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07/1/2019 | Organizing for Education Justice

CPD Affiliate LIT Wins BIG in Milwaukee

Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), a youth-of-color-led organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just won a big victory! Since their founding a year and a half ago, LIT has focused on building the leadership of young people in Milwaukee. Their work has pushed Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to do better for Black and Brown youth—and they are just getting started. Young people have called on the school district to divest from criminalizing young people and instead invest in supportive and nurturing resources that will give them the freedom to thrive. Check out and share this twitter thread to spread the word! 

Recently, they achieved their largest victory yet. The Milwaukee Board of School Directors divested $600,000 from police and security and invested that money into six new mental health positions to focus on trauma-informed care. This is a major victory to start chipping away at the deep criminalization of Black and Brown young people. This marks the first divest/invest win in Milwaukee schools, which came directly from LIT’s advocacy and demands.

This victory came after more than a year and a half of hard work. Last year, a U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation showed that MPS punished students more frequently and more harshly than their white peers. In response, LIT sprang into action. They published a report with CPD that shared their Youth Power Agenda and called for major divestments from policing and punishing young people, instead proposing deep investments in supports and educational resources. 

LIT relentlessly pursued that goal. They knocked on 75,000 doors and collected more than 13,000 pledge cards and petitions on their issues. This spring during Milwaukee’s school board elections, LIT engaged young people in the election. Nine out of ten of the school board candidates pledged support for LIT’s Youth Power Agenda. 

When the new school board took office, one of their first decisions supported LIT’s demand to divest from policing young people and invest in trauma-informed supports. This is a major win for young people in MPS and a major win for young people across the country who can learn from and build upon this victory. 

The work is not over. Though they won a $600,000 divestment, there are still millions of dollars that must be reallocated in order to create thriving public schools for Black and Brown youth. There is still a deeply seeded school-to-prison pipeline in Milwaukee that must be dismantled. 

LIT is up for that challenge. Every day, LIT is bringing more and more young people into the movement. In the last year, they’ve started 12 school chapters. They are helping to ensure that the future is Black, Brown and LIT!