In 2012, Public Education Network (PEN) closed its doors after 21 years. PEN was a network of local education funds (LEFs) -- community based organizations in high poverty school districts across the United States -- that continue to work with their school districts and communities to improve public education for the nation's most disadvantaged children.

At the national level, PEN raised the importance of public engagement as an essential component of education reform. It brought the voice of LEFs and the communities they represent into the national education debate. Finally, PEN gave voice to the essential nature of the connection between quality public education and a healthy and thriving democracy.

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Learn. Vote. Act. The Public's Responsibility for Public Education

April 1, 2004

Over the past several years, Public Education Network and Education Week (PEN/Ed Week) have systematically explored the degree to which the American public takes responsibility for quality public education, and the degree to which the public holds itself and its elected officials accountable for promoting policies that support quality education for all children. We have examined the priority the public places on education, what voters want from elected officials, and what citizens, including the 75 percent of adults who do not have children in school, have done and are willing to do to improve public education.This year's PEN/Ed Week poll, conducted with funding from the MetLife Foundation, reveals that the American public continues to see education as a vital national priority, an important investment in the future, and a major issue in the upcoming local, state, and national elections. What is particularly striking and encouraging is that, through the years, voters across all demographic groups have viewed public schools as the center of their community, and have placed a high value on public education. They see public education as the key to individual opportunity, economic growth, and community well-being. This year, even in a time of war and with concern over joblessness, the economy, and healthcare, education is nonetheless at the top of the public's "to-do" list.Another key poll finding is the critical role that information plays in every aspect of public schooling -- from ascertaining progress in school improvement, to ensuring that schools have the resources required to get the job done. Which tells us that, if we want people to take greater responsibility for public schools by taking civic action, or voting, or volunteering, we have to make sure they have reliable information on education issues. Americans need more information on what is happening in local schools, how effective their communities are in supporting quality public education, and what elected officials are doing to improve local schools.The public's responsibility for public education can be summed up in three words: Learn. Vote. Act. Public responsibility requires voters to learn what is going on in their schools, in their communities, in school boardrooms, city halls, and state capitols. It also requires people to vote for candidates that support quality public schools, and to act in a civic capacity to make schools better for all young people.

Strategic Interventions for Community Change: Communities at Work

October 28, 2003

What does it look like when parents, business leaders, taxpayers, and other community members take responsibility for public education? Communities at Work takes a look at strategies that have been used to build public responsibility for public education in communities across the country.Before people can demand change -- and hold themselves and policymakers accountable for making and sustaining change -- they must first engage in a process of identifying problems and the actions to be taken. Framing a problem is an important part of engaging people in collaborative action. Understanding what action to take, and how to mobilize and deploy appropriate resources, helps build community capacity to address problems and challenges. Local education funds (LEFs) have helped their communities carry out this process through the following strategic interventions:Community DialogueConstituency BuildingEngaging PractitionersCollaborating with DistrictsPolicy Analysis & Agenda DevelopmentLegal StrategiesYouth EngagementThese interventions are dynamic components of a systematic approach to collective problem solving. Because of their natural overlap, they are not meant to be implemented in isolation. Individually, they represent various ways to engage communities in defining problems and demanding action. Together, they help develop the synergy and momentum needed to create lasting change.This guide describes each intervention and gives examples of how the interventions have been employed in various communities. However, no one group of stakeholders can implement all interventions and no one organization, no matter how well organized or how representative of the community, can create systemic change by itself. LEFs have been both leaders of change and participants in change. This changing role is an important characteristic of the relationships and norms that sustain long-term community change.

Give Kids Good Schools

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