The following proposal was approved via supermajority vote at the 2022 DSA-LA Convention.
Green New Deal for Los Angeles Public Schools – Part 2
A Priority Campaign Resolution for the 2022 DSA-LA Chapter Convention
Co-authors: Katie T, Edgar O, Jeremy B, Marc K, and Jack SL
The climate crisis is perhaps the single most critical issue of our time, with consequences that will span generations. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report cautioned that climate change is fast outpacing our ability to adapt to it, intensifying the need for mass collective action to radically transform our society and transition to a zero-carbon economy grounded in public goods and services, high-paying union jobs, and the democratic control of energy and resources.
Here in Los Angeles, we’ve long felt the weight of the climate crisis – one 2022 report ranked our city as having the worst air quality among 2,400 cities analyzed nationally. We know that this pollution is not felt equally, and that working class communities of color often bear the brunt of environmental injustice. Extreme heat is killing far more Californians than the state acknowledges and the public health impacts are falling disproportionally on the poor and communities of color. This issue will only grow worse as wildfires are projected to increase both in terms of frequency and level of devastation. Working class neighborhoods in Los Angeles often lack climate resilient infrastructure like community cooling centers, parks and tree canopy, quality and energy efficient-housing, and the financial resources to afford and crank up the air conditioning during heat waves.
When we think of strategic ways to organize and make a radical transition to a zero-carbon economy that centers the working class, we must better leverage one of the key cornerstones of our communities: our public schools. Public schools are universal social institutions that are woven deeply into the fabric of every community and are vital to the reproduction of society and creating a more just tomorrow. Most Angelenos have experience with public schools as students, parents, community members, and workers. Public schools are one of the most recognizable forms of public infrastructure, collective material resources, and services in our communities. Public schools are spaces for building community, organization, and democratic control of public resources. Therefore, public schools are a strategic terrain to organize for a Green New Deal.
Los Angeles county is home to 87 school districts, including Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) which is the second largest school district in the country and serves over 600,000 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade at over 1,000 schools, in addition to the adult schools it operates. Each year, public schools spend hundreds of millions of dollars on providing energy, ensuring that they are cooled, heated, ventilated, and powered throughout the year. As such, public schools serve as a public power grid for thousands of students and communities across the county. However, many of the current practices, resources, and infrastructure of school districts leave significant carbon footprints, and generate environments and conditions conducive to poor public health.
Following the launch of a national campaign for a Green New Deal for Public Schools (GND4PS) in 2021, DSA Los Angeles adopted a local priority resolution to win a Green New Deal for Public Schools in Los Angeles. Boston has launched their own Green New Deal for Public Schools program, which will accelerate decarbonization of the city’s building sector, while delivering urgent improvements to environmental health, justice and safety for its students, families and educators.
In Los Angeles, DSA-LA has a significant opportunity to base build and expand our electoral power by campaigning around the intersection of ecosocialism, public schools, social reproduction, and racial and economic justice. The chapter’s democratically-adopted Democratic Socialist Program for Los Angeles identifies a roadmap towards a left-socialist political pole in Los Angeles, with public education and green infrastructure as significant pillars of its issue platform. The chapter’s endorsed candidates and elected officials have championed ecological policy, from Nithya Raman championing an end to gas hookups to Fatima Iqbal-Zubair centering environmental racism and reigning in the fossil fuel industry, to Hugo Soto-Martinez prioritizing a municipal jobs program grounded in enacting a municipal Green New Deal. In LAUSD, the historic United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) strike struck a strong blow against privatizing forces, but the LAUSD Board of Education is still teetering on the edge of a pro-privatization majority, and UTLA is heading into a new contract fight that centers “common good demands” and has a specific green public schools plank to their bargaining platform.
Our chapter’s GND4PS campaign has made significant strides over the past 8 months. We hosted a 3-part political education town hall series with regular attendance of at least 40 or more DSA and non-DSA community members, and with guest speakers like UTLA’s Secretary Arlene Inouye and LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg’s policy director and candidate for LAUSD Board of Education, Rocio Rivas. These town halls inspired robust dialogues about inequities in our school system and how we organize to address these issues. We knocked hundreds of doors across Los Angeles county and had deep conversations with people living in communities on the frontlines of environmental injustice. We researched and refined a set of climate+labor+community campaign demands that are winnable and have support from organizations outside of DSA, and built the foundations of a strong and determined coalition that we believe can take these demands over the finish line. And finally, we’ve created bonds with UTLA, community organizations, and nonprofits already active in climate and education organizing spaces, and engaged with members of the LAUSD school board with the power to make our demands a reality.
