Against Outsourcing Equity Work

Testimony of Maddie Luebbert to the BOE, October 22, 2020

Good evening Dr. Hite and members of the School Board. 

I am Maddie Luebbert, a teacher at Kensington Health Sciences Academy and a proud member of the PFT. I usually work at least 20 non contracted hours every week. I’m here to speak on Action Item 2, the acceptance of a donation of $250,000 from the Fund for our Equity Coalition. 

I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I don’t support the Equity Coalition. In fact, I am feeling optimistic about the work that lies ahead based on this week’s meeting. However, I am troubled by the fact that we are relying on philanthropic patchwork to fund any of our programs. It also feels insulting to know that Equity Coalition members won’t be paid for their labor, despite the fact that there are obviously ways for us to procure funding. 

I know that this money is earmarked for the “equity fellows,” a program that will identify and pay a handful of “leaders” to do deep equity work. But I’m skeptical about who these leaders are and how they’ll be selected. I can hand you a list of recommendations if you’d like. We have many unpaid “equity fellows” in this district that can build on the amazing work they’ve already started. 

To add insult to injury, this money is coming from Comcast and is pocket change for them. I’m sure the main impetus for their “generous” donation is to bolster their performative wokeness with a list of their “contributions” to the community. Fun fact: If Comcast were actually interested in equity or funding our District, they wouldn’t support us through bite sized grants. They would pay their damn taxes, and provide free internet access for ALL of our students. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that, as a PFT member, I feel some type of way about the fact that there’s never money for our rank and file workers and yet these private donations and consulting contracts seem to pop up faster than I can count them. It took more than two months of tough negotiations to win a modest raise for PFT members that we are basically paying for ourselves. 

I beg the school board to reconsider this messy patchwork of funding and look for ways to make our District resources equitable and accessible. Of course we live in a state that hates us and funds us accordingly, and I know we are in a crisis (when are we not), but we cannot continue to perpetuate this flawed approach.

Public education is a public good for all. Not a cute charity project. I beg the board to reconsider the rubber stamping every grant and contract that comes across their desk. If we must accept this money for the Equity Coalition, I beg that its use be transparent and fair, and that the process for selecting our future equity fellows be open to the public.