Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday BATs!

BATs is 2 TODAY!! For 2 years we have been fighting the good fight for children and public education. We have become a clearinghouse for teachers and parents on how teachers, public education, and public education children are being assaulted around the country. Here is our year in review. Please add anything you feel that BATs had a direct impact on and we look forward to year 3 where we will win the fight to win back our schools!

BATs held a successful rally outside the USDOE in the summer of 2014. It was a full day of song, dance, and truth telling. BATs ended the rally with a meeting that Secretary Arne Duncan attended and, in which, we got to speak our truth to him. BATs clearly told him his policies were hurting kids, communities, and teachers.

BATS ran for office in 2014. Ohio BAT Janet Garrett ran for Congress. TN BAT Gloria Johnson ran for Tennessee House of Representatives and NJ BAT Allan Cannon also ran for Congress. In Florida we have Shannon Russell and Darcy Addo throwing their hat in the political ring. TN Bats won the leadership of the Knox County Education Association. 3 BATs also won top leadership of The Hawaii State Teachers Association. Gus Morales, a member of the BATs Leadership Team, won the presidency of Holyoke Teachers Association in Massachusetts. Mitchell Robinson ran for state superintendent of education in Michigan.

BATs proudly formed a formal caucus in NEA who will be showing their power this July at the NEA RA in Orlando. AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFT honored the work of BATs in the summer of 2014. Weingarten included "Be a little badass" in her AFT speech. Working with AFT, BATs also spearheaded a successful survey on teacher workplace stress and strongly called on the federal government to conduct a formal scientific research project on the topic.

As an organization, BATs had a powerful year. Based on the idea and drive of Aixa Rodriguez, BATs created DREAM. The mission of DREAM is to “Contribute to a conversation about how to address the many issues that impact education through social justice actions, and teaching methods. Under the umbrella of DREAM, come together to unpack attitudes about race, class, privilege, homophobia, disabilities, ageism, sexism, and immigration. Inform other members about events and issues in your region so we can understand how these topics on a national level.”

BATs grieved the loss of children and teachers nationwide. BATs stepped up to donate to Francis Scott Key elementary school in Philly after a teacher there sadly committed suicide. BAT leadership team member Dr. Denisha Jones led discussions on our page regarding white privilege and racism. BATs made strong public statements denouncing the shooting of unarmed people of color and will continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement across the nation.

BATs are proud to have over 250 people volunteer to run the infrastructure of BATs. This includes our state pages, our specialty pages, Pinterest, Twitter, website, blog, and our amazing Meme Team. Our Pinterest receives over 20,000 visitors a month and our blog has over ½ million hits. The BAT twitter feed went over 20,000 followers and there are now BAT twitter feeds in every state. Many of our state pages also have smaller regional pages. Florida has 2 subgroups (Miami-Dade and Orange), New York has 2 subgroups (Buffalo and NYC BATs), Tennessee BATs has 2 subgroups (Memphis and Nashville), and California also has 1 subgroup (BAY BATs). Our International BATs fight GERM worldwide and BATs have been involved in a few actions to stop Global Education Reform. Our BAT Haven continues to support those BATs that are struggling and provides a sanctuary for support.

When it comes to activism and art NO ONE beats BATs. Led by our amazing Meme team, BATs produces some of the most memorable statements on social media. Several of our memes have been shared by the millions. One Meme by Sue Goncarovs posted on our fan page of Diane Ravitch's words had a worldwide reach of over 2.3 million people. Blogger, artist, and filmmaker Steven Singer spearheaded Badass Films  Badass Films is a compilation of what BATs fight on a daily basis. BAT art work and activism are all over social media due to our amazing Meme Team and artistic talent of many BATs!

On the state level, and to quote amazing Chicago activist Brotha Jitu, “BATs are Everywhere.” BATs stood in solidarity as BATs around the nation went out on strike in Reynoldsburg, Ohio and Washington State (to name a few). We also stood in strong solidarity with teachers who were murdered and jailed across the globe.

Our Tennessee BATs were powerhouses in 2014. Tennessee Bats held legislative planning meetings and partnered with other advocacy groups for some legislative victories. Tennessee Bats met with Senator Alexander through TEA. Tennessee Bats organized against rural charters that were voted down. All Tennessee Bats' work is collaborative with Momma Bears and TREE. Tennessee Bats joined with 12 other groups to bring a petition against testing and transparency. TN BATs along with TREE and MommaBears met with Diane Ravitch in Nashville and she spoke to a large audience about the detriment of corporate education reform. Gloria Johnson was a state representative in TN who promoted community schools. She spoke out loud and proud against Ed Reforms and is a proud BAT. The TN governor backed her opponent on the last vote and she was, sadly, not reelected.
Florida BATs conducted a successful protest against Jeb Bush and led, in Lee County, a powerful parent movement against High Stakes Testing.

