What We’ve Done

What We’ve Done

Our Work & Wins

Since 1999, Stand members in Tennessee have won 23 state and local victories leveraging more than $150 million in public funding for schools and other programs serving more than 1,383,303 children. Our objectives are to improve Tennessee schools and achieve legislative and electoral victories for our students.

Our work has become predominantly virtual as we all continue to weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, we took some huge action steps in building coalitions towards educational equity, youth justice reform, breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, improving early literacy, increasing graduation success rates, and securing more equitable funding for education and other essential social services. 

Acting as a Catalyst for Racial Justice

Moving forward in 2022, in addition to our education equity work, we will continue to expand our efforts for racial justice to create a brighter future for us all.

  • Working with the BRIDGES Youth Action Center, we have launched the Youth Justice Action Council (YJAC), a group of highly informed, justice-involved, impacted, and interested youth advocating for youth justice reform in Memphis/Shelby County. Their first advocacy campaign is to transform the current Shelby County Youth & Family Resource Center (formerly Assessment Center) into a welcoming, restorative, community-centered, and trauma-informed space developed in partnership with youth – take a minute to read their recommendations!
  • Look out for the launch of a new effort to bring real solutions in justice, safety, and community wellness to Memphis & Shelby County! This builds and expands on the foundation of Memphis Nonprofits Demand Action and other community partners. Our viewpoint is that we must take on the decades-long, failed status quo policies that focus on a punitive criminal legal system that penalizes people based on income and leads to mass incarceration with its well-documented, negative impacts. 

Momentum Memphis Task Forces for Education Equity

In 2021, Momentum Memphis (in its 3rd year) was hard at work supporting the calls from youth to prioritize mental health resources over cops in schools, securing more equitable funding for schools in most need of support, and improving literacy among young readers. 

  • As a part of youth organizers’ call for “Counselors, Not Cops,” you helped us send over 1,300 emails to the Shelby County Board of Education to #endtheMOU between SCS and the Sheriff’s Department. Ending the MOU would have reduced the chance of unnecessary student contact with law enforcement at school, yet the Board unanimously voted to renew it. Despite that disappointing vote, this campaign changed the public conversation and, most importantly, showed young people that we firmly stand with them in their work to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline.
  • We brought a diverse range of stakeholders together and engaged local elected officials in planning for the YES (Youth Education Success) Fund to fill gaps in education funding with more equitable funding for Shelby County students. The YES Fund would strategically direct funds to schools with the highest needs to invest in literacy instruction and support, promote high school success, and expand mental and physical health supports. With large amounts of federal funds coming to districts, local funding took a back seat, but our work this year laid important groundwork for future budget advocacy at the City and County levels.

Moral Budget Coalition

A budget is a moral document – how we direct our funds reflects the values we hold as a community. In May of 2021, we brought together more than a dozen community organizations focused on housing, education, public transportation, workers’ rights/relief, and other issues that affect the daily lives and wellbeing of people in Memphis & Shelby County. This groundbreaking Moral Budget Coalition released a set of budget recommendations in the Spring of 2021. 

 Once again, we took action together by meeting with elected officials, showing up at public budget meetings, and taking physical and digital action (300 emails sent). We worked against the clock and decades of the status quo to ultimately secure Shelby County funding for:

  • Public Transportation,
  • Youth & Adult Mental Health,
  • Homeless Flexibility Fund, and
  • Targeted direct outreach to connect residents with community programs like rental and utility assistance through the Community Services Agency.

Early Literacy

We did some exciting work this year to improve literacy among our early readers. Students of all ages experienced some level of disruption to their learning over the past two years of the pandemic, and we helped address this gap for our youngest students with the following projects: 

  • We continued to support the development of a community-wide early literacy plan with the Early Literacy Consortium. This includes working with our partners to host webinars to help families navigate their children’s return to full-time in-person schooling and encourage a love of reading at home. For some tips on keeping your children reading, check out the most recent episode, “Lit Families: Heading to the Holidays”!
  • We were also happy to partner with Literacy Mid-South to share the Reading Check-up Tool with families! This tool can help assess whether your K-3rd grade child(ren) are reading at grade level and offers a free reading plan based on the results. The tool is free to use, and it’s a great way to help your child advance their reading skills!

