A Memphis education advocacy organization born out of a national pro-voucher group is shutting down at the end of the month after three years.

Campaign for School Equity spun off from the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a now-defunct national nonprofit, in 2016 to build student advocacy and community organizing around education issues.

Mendell Grinter, the group’s founder, said the organization had trouble securing long-term funding and cited a recent death in his family in Kentucky as reasons to close.

“When we launched CSE in 2016, we did so with one overarching goal: to ensure that students of color and their families in Tennessee had access to high-quality education choices, and to unite communities to leverage their voices for change,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done on behalf of students in Tennessee these past three years.”


Related: The group also published a book on Martin Luther King Jr.’s hope for equal education featuring Memphis schools


PHOTO: Micaela Watts
Mendell Grinter speaks at a 2016 school choice rally in Memphis that his group organized.

When Grinter first came to Memphis as the Tennessee director for Black Alliance for Educational Options, the group was most known for its support of state funding for private school tuition in a city that is mostly against it.

As Campaign for School Equity grew, Grinter said many of the families his team spoke with said vouchers were not their priority.

“What we’ve heard in community conversations was that Memphians felt there were enough reforms in place and that we should focus on what was already going on, not vouchers,” he told Chalkbeat in April.

In 2017, the group narrowed their focus to student advocacy. Campaign for School Equity partnered with Latino Memphis to launch a program designed to get local high school students more involved in education policy decisions that affected them.

That program worked with about 100 high school students at 10 schools over the last two years.

“I joined the group because of things that are going on around school, and I believe that we as leaders can change it,” said Angel Smith in 2017, then a senior at Hillcrest High School. “I want to change how our school does discipline … and learn why some schools have more money than others.”

Grinter said the program became a “national model” for how to elevate student voices in policy discussions.

Chalkbeat reporter Caroline Bauman contributed to this story.