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On February 25th Ohio Student Association joined with Young Invincibles, State Representative Kathleen Clyde, State Representative Dan Ramos and student government representatives from major universities from across Ohio to urge legislators to consider student impact in the 2015 biennial budget.
"Capping tuition at unaffordable is not enough. We must invest in the future of Ohio's economy by investing in higher ed" said Rep Ramos. "Our governor has cut $3 billion in taxes, if we spent just 10% on need-based aid for higher education, we'd QUADRUPLE the amount of aid for Ohio Students."
In our high tuition and low-aid state, a college degree is becoming more and more inaccessible for Ohio's students. We joined together to hear stories from first generation college students, recent graduates, and young people who cannot afford to finish school because of slashed to need-based financial aid.
We are part of a national campaign Higher Ed, Not Debt because we believe every young person has the right to a high quality education from pre-K through college without being burdened with student loan debt.
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This has been an incredible year of growth for Ohio Student Association.
We trained 50 young people in our Fellowship for Community Change. On our campuses and in our communities, we led campaigns against the student loan debt crisis and the school-to-prison-pipeline. We participated in Freedom Summer 2014, commemorating the Mississippi movement of 1964 by running a statewide voter engagement and mobilization program. We engaged over 25,000 young people during the election season. We launched ROAR youth organizing program, training middle and high school leaders in Columbus.
We led a campaign for Justice for John Crawford, and helped lead the #BlackLivesMatter movement in Ohio by expanding the conversation around police brutality after the tragic deaths of Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson. Our organization was one of seven representatives invited into the oval office to negotiate with President Obama and his administration. We continue to develop young leaders in Ohio as we work to solidify a transparent and democratic structure for our growing organization.
As we reflect on 2014, we are incredibly proud of the work OSA members have done to invest in their futures and our communities here in Ohio. We have planted seeds across the state that need to be watered and nourished to continue building for a vision of Ohio where young people's lives are valued and their futures protected. Will you support OSA for another year of building power? Click here to donate.
Want to get a more in depth look at our work in 2014? Click here to read our 2014 report
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On Saturday Ohio Student Association members kicked off Freedom Summer in Dayton by colleting over 500 signatures for the Ohio Voters Bill of Rights!
Young people gathered with OSA at the crack of dawn to begin canvassing at the African American Wellness Walk, reaching out to community members about the importance of protecting our acess to the ballot. The Voter Bill of Rights would give Ohioans the opportunity to vote to protect early voting, weekend voting, and evening hours for all Ohioans in the state constitution.
OSA breaked for lunch and community building and continued the planning process for Freedom Summer 2014. Dayton, along with other cities around Ohio, will be launching a Freedom Hub to host a summer of political education, field organizing, and community celebration.
Students from around the state joined Dayton volunteers for an afternoon of canvassing in Yellow Springs reaching community members from around the state. OSA members not only want more young people to vote, we are building a voting bloc of young people who care about educational justice in Ohio. Student debt and the school to prison pipeline crushing young peoples dreams, and it is time for young people to shape the policies that affect them.
Lead organizer Prentiss Haney expressed his feelings about the day, "this moment with my team makes all the hard work worth it. We do it not for ourselves, but for our people. We are standing on the shoulders of greatness. We must carry the torch high as if our breaths depends on it. We must love each other as if our hearts depend on it. Because in reality, we do depend on it, on each other."
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Columbus OSA members launched Freedom Summer in Columbus on Saturday with a canvass day at the Columbus Arts Festival and celebrated with a Bloc Party at Westgate Park.
Members collected signatures for the Ohio Voter Bill of Rights and registered people to vote. "Many people are really tired of our access to the polls being messed with," one canvasser said. "People in our community want voting to be easier, but it seems like some elected officials are trying to make it harder."
After working hard to protect the right to vote in Ohio, there is no better way to end a day of canvassing then with community fun. Tthe next destination was to the west side for a Freedom Summer Bloc Party.
