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"Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools" Calls for Racial Justice in Education

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WASHINGTON — Students, parents and educators are together building a movement for justice, rallying on May 13 to reaffirm the promise of racial justice in public schools as declared in the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is a national community-labor alliance that represents more than 7 million parents, educators and youth who are standing up in the face of unprecedented attacks on their public schools, jobs and civil rights. Among those speaking at the press conference will be Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel and Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis.

For the last 20 years, a market-based approach to education reform has undermined the promise of equitable access to great schools for all students and pitted teachers and parents against each other. But that tide is changing as parents, students and educators are coming together to reclaim the promise of public education as the nation's gateway to a strong democracy and racial and economic justice.

The rally kicks off a national week of action organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, fighting the dismantling and privatizing of public education and demanding excellent, sustainable schools for all children. Leaders and members of the AFT, the NEA and the Service Employees International Union will be joining members of grass-roots community organizations. They are demanding full funding and support for neighborhood-based community schools; a de-emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing; positive school discipline policies and an end to zero-tolerance; high-quality and affordable education from early childhood through college for all, including undocumented students; and a living wage that lifts people out of poverty.

The rally will take place on the steps of the Supreme Court and will be led by parent and student advocates. They will highlight the fact that six decades after the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the nation’s public schools are still separate and still unequal. The current, market-based approach to education reform has exacerbated racial and economic inequities in access to educational resources and opportunities. By focusing on the "achievement gap," the United States has neglected to address the "opportunity gap" that disadvantages communities of color and low-income communities. To mark the 60th anniversary, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is calling for policymakers to recommit to the vision of equity and opportunity embodied in that Supreme Court decision.

Myron Miller, a youth leader at VAYLA New Orleans, is attending the rally because he believes that every neighborhood deserves a high-quality community high school that is within reach of students and their families. The neighborhood high school that he graduated from in 2013 is being shut down after this semester. Miller says, "I told my little sisters that I want to try to get the school re-opened so they can go there when they're ready for high school."

At the rally, alliance member-organization Journey for Justice will release a report detailing the harm done to communities of color and low-income communities by corporate intervention policies such as mass school closings, charter expansion, overtesting and harsh discipline. The report calls for a moratorium on school closures and charter expansions, and details recommendations for alternative, sustainable school-transformation models.

After the rally, participants will march to the Department of Justice to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to meet with parents, students and educators who are being hurt by current education reform. The groups will file three Title VI civil rights complaints with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice detailing how students of color from Newark, N.J.; Chicago; and New Orleans are disproportionately affected by school closures and charter expansions. The alliance will also ask the attorney general to improve charter oversight due to the excessive amount of charter fraud and the current weak system of oversight that costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

Irene Robinson, a grandparent of eight children affected by school closings and a member of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization in Chicago, says, “Closing schools and displacing students is separate and unequal. Stuffing my grandbaby in a class with 54 other kindergarteners is separate and unequal. My grandchildren having to eat lunch in the gym room packed with students is separate and unequal. This is not reform, it’s repression.” Robinson is part of the Chicago civil rights lawsuit. AFT President Randi Weingarten says, "Sixty years ago, Brown v. Board created access, yet today, we still struggle with true equity. In Philadelphia and Chicago, school closings have a disproportionate impact on students of color. In Newark, reforms being forced through have enraged the entire community and will excessively harm teachers of color. School closings, privatization, zero-tolerance approaches to school discipline, austerity, high-stakes testing all threaten to undercut communities of color. Today, change is being brought about not in a courtroom, but in our communities. There is a groundswell movement of teachers, parents, students and community members pushing for solutions that we know bring about equity—promoting early childhood education, expanding professional development opportunities, recruiting and retaining a diverse teacher corps, boosting parental involvement, shifting our discipline policies, curbing privatization and fixing, not closing, schools. Together, we are working to reclaim the promise of public education."

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry says, “Today we mark the anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision by continuing the fight to realize its promise: expanding opportunity for students of all backgrounds.”

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel says, “Sixty years after the Brown v. Board of Education landmark decision, we still see dramatic inequities and disparities in resources, programs and opportunities for students across America. If ‘separate is inherently unequal,’ then why have lawmakers at every level—local, state and federal—failed to fix these inequities? The Supreme Court has failed to recognize that disparities in what America's students receive is just as much of a constitutional affront as racial segregation was and is today. We have systems that continue to perpetuate inequality based upon ZIP code and family income. Lawmakers and the judiciary across America should view this anniversary as a wake-up call that the promise of Brown seems to be more elusive now than ever before.”

The alliance previously mobilized for a National Day of Action on Dec. 9, 2013, with rallies, protests, walkouts and other actions taking place in more than 60 cities nationwide.

National organizations in the alliance include the Alliance for Educational Justice, the AFT, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, the Center for Popular Democracy, Journey for Justice, the Gamaliel Network, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the NEA, the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign and SEIU.


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0 # Lynn Stewart 2014-08-21 06:48
My name is Lynn Stewart.I am a teacher that was played off 3 years ago.I have used every day of these past 3 years to fill out apps for teaching jobs.Just today I got a rejection call for this school year.My unemployment was shut off.I do get food stamps.Friends and family send money from time to time.September I may loose my home.My college degree is worth zip.I have taught in Europe for the government and several U.S. military communities.As Jessie has asked of us;I am struggling to keep hope alive.I continually pray for those like me and our schools as well.

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