High School Success – Memphis Freshman Success Network

We are proud of the progress we have seen in terms of 9th grade students who are on track to graduate through the participation of their schools in the Memphis Freshman Success Network (FSN), a project of the Center for High School Success

For the 2021-2022 school year, Memphis FSN is working with 20 public and charter schools, reaching about 3,000 freshmen and 80 educators. Our dedicated team provides educators with professional development, coaching, and data to help schools and districts make informed policy decisions that will benefit 9th grade learning. Partner schools consistently show greater numbers of freshmen who are on track to graduate than schools who are not part of the Memphis FSN, and this year shows similar results!

With a gain of 16 percentage points in the 9th grade on track rate, we anticipate: 

  • 224 additional graduates
  • Over $1.7M in additional revenue from increased student enrollment
  • More than $700K saved in an estimated three-year credit recovery

We look forward to continuing this work in 2022 and beyond as we increase our capacity to include more schools and students in the Memphis FSN.

Notable Past Legislative Work

We played a meaningful role in developing and passing the First to the Top Act (2010), which lifts a prohibition on using student achievement data in teacher and principal evaluations and gives the state greater flexibility in turning around low-performing schools. Tennessee’s work on First to the Top led the state to be one of the first two recipients of millions of dollars in a federal Race to the Top grant.

Since then, we supported the follow-up Senate Bill 1528/House Bill 2012 (2011), which reforms tenure, links tenure status to performance evaluations, and makes performance a primary criterion for district layoff decisions.

We have worked actively on legislation around teacher quality, tenure, charter school authorization, the Shelby County consolidation, mutual consent hiring for teachers, and many other important areas of educational legislation. 

We were a pivotal member in the “Expect More. Achieve More.” coalition to protect high standards for Tennessee children in the legislature in 2014. Please see a complete report of our legislative work here[AT1] . 

Past Electoral Work

  • Stand Memphis endorsed and campaigned in 2012 for the new Unified School Board in Shelby County. Members phone banked, canvassed, and poll-worked, reaching out to 30,000 likely voters and successfully won 4 out of the 7 seats, with all endorsed candidates becoming members. 
  • Stand Nashville also had success in school board campaigns, winning two seats in 2010 and winning another two in 2012.

recent Community Engagement

We saved 42 pre-K classrooms from closure with a 2,000 petition signatures that we collected in two weeks both on the ground and online. In addition, with the help of 20 pre-K providers, their teachers, their parents, and our members, we were able to sway the Shelby County School Board to preserve the pre-k classrooms, benefitting 840 children. 

We helped in the campaign for a property tax increase in Memphis. The tax gained 20 million dollars for the school system, but more importantly, it afforded the school system the ability to make no additional cuts to its proposed budget- cuts that would have directly affected students and teachers.  We were able to swing a critical vote from Commissioner Ford with 122 phone calls to his office, and we were credited with him changing his vote.

Stand utilized the tactics below-

  • 122 phone calls and voicemails to Commissioner Ford and Commissioner Harvey
  • 29 hand written letters delivered
  • 2000 petition signatures
  • 17 leaders/allies spoke at 3 meetings
  • 14 one on one meeting with County Commissioners

We educated the community about the Memphis district 6 appointment process. We facilitated a forum for candidates, and it was attended by over 150 people and the county commission. We also facilitated personal interviews about the candidates so commissioners could make an informed decision on who to choose. Because of our efforts, the public and the commission was better informed and engaged in the process. Subsequently, Stand member Shante Avant was appointed by the commission.

We surpassed their own goal of 4,000 yes votes in the Memphis Pre-K campaign. While coming up short on the overall vote, we cemented our place as a community leader in education. We were pivotal to the pre-K coalition, and it was the ground game for the campaign. Many inroads and ground work were laid, and we will continue to fight for pre-K for Memphis children.

Stand for Children National Work

Stand has been very busy in Tennessee, but we have also been working hard for racial equity and educational success in 8 other states. Take a look at the 2021 Annual Report.