Education Organizers Make Their Case in D.C. to End School Closures!
Education organizers and advocates from 18 cities across the country made a "Journey for Justice" to the nation's capitol this week to make their case in person against school closures. They testified at a hearing before the US Department of Education and even met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan!
As the organizers argued, the DOE's policies that favor closing underperforming schools rather than investing in them is doing irreparable harm to students in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New Orleans. The closures disrupt communities and force students to relocate to schools outside their communities or enroll in a local charter that might not be any better than the school they just left. What's more, most of the schools slated for closure are located in predominantly Black and Latino communities, which means the policy of targeting certain schools for closure is discriminatory. OTL ally Zakiyah Ansari says it best in her appearance on the Melissa Harris-Perry show – watch below!
Often policymakers frame school closures as doing right by students who are attending chronically underperforming schools. The problem with that reasoning is they fail to ask (let alone answer) the bigger question of WHY those schools are underperforming. Could it be, for example, that those schools lack adequate resources to hire and retain high-quality, experienced teachers or to provide tutoring and after-school enrichment programs? Or maybe the district implements harsh, zero-tolerance discipline policies that bar students from the classroom and limit their access to teachers and classwork. Or maybe the district doesn't have any high quality early childhood education programs and so low-income students enter the K-12 system already behind students in better resourced districts. (For a case in point, see this report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education on "education redlining" in New York City.)
There's no such thing as a quick fix where you close a school and reopen it with a new staff or under a charter management organization and *presto* test scores rise and the achievement gap closes. "School turnaround" needs to be about investing in our schools and in our students, not shutting the door on them.
You can read Journey For Justice's press release about the hearing here. Check out media coverage in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Education Week, all of them with fantastic quotes from OTL allies Zakiyah Ansari (Alliance for Quality Education) and Jitu Brown (Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago)! Read a press release from the American Federation of Teachers in support of Journey for Justice here
Follow Journey for Justice on Twitter @J4J_USA!
Last be not least, watch Zakiyah make the case in favor of more supports for schools on the Melissa Harris-Perry show below!