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Denver, Sacramento, Providence Mayors Launch Education Tour

Three mayors who promote efforts to remake schooling have launched a national tour to promote the kinds of changes they've made in their own cities. The Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour, or MEET, kicked off today in Denver, where Mayor Michael Hancock, of Denver, Mayor Kevin Johnson, of Sacramento, and Mayor Angel Taveras, of Providence, R.I., gathered to talk about their strategies for improving schools. 

To launch the tour, the mayors, along with Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, published an op-ed in Politico yesterday on the "road to school success." They refer to the Common Core State Standards and a slew of city-level initiatives, including Sacramento's recruitment of programs like City Year and StudentsFirst, tutoring and turnaround efforts in Denver, and a 3rd grade reading initiative in Providence. "Far from Washington, smart education policy is uniting even the most strident opponents," the mayors write in their commentary.

In Denver today, the mayors marveled at the Evie Garrett Dennis Campus, where they said they saw students  analyzing their own performance data, and which had a health clinic inside its walls. 

mayor high five.jpg

Tavera is able to appoint Providence's school board, unlike in Denver or Sacramento. But Tavera said all mayors should use their bully pulpit to promote education in their community. "You can't have a great city without great public schools," he said. 

Frequently used words in today's press conference (besides "mayor," as the mayors referred to each other): Public-private partnership, 0-5 education, cradle-to-career.

Johnson said that he hoped the lessons learned as the mayors visited each others' cities benefit the leaders of other cities, too. Johnson and Tavera both commented on Denver's early-childhood program. Tavera said he had already contacted their providers in order to learn more about it. 

That said, Providence, Denver, San Antonio, and Sacramento do not have a particularly uniform set of reforms in the works. The press materials say as much: "Though the mayors have employed different educational policies and programs in each of their cities, they are united in purpose: bringing the most transformative, successful measures to schools across the country."

They'll gather next spring to "reflect on the biggest takeaways and changes they have seen, and incorporate new cities, more schools, and additional leaders from across the U.S." in their efforts, according to the Mayors Tour website.

These particular mayors came together partly because they each represent underserved communiites. "We want to put mayors of color who are focused on this issue out," said Johnson. Johnson and Hancock are both African-American, while Castro and Taveras are Latino.  

"There's an achievement gap in this country that's unforgivable...Every one of us is doing something in our cities to reduce that. We are all just as suffocated by desire to begin to change to reverse these trends," Johnson said. 

The tour is funded by the Walton Foundation, among others, Johnson said. (Walton also supports coverage of parent-empowerment issues in Education Week.) Democrats for Education Reform, or DFER, is also one of the organizations behind the tour.

The mayors will be in Sacramento on Dec. 11 and 12, in Providence on Jan. 30 and 31, and in San Antonio on March 6 and 7. 

Photo: Denver's mayor, Michael Hancock, high fiving students at the Evie Garrett Dennis Campus. Via MEET's Instagram.

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