MPU Convention 2017 Recap

Some said it couldn’t be done. But this weekend we did it — right here in Massachusetts.
Hundreds of parents coming together to fight to put their children first. For safer neighborhoods. Affordable housing. And equitable access to high quality education for every child across the Commonwealth.
The parent leaders of Massachusetts Parents United convened at the East Boston Social Center to show solidarity across the state and vote on the Parent Action Agenda during the first annual MPU Convention. And they showed up in serious numbers.

For the past several months, MPU members have been quietly working together — building power and unity —  working on their own neighborhood level agendas and providing direct feedback to compile the statewide agenda. And you might notice something else that makes MPU different from your average, PTA, PTO or parent council. We are 98% parents of color.

 (These are our Chapter Leaders. They build MPU on the neighborhood level and develop the battle plan on the local level. And then work with me on the state level on our statewide priorities.)
Once we had received feedback around our parent priorities, (safer neighborhoods, affordable housing, food stability and equitable access to high quality education) we went to each chapter to ask them directly for their feedback to ensure the voices of every chapter were heard — and frankly, to make sure we got it right.

From there, we made a plan to come together and vote — as one united voice — on the policies and priorities we would work on together through 2018.

(Telemundo Anchor Cecy Gutierrez and some of the youngest participants of MPU convention 2017. On top of hundreds of parents, we also had more than 100 children who came and enjoyed a fun filled day of activities and social justice training!)
 We came together to talk about our hopes and dreams for the future. Our struggles to be heard in a system that can seem so overwhelming and complex. We pledged to work together to fight for our kids.
But Massachusetts Parents United is about more than just talk. We turn our conversations into direct action. Together we trained to have more effective conversations with teachers, principals and our elected leaders with Raise Up Massachusetts Co-Chair and Massachusetts Community Action Network Executive Director, Lewis Finfer.

And we were blessed to have the support and guidance of legendary parent organizer Alma Vivan Marquez from La Comadrewho shared stories about what parents in California were able to accomplish and to inspire all of us to keep going even when times get tough. 

And what happened next was pretty magical.

We voted.  
With ballot boxes and everything. On our parent-led, parent-created agenda.
And the Massachusetts Parents United Parent Action Agenda was ratified by 99.7%.
What is the MPU Parent Action Agenda?
MPU harnesses the power of parents in our communities to advocate for safer neighborhoods, affordable housing, food stability and equitable access to high quality education. While each chapter works on it’s own individual community level priorities, we work together to advocate for our Parent Priorities on the state level as the Commonwealth’s united and independent voice of families.
The Parent Action Agenda
We believe that decisions made in our communities and on Beacon Hill should put the best interests of children and families ahead of politics and turf wars. We believe that parent voices should be heard, considered and respected — because it is our children who must deal with the consequences of our decisionmaking. We believe that parents have an important role to play and have more to offer the conversation around policy than simply running the bake sale outside the room where the real decisions regarding our children are made.
Safer Neighborhoods:
Families in our communities are struggling to find solutions to deal with rising violence in our communities.
We support efforts to address issues of drugs and violence head-on with specific plans to combat problems that lead our children to face dangerous situations in our neighborhoods. We support efforts to build safe, supportive and inclusive communities free of bullying due to ethnicity, gender, sexual or documentation status for every child in Massachusetts. 
We support the Safe Communities Act (SD.1596 and HD.3052) currently being debated by the legislature.
Affordable Housing:
Parents in our community are concerned about a lack of available quality affordable housing stock. While our community provides for affordable housing in certain circumstances, often times the housing units offers are too small to meet the needs of a family with children and the waiting lists to access affordable housing are far too long.
We support efforts to maintain high-quality, affordable family housing opportunities in our communities without fear of displacement due to new development.
We support efforts to address the Section 8 backlog that leaves many families waiting for housing for upwards of 7 years.
We support An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents (H.675) currently being considered by the legislature.
Food Stability:
Many families in our community struggle with being able to access sources of consistent sources of support when it comes to providing good and nutritious food for their children during weekends, school vacations and the summer.
We support efforts to increase access to high-quality, nutritious food sources our families need and educate families around existing opportunities to access available offerings.
We support the Breakfast After the Bell (HD.1046 and SD.1986) bill supported by the Rise and Shine Coalition.
The Achievement Gap:
In our community there are drastic differences between the quality of education our children received based upon which neighborhood they live in or what school they have been assigned to and we believe that parents should have the opportunity to select the high-quality education that meets the needs of their children.
We support efforts to increase funding for our school districts while pushing our policy makers to address the systemic inequities that exist between different neighborhoods within the same communities.
We believe in language justice and equity and believe children and parents should be able to fully access our education system regardless of their native language.
We also believe that parents should have the right to choose the educational option that is right for their child, without fear of threat or intimidation.
We support the collaboration and coordination between schools of all types in an effort to find what works best for students.
We support the Innovation Zones Partnership Act (S. 279) currently being discussed in the legislature (this legislation would give school districts the ability to create empowerment zones and allow for specific autonomies and interventions to immediately address issues in struggling schools.)
We support increased funding to expand programming and access to vocational and technical education in the Commonwealth as supported by the Alliance for Vocational and Technical Education.
And our powerful Chapter Leaders lead the way!

(Are those … CAPES? Yes — we did splurge on "SUPER MOM/DAD" capes for our Chapter Leaders! They were a HUGE hit!)

We were also proud to welcome elected officials like State Representative Juana Matias — dear friend and champion of MPU. 
(We were both pretty excited about seeing so many parents in motion!)
We have come a long way in 2017 — building a union of more than 7,500 members, more than 3,000 member leaders — taking tangible action to move our legislative agenda forward and becoming the largest urban parent advocacy organization in Massachusetts. But our members are ready to take the next step to do even more in 2018. We have set some 
None of this would have happened without the support of our incredible sponsors. We are grateful for all of the support we received from the Walton Family Foundation — who has believed in MPU from the very beginning. And to our dear friend Peter Cunningham and all of our friends at Education Post who encourage, inspire and challenge us all to bring more parent voices to the table.
We are also very grateful for local support from the Barr Foundation, the Longfield Family Foundation and the Davis Foundation — all of whom believe parent engagement and advocacy are a critical part of making progress in Massachusetts. 

And of course all of our wonderful media sponsors who helped us get the word out:

This is just the beginning for Massachusetts Parents United — but one thing is for sure: Next year we’re going to need a bigger venue!
What do you think?

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