The campaign also faced hurdles. We had uneven campaign engagement and integration across the chapter, with inconsistent liasoning and communication between the campaign working group and the Branch Organizing Committees and only some of DSA-LA’s five branches directly engaging in the campaign. Though the chapter collected hundreds of petition signatures, we did not have a coordinated plan to turn a significant number of the signatories into an ongoing organized base with the ability to impact the power structures around LAUSD and City Hall. Further canvassing events ran up against other chapter campaign canvasses, distributing the chapter’s energy unevenly during a significant campaign season. The time our chapter had to work on GND4PS as a priority campaign proved too short to take the campaign from nascency to completion. With more time, organizational support, and strategic allocation of chapter capacity, we are confident that we could end our campaign with the formation of a base that can be engaged and organized by our Branches, a Green New Deal resolution passed by the LAUSD Board of Education, and an accountability plan to see our hard-fought wins through to the end.
Therefore, be it resolved that Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter renew the campaign for a Green New Deal for Public Schools in Los Angeles as a chapter priority for 2022-23.
The demands for DSA-LA’s Green New Deal for Public Schools Los Angeles campaign are:
- Expeditious installation of solar panels on half of all rooftop real estate in LAUSD, approximately 30 million square feet, by 2027.
- Extension of LAUSD partnership with LA Metro for an additional two years to guarantee students and school staff no-cost Metro passes until June 2025.
- Expand Community Schools that offer community-centered green spaces, resources for expanded family/community/youth engagement, broadened curriculum, shared decision-making, and wrap-around services.
- Establish a robust grant program for all K-12 educators to receive training to develop and teach climate curriculum.
- Expeditious incremental transition to a 100% electric bus fleet. Target date of full transition 2030.
The primary goals of DSA-LA’s Green New Deal for Public Schools Los Angeles campaign are:
- Bring a GND4PS resolution to the floor of the LAUSD Board of Education that aligns with our campaign demands, secures funding for implementation, and creates community oversight measures to hold LAUSD accountable to lowering emissions.
- Organize a coalition of parents, students, workers, and community organizations that can build power, maintain relationships, and meet regularly with members of the LAUSD Board of Education about implementation of demands we win with this campaign.
- Author standardized GND4PS policies or resolutions and campaigning strategies that can be adopted to other school districts in Los Angeles county.
Branch and Base Building Goals:
- Organize branch-level GND4PS subcommittees in every Branch that coordinate with the Branch Organizing Committee and Branch Coordinators to build the campaign and onboard members to help run canvasses, do member-to-member outreach, and do political education at branch-level meetings so members and are able to talk about GND4PS and its impact on their specific communities.
- Establish at least two schools in each Branch jurisdiction that will serve as anchors for neighborhood canvasses. The goal is to fully canvass the surrounding neighborhood and have conversations about local schools, environmental and quality of life issues in the neighborhood, and collect campaign petition signatures.
- Base build by engaging petition signatories with a focus on parents, students, teachers, and school workers residing within the Branch. Engagement will include townhalls, social events, and other actions and events that serve as low-stakes entry points for people to get involved and become DSA members.
- Each Branch will hold 2 in-person public town halls within a specific LAUSD District that crosses jurisdiction with the Branch
- Each Branch will work to have at least 100 branch members participate in at least 1 GND4PS campaign call to action, meeting, or event.
- Experiment with forming parent-student-teacher committees at campaign-adopted schools in the Branches to maintain an ongoing and organic connection to our base and deepen community buy-in for our campaign.
- Map out opportunities in non-LAUSD school districts to run GND4PS campaigns and expand Branches’ community engagement.
- Work with the office of Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martinez’s campaign to identify opportunities to advance fare-free public transit, transform our transit infrastructure to be less dependent on fossil fuel, and expand the operation of school-community parks that serve the community beyond regular school hours.
- Work with Nithya Raman’s office to identify AQMD (Air Quality Management District) resources that LAUSD can utilize to transition to renewable energy sources.
- Experiment with Socialists In Office co-governing committees that can provide feedback and policy and campaign support for new Green New Deal initiatives, including support for DSA-LA members holding office in smaller municipalities or school boards and connecting them to electeds holding higher offices.
