IEL strongly believes that family engagement should be continuous throughout a child’s life, spanning from cradle to career and beyond and that it is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to engaging families in meaningful and culturally respective ways, and families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development. IEL’s family and community engagement (FCE) work is focused on assisting states, districts and schools to improve engagement efforts primarily by building capacity and supporting improvements in FCE policy at every level. Bringing together several networks is critical to improving outcomes including parent leaders and advocates; school leaders and other educators; and those working on inclusion issues and parent-teacher partnerships.
Increasingly across the country, parents, families and community-based organization have begun to organize and push back against the proliferation of charters, school closings and other drastic reform measures they feel disproportionally effect vulnerable communities of color. One such group is the Journey for Justice Alliance, an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 23 cities across the country demanding community-driven alternatives to the privatization of and dismantling of public schools systems. “We are organizing in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and nationally, for an equitable and just education system, based on a belief in the potential of all children and the rights of parents, youth, and communities to participate in all aspects of planning and decision-making.”
Jitu Brown, married and father of one child, is the national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J). Jitu Brown was born on Chicago’s south side and is a product of Chicago’s public school system. Jitu started volunteering with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) in 1991, became a board member in 1993 and served as the Board president for a number of years. He joined the staff as education organizer in 2006. Jitu has organized in the Kenwood Oakland neighborhood for over 17 years bringing community voices to the table on school issues.
Jitu helped develop the Mid-South Education Association, a grassroots advocacy group comprised of administrators, parents, teachers, young people and local school council (LSC) members to meet the needs of schools in the area. They were the first group to certify parents as LSC facilitators, which has become a model being replicated across the city of Chicago. In addition, they successfully organized to stop several school closings in the area and secured resources for neglected neighborhood schools. KOCO has served as a resource for organizations nationwide, dealing with school closings and the elimination of community voice from the decision-making process.
Jitu discussed his leadership journey as a panelist during IEL’s 50th Anniversary Symposium.