Hundreds joined the celebration with food, music, and games for kids to kick off the summer of social justice education, field organizing, and community celebration!
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On Friday May 16th OSA students & community allies rallied to urge our legislators to pass SB167 & HB443 and remove failing zero tolerance policies in Ohio. These ineffective and discriminatory policies lead to high dropout rates, lower academic achievement and the creation of a pathway to prison for kids.
Representatives from the Ohio Education Association and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity highlighted how Zero Tolerance policies were intended to keep our schools safe from drugs and violence, but across the country, students are being suspended, expelled, or even arrested for increasingly minor infractions like being late or violating a dress code. Students of color are punished more often and more severely than whites for the same offenses. Low-income students, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students are disproportionately affected. Students who should be sent to the guidance counselor to find out what’s really wrong end up at the police station.
Tristina Allen shared her story of being in a foster home when she was pushed out of her school for slapping a boy who had been intimidating her, “This was my first time getting in trouble ever and I had good grades, so I was sure that I would be okay. Because of the zero tolerance policies, the principal explained that my behavior would result in suspension. That day I was taken out of the school in hand cuffs, put into the back of a police car, and sent to the juvenile jail. I felt I had become the criminal that I was bound to be. My sister and I ended up having to leave our foster home.”
We need more common sense discipline in Ohio. More than half of suspensions issued in Ohio for the 2012-2013 school year were for “disobedient” or “disruptive” behavior. Successes with non-punitive or alternative discipline strategies from school districts in other states show that we can boost school attendance, raise academic achievement, and improve graduation rates while reducing expulsions, out-of-school suspensions and school-based arrests.
The rally marched on the Ohio Statehouse and visited the office of the Chair of the Education Committee to send this message: All kids make mistakes. It’s part of growing up. Smart discipline helps students learn how to correct their behavior and creates safer classrooms where both teachers and students thrive. Ohio should give students, parents and teachers the support they need to create safe, high quality schools that prepare all Ohio children for college or a career – not prison.
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The people who make up our universities -faculty, staff and students are being taken advantage of more and more in our universities. Thats why the Ohio Higher Education Coalition, made up of the Ohio Conference of American Association of University Professors, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association, and Ohio Student Association joined together on Tuesday May 13th for a Rally for the Future of Higher Education!
At the rally we focused on urging our legislators to stand with us on three issues affecting our campuses and communities:
- Fight to end student debt!
- Make public higher education funding a public priority!
- Advocate for greater rights and equity for all faculty and staff!
We visited with legislators, gave public testimony, and discussed the three issue areas to plan for future action. It's time for students, faculty, parents, and all those who understand the value of public higher education in a democratic society to have their voices heard.
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On April 17th OSA fellows at Akron University hosted a documentary screening to open a deep conversation about the School To Prison Pipeline and brainstorm for solutions to change educational policy in our Urban Schools in Akron, and across the nation.
The film "Book ‘em: Undereducated, Overincarcerated” looks at how students are pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system in Connecticut, where Zero Tolerance Policies play a negative effect on the school district of New Haven. The Youth Rights Media group collected stories of students impacted by the disciplinary policies that criminalize children and district data that details huge racial disparities of school suspension. Punishment for misbehavior that would have warranted detention or a discussion with the teachers before, currently landing students with a 10-day suspension or even expulsion. Children who face these punishments are put onto a path to an alternative school. This school, located just a couple blocks away from the Jail and the Juvenile Court, hosts kids that are absent or suspended for multiple days, students with disabilities that administrators believe conflict with other students learning, and students on parole. If a student in the alternative school makes a mistake, they are sent deeper into the juvenile system, where courts can chose to incarcerate these children. Having a record creates countless collateral punishments, in some states barring their right to vote, create barriers to finding a job, and further ostracizes them from society.
After discussing how attendees have seen and experienced how very real the School to Prison Pipeline is in communities around the University of Akron, the film the group created some possible solutions.