The following section outlines how we plan to achieve the above listed goals, and the timeline for doing so.
GND4PS and Electoral Collaboration: From July through November, we will work with our electoral campaigns to integrate GND4PS into canvasses and other constituent outreach. The goal of this integration is to talk to community members about the climate crisis, their neighborhoods, local schools, and secure their support for our DSA candidates who can do something about these issues by getting elected to positions of power in our city.
During this time period the GND4PS working group will work internally to sharpen our demands into two categories: winnable short-term demands, and transformative medium-term demands. All demands will be focused exclusively on public education, school and community infrastructure and facilities, and will take explicit positions on the benefits of public investment, public job creation, and public ownership of social goods.
Further, we will continue to coalition build with allied organizations and engage LAUSD Board of Education members to create support for moving a formal GND4PS resolution before the LAUSD Board of Education. The major push for formal action by the LAUSD Board of Education will happen post-November and escalate alongside the UTLA contract fight.
Branch Organizing: The Branches will establish branch-level GND4PS subcommittees of at least 2-3 members that are interested and have capacity to carry out the campaign work. These campaign subcommittees will integrate with the Branch Organizing Committees and coordinate with Branch Coordinators on items like canvassing, logistics for public in-district and in-person town halls, member-to-member outreach about the campaign, and talking about the campaign at Branch meetings and how it ties into the larger socialist vision. Branch Coordinators will ensure the GND4PS subcommittees are actively organizing and moving forward external facing events and actions.
To recruit branch members to the GND4PS subcommittees, the Branches will circulate a uniform campaign interest survey, set up 1:1 onboarding calls with members that complete the interest form to assess ties the community, organizing experience, capacity, and onboard them to the GND4PS branch subcommittee. The GND4PS working group will coordinate with the Branches to provide resources that detail the content of those 1:1 onboarding calls, provide GND4PS specific coaching and assistance, and identify additional areas of work that can be organized through the Branches.
A core task of these GND4PS subcommittees is to do work that is grounded in basebuilding. We will basebuild by engaging and organizing with community members who have signed the campaign petition and live within the Branch’s jurisdiction. The basebuilding efforts will have a particular focus on organizing parents, school workers, and students. DSA will convene with this base at In-district and in-person public townhalls. These townhalls will be spaces to discuss issues impacting local schools, identify local environmental and quality of life issues, synthesize the information and feedback received, and engage in democratic decision-making on how to resolve community issues, and exercise community power before the LAUSD Board of Education and LA City Council.
The chapter’s Campaigns Coordinator will coordinate with Branch Coordinators to successfully implement our chapter’s priority campaigns. This could entail but is not limited to the rollout of strategic campaign trainings, recruiting additional member support, and consistent Branch engagement and communication around the chapter’s priorities. The Campaigns Coordinator will monitor the organizational health of the Branches to ensure campaign implementation is commensurate with Branch capacity and is moving toward expanding capacity.
- GND4PS working group will mobilize previous GND4PS supporters and organizers to support DSA-LA endorsed political candidates.
- GND4PS working group will Identify a core strategy group to organize GND4PS-related policy goals for DSA-LA endorsed candidates.
- GND4PS working group will begin coordinating with the Branches to determine the plan and next steps for branch-level campaign implementation post November. This will include creating a branch organizing playbook for the campaign.
- Branches and GND4PS working group will coordinate to identify and organize leads to bottomline branch-level GND4PS subcommittees.
- GND4PS working group will maintain regular meetings with allied Board of Education offices and coalition partners to fine-tune a formal GND4PS resolution that can be brought to the floor of the LAUSD Board of Education
- Branches and GND4PS working group will coordinate to provide coaching to the leads that are bottomlining branch-level GND4PS subcommittees. The coaching will prepare leads to onboard branch members, discuss the importance of GND4PS to the socialist project, and organize external facing campaigning.
- Branches will onboard contacts from DSA-LA electoral campaigns and GND4PS petition signatories
- Branches will host canvasses and in-district and in-person public townhalls
- The campaign in coordination with an allied member of the LAUSD Board of Education will bring a formal GND4PS resolution to the floor of Board of Education.
- The chapter will engage in escalatory actions in support of our GND4PS resolution pending before the LAUSD Board of Education
- Upon winning our campaign demands we will organize the campaign’s coalition to serve as an oversight and accountability body to ensure there is follow-through by LAUSD.