KOCO played a leadership role in forming a city-wide multi-ethnic coalition of 12 parent and community groups (Communities Organized for Democracy in Education), and winning a precinct-based referendum campaign for an elected representative school board in 327 precincts in 35 wards out of 50 total wards across Chicago with an average 86% affirmative vote. Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE) is currently working to garner political will from Illinois’ state legislators to pass a bill calling for an elected representative school board. CODE has also been instrumental in raising public awareness around the negative disparate impact of public school privatization and school closings on communities of color, and uncovering the practice of persons connected to the Board of Education of paying protestors to counter the demands of the parents and students within communities.
KOCO has been a leader in engaging low-income and working families in working to shape public policy and calling for the reallocation of resources to sustain community-driven school transformation, the preservation and creation of affordable housing, and investment in youth. Our organization led the fight for community-driven school transformation models locally, and been in the leadership of this same effort nationally. Our organization has trained 50 local school council members who have been active in leading the fight for an elected representative school board campaign. Our organization has engaged parents, youth, and local school council members to present our plan for community-driven sustainable school transformation to the new Chief Executive Officer for the Chicago Public Schools (Barbara Byrd Bennett). Ms. Bennett has since committed to working with our leaders to revisit the decision to phase-out Dyett High School. Our leaders have also provided the leadership behind forming local and national coalitions that have won a municipal referendum measure for an elected representative school board, and a federal hearing on the impact of federal education policy on communities of color, respectively.
KOCO’s youth leaders have been working with their peers and adult allies to bring attention to the civil rights violations taking place at Dyett High School, and ultimately return investment to the school. KOCO’s youth leaders have been able to advocate for the adoption of restorative justice practices to replace the zero tolerance policies; and spearhead the adoption of innovative programming that led to the greatest increase in students attending post-secondary institutions, and the drastic decrease in suspensions and expulsions.
KOCO provides leadership amongst the twenty community groups comprising the national AEJ coalition. AEJ is working to promote community-driven models for sustainable school transformation as an alternative to the present top-down approach and privatization efforts from the US Department of Education. AEJ recently collaborated with groups from around the country to call for a national moratorium on school closings, and an end to the policies that create a school-to-prison pipeline.
KOCO is a member of Grow Your Own Teacher (GYO). Grow Your Own Teacher is an innovative partnership of community organizations, higher education institutions, and school districts that support parents, community members, and paraprofessionals in low-income communities to become highly qualified teachers. One thousand teachers will be prepared by 2016 through this program.
The goals of Grow Your Own Illinois (GYO) are: 1) Create a pipeline of highly qualified teachers of color; 2) Improve teacher retention in low-income schools; 3) Recruit for hard-to-staff schools and hard-to-fill positions; and 4) Increase cultural competence and community connections of teachers. Currently, KOCO is partnering with Malcolm X College and Northeastern University to provide the education for the teacher candidates.