On the west coast we have the amazing Oregon, Washington, and California BATs. Oregon BATs helped get a strong opt out bill through the Oregon House and Senate. Washington State (WA) BATs conducted a protest outside the Gates Foundation that was massive and covered by national media. WA BATs and WEA held rolling walkouts against legislators who refuse to fund public education and reduce class size. California BAT Debbie Silverman Resnick’s speech, written by fellow CA BAT Juan Caballero, got a thunderous standing ovation at the California Teachers Association state council! BATs mobilized with ONE DAY's notice, and with the amazing help of Julian Vasquez-Heilig, to stop a TFA takeover in Santa Ana Unified. The board decided TFA was too controversial and denied their contract.

In the middle of our nation, BATs were part of the pushback against the state education commissioner in Missouri who wanted to privatize the Kansas City MO School District. We pushed that both on BATs and in MO BATs, and we won! BATs went on a massive email campaign to the Utah's state school board to complain about non-educators being considered for state superintendent and were successful in keeping out non-educators for this position. BATs mobilized on social media and on the ground to get Chuy Garcia elected in Chicago. Although he lost, his 46% of the vote has sent ripples across the political landscape. In Ohio, BAT Stacie Starr won a car as Teacher of the Year but announced earlier this year she was quitting teaching due to the abusive testing and environment to which her special education students were subjected.  Dawn Randall’s emotional video about abusive testing went viral, and the Ohio BATs continue to mobilize via  a strong administration team.

On the east coast members of NY BATs worked in the Opt Out movement which saw over 300,000 parents refuse testing. Leadership Team Member Aixa Rodriguez worked closely with the NYC Let 'em Play which fights to get equitable sports programs for children of color. In Pennsylvannia, our PA BATs worked hard to get Wolfe elected Governor and to stop the privatization of York City!

A huge BAT salute to our teachers who stood up to abusive test in 2014 - Their names are Julianna Krueger Dauble, Judy Dotson, Susan DuFresne ,Becca Ritchie, Susan Bowles, and Beth Dimino.

BATs also got to hobnob with the stars. On social media BATs called Whoopi Goldberg on the carpet for her statements on The View about teacher tenure. BATs also put Dax Shepard in his place when he supported privatizer Marshall Tuck for California state superintendent of education. BATs were honored to have Louis CK, Montel Williams, Rosie O’Donnell acknowledge their support of public education and the work of BATs on Twitter.

BATs presented on panels across the nation. Some panels that we presented on were Network for Public Education in Brooklyn, Network for Public Education in Chicago, United Opt Out in Florida, NYCORE in NYC, Working Families Party in Philadelphia, Netroots in Detroit, RootsCamp in Washington D.C., and members of the BATs Leadership Team marched in the Black Lives Matter march in Washington D.C.,NYC, and Oklahoma in December.

BATs were published extensively in 2014. BATs were published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, LA Progressive, Progressive Magazine, Time, and on Diane Ravitch’s blog in 2014. Bloggers and Writers like Dr. Denisha Jones, Dr. Yohuru Williams, Steven Singer, Dr. Mitchell Robinson, Kathleen Jeskey, and Karen Wolfe continue to speak truth to power in their writings. BATs continue to be interviewed for such national circulations as the New York Times, Time Magazine, Progressive Magazine, and The Washington Post. BATs were published in 2 amazing books on activism; Jesse Hagopian’s More Than A Score and Resisting Reform by Kjersti VanSlyke-Briggs, Elizabeth Bloom, and Danielle Boudet.

BATs took to the airwaves with a strong presence and firm voice for kids in 2014. BATs leadership team member Dr. Denisha Jones appeared on B.U.S. (BATs, United Opt Out, and SOS) a monthly radio show on Education Town Hall. BATS were on the Rick Smith Show and are happy to report he will live stream the BATs Teacher Congress BATs appear regularly, and proudly sponsor, Just Let Me Teach – Indiana Talks with Justin Oakley.

BATs awarded our first Book Scholarship to Chastity Berrios an education major at Fairfield University.  It was an honor to give her an extra $400 to put towards purchase of her books for college. 

On Twitter BATs hijacked Arne Duncan’s #whatif hashtag with snarky comments like #whatif he funded education.  Based on the idea from the ever creative BAT Leadership Team member Aixa Rodriguez, BATs swarmed with her to set Duncan straight!

Perhaps our greatest accomplishment in 2014 is that we continue to give support to teachers across the nation and provide them with a clearinghouse of what is happening to public education across the nation. We continue to fight for equality and equity in both society and education. We look forward to 2015 and to our continued effort to win back great public education for all our children, and return classrooms back to teachers and their communities.

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