, but particularly to the Democratic Party, particularly to the Democrats that serve in the Congress is “Here it is. Your members introduced these pieces of legislation. Sign onto them and let us show the people of this country, the folks of this country that this is what we stand for, this is what we are fighting for.” It is important to have all of these options, because for some people the environment might be the most important thing, to other people economic justice might be the thing, for other people racial justice. So we have something in the People’s Platform for everybody.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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An equitable infrastructure plan, with Bishop Dwayne Royster

Donald Trump’s plans to “Make America Great Again” included promises of massive infrastructure spending, but it turns out he’s mostly interested in privatizing what’s left of the American public sector to make his cronies rich at the expense of everyone else. But infrastructure spending is desperately needed, so the “Millions of Jobs” coalition is coming together with a big, positive, public-oriented vision for infrastructure that goes beyond roads and bridges to the infrastructure of care. Bishop Dwayne Royster of the PICO Network is part of that coalition, and he explains:

I think Trump and others are trying to make deals and they are trying to maximize the profits for their friends and the other billionaires that they care about. But, when we think about infrastructure I think we have to think about the whole in terms of how we are building out our country, our nation, how we are building out future generations. Any infrastructure project is a project that you are looking at that has to last several decades. What better investment in infrastructure could there be than building up solar energy, building out education priorities for our kids, making sure that we are creating job opportunities for people that have been locked out of those opportunities by creating good-paying middle-class jobs? I think that is infrastructure, as well.

I think infrastructure is much bigger than just looking at roads and bridges. Of course, they are incredibly important, don’t get me wrong on that. But, it is important that we are looking at the infrastructure of a nation which also includes the human resources that we have, as well.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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The optics of education, with Elijah Armstrong

Betsy DeVos and Paul Ryan were both greeted with protests last week when they visited educational institutions; DeVos at historically black Bethune-Cookman University, and Paul Ryan at Harlem Success Academy, a charter school in New York. Education organizer Elijah Armstrong explains what the two have to do with one another, and why, even when education policy isn’t at the top of our lists of things being affected by Trump, it is always there.

EA: To me, education is always there. Now, whether it is talked about in a way where folks can see the direct connections, that is different. But, it is very prevalent in all things. Even with the healthcare piece. Most of the folks that need healthcare also go to schools that are 95% or 100% Title I schools, in highly impoverished areas that are all kind of pushed together in one area so they are all completely underfunded. Those kids, their parents, their families are the ones that are suffering the most from also this healthcare piece. It is just like how now in the school system where they can do re-zoning and make sure all these schools are supplemented with enough resources for them to be sustainable, but they purposely make sure that these schools are highly concentrated with poverty and then those are the schools that are always subject to low test scores and the schools that need to be improved and things like that. But, if these kids don’t have the resources, you are literally stripping them of their resources that they need and then calling them failures and saying it is their fault. The same way that they are stripped and they don’t have the services that they need, it is the same thing that is happening with healthcare. The folks that are the most affected, those students go to those schools, they come from those areas.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.