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HISTORY OF A CAMPAIGN FOR QUALITY EDUCATION AS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT

Dr. Robert Moses, civil-rights activist and founder of the Algebra Project called for a meeting in the Spring 2004 at Howard University bringing together predominately African-American and Latino intellectuals, activists and young people to discuss a proposal for a campaign to guarantee a quality education for all children as a constitutional right.

The response to the Howard Meeting was overwhelming.  With over 150 people in attendance people literally started organizing on the spot. An Interim Coordinating Committee was charged with maintaining transparency, democracy, and measurable progress towards building this national movement.  In the wake of that gathering, Quality Education as a Constitutional Right (QECR) community meetings emerged in Miami, New Orleans, New York, Petersburg, Virginia, Los Angeles, and Orange County, California.  The Rockefeller and Schott Foundations also convened a group resource meeting in New York shortly thereafter.

The momentum carried into a second national gathering at the University of Michigan in May 2005 to further hone the mission and functions of QECR, with a particular focus on increasing youth leadership. During this time period, Robert Moses won a $50,000 Alphonse Fletcher Jr. and Harvard University W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African American Research Fletcher Fellowship and donated it to the QECR effort.  With that support and also a number of smaller donations a third Coordinating Committee meeting was held in July 2005 in conjunction with a youth organizer-training weekend at Jackson State University and Mississippi State University in Jackson, Mississippi.  Participants at that meeting continued discussions and planning for formation of a sustainable structure for QECR and provided the young people with training and skill-building for their local level organizing work in their communities.  At that time, plans were also underway for the Frederick Douglas High School Coalition in New Orleans lower 9th Ward to sponsor a more intensive national grassroots organizing institute for the youth members of QECR to take place in New Orleans.  Those plans were derailed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In August 2005, the core of youth and adult energy that had begun driving QECR’s work was temporarily scattered across the country.  Some people were unaccounted for.  For several months, all attention was focused on helping QECR members meet basic needs after being displaced.  Some QECR members took on leadership roles in hurricane recovery efforts.  QECR’s Coordinating Committee work slowed but resumed activities in December of 2005 by convening a fourth Coordinating Committee meeting at Penn Center in the South Carolina Sea Islands.  During the two years of planning, volunteers staffed all of the activities of QECR.  At this meeting, it was decided that QECR would begin the process of hiring a full-time National Coordinator to re-energize and carry forward the work of QECR under the guidance of the Coordinating Committee.  

In October 2006, Michael and Jessy Molina were hired as Co-Coordinators.  Despite considerable progress, which included re-launching the website (www.qecr.org), creating outreach materials, visiting QECR affiliate groups to deepen connections, meeting with new potential partners, and partnering with ally organizations and institutions in planning work for the 2007-08 school year, QECR wasn’t able to regain momentum post-Katrina.

In 2009, the Young People's Project was charged with incubating and re-launching QECR as an organizational initiative.