1. New policy- Instead of the Zero Tolerance Policy. We should create a way to discipline the students. Examples; Mandatory community service, more in school suspensions instead of out of school suspensions, Abolish the criminalizing way to document and enforce the school discipline.
2. In school programs- We could add mandatory elective programs that build skills for the students to help them in life unrelated to academics. Some examples are;
- Love/Relationship skills
- Leadership Skills
- Self Defeating Prevention Skills
- Community Communication Skills
- Organizing Skills
- Open Student Group Topic discussions about the issues that age group deals with.
- Classes that help you deal with Life (Decision Making, Creation, and Cause and Effect)
In Columbus, OSA supporters from around the state will join with allies on May 16th for a rally to end zero tolerance policies in Ohio. In Akron, we will be conducting a Public Community Meeting to address out local issues at 2nd Baptist Church on Main St. and Thornton Ave on May 20th.
If interested please contact us:
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The third retreat for the OSA Fellowship for Community Change was held in Cincinnati this weekend. Fellows exchanged stories and shared best practices of recent teach-ins, community meetings, documentary screenings and legislative visits that have happened across the state tackling the student loan debt crises and the school-to-prison pipeline. OSA members in Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, Kent, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and Athens have been working hard on their campaigns for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant or to End Zero Tolerance Policy in Ohio.
We always take advantage of our precious time together in one location by planning our statewide coordinated actions.
Wellstone Action joined us to train fellows in new skills to be even better leaders & organizers on campuses and communities across Ohio.
Fellows helping develop a long term vision for OSA and Freedom Summer 2014.
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March 4th was a move towards affordable college for all Ohioans. Members from the Ohio Student Association, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, American Association of University Professors, and the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association, came together to take a stance on the student debt crisis by urging the expansion of the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, OCOG. The organizations banded together in creating the Ohio Higher Education Coalition (OHEC).
The OCOG provides grant money to Ohio residents who need financial aid to attend college. In 2009, the budget was cut from $352 million to $171 million. Not only are less people receiving the grant, but they also made it so students had to use their Federal Pell Grant first, before using OCOG. What this does is force students to use the Pell Grant on tuition, rather than books or living expenses, since the Pell Grant can be used for other expenses and OCOG can only be used for tuition. This action made most community college students ineligible for OCOG. OSA and OHEC pressured Ohio legislators to expand OCOG by $40 million, and to make community college students eligible.
Students and teachers came together and shared personal testimonies, and other factual testaments. Kiala Riel (OSA), shared her personal experience, “My family didn’t have extra funds to save for my education. Before I transferred to OSU, I was working 40 hours a week and taking a full schedule of community college classes at night.” And John McNay (President, Ohio Conference of the AAUP), spoke “There is no excuse for an academic system in Ohio that punishes students with that kind of crippling financial burden.” Teachers and students, people from all areas of Ohio united for student debt reform.
I shared my story of how my mother worked two jobs, went to college, all while raising a child, me. I also conveyed how we struggled in poverty. Then I went in to discuss how I am currently a college student. Fall 2014 will be my first year, in 5 years, receiving any financial aid assistance. For 4 years, I have had to work and go to school at the same time, and it is a fight. Everyone should have the opportunity to get a higher education and better their lives. College itself is hard, we shouldn’t have to struggle financially and be punished for seeking knowledge.
After the press release, we all meet up at the OEA building, where we went into a further discussion on how to continue this movement towards affordable college. All the organizations sat down for some pizza, and deep discussion. We talked about being creative, but also connecting teachers and students as a team to create this change at the local level.
The morning had a certain type of splendor and accomplishment to it. After all, we were at the Statehouse, speaking, with media presence, about a critical issue. And we were truly doing something. I think I can speak for everyone, when I say it was a remarkable morning. Many positives came out of that day: media releases from four different media networks, State Senator Schiavoni was inspired to help us get started on the next step, and we took the first of many steps towards reform.
It was truly an amazing day. Thanks to everyone who planned it, to all those who spoke, to everyone who showed up for support. Some incredible first steps. Let us continue on our path for affordable college in Ohio!