Monday, February 4, 2013

Arne Duncan Gets Push-Back on Closing Schools

JAISAL NOOR: PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS AND STUDENTS FROM 18 CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY GATHERED IN WASHINGTON, DC THIS WEEK TO DEMAND A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS.

FEDERAL PROGRAMS LIKE RACE TO THE TOP OFFERED FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO CITIES AND STATES FOR RADICALLY CHANGING THEIR SCHOOLS, INCLUDING FIRING STAFF AND SHUTTING SCHOOLS DOWN. WHILE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TOUTED THE COMPETITIVE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR PROGRAM AS A WAY TO IMPROVE EDUCATION AND BETTER PREPARE STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE AND THE WORKFORCE, MANY PARENTS, STUDENTS AND TEACHERS SAY THE CHANGES ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTING LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

The counter revolution is getting up steam. MORE is also gearing up to push the UFT into more action at the closing schools hearings coming up this month. We ought to have a leaflet unveiled in the next day or two.

Here are some reports, video and print.

Jaisal Noor video report (See below the break for text of his report).
Parents and Students Demand Nationwide Moratorium on Schools Closings
//"Journey for Justice" activists rally in DC to DOE investigate alleged Civil Rights violations in school closings

Chicago Parent and Activist Jitu Brown at "Journey for Justice" Hearing in DC 
//Part 2 of TRN's coverage of the "Journey for Justice" DOE Hearing on School Closings
 
New Orleans Parent and Activist Karran Harper Royal at "Journey for Justice" Hearing in DC 

//Part 3 of TRN's coverage of the "Journey for Justice" DOE Hearing on School Closings


James Ceronsky in The American Prospect:

Pushing Arne Duncan to Fast-Forward

At a March 15, 2011, sit-down at the Children’s Defense Fund, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent an unequivocal message to black community and faith leaders. “What we’re desperately missing in this country is parents who will demand better for their children,” he said. “I wish to God I had parents knocking on my door every single day saying, go faster, you’re not moving fast enough.”

On Tuesday, community activists from across the country did exactly that. Some 400 students and parents from as far as California descended on Department of Education headquarters to testify on the racialized impact of school closings, turnarounds, and other measures stipulated by federal education funding mandates. Statistically, actions like these tend to affect students of color more than their white counterparts in the same districts. Students displaced by school turnover are forced to cross myriad social boundaries, including gang lines, with little to no precedent of greater academic success in their new environments.

All told, 18 cities—from the East Coast to the West—were represented at the hearing. Activists from roughly 15 of these cities have filed, or are in the process of filing, Title VI civil-rights complaints with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. These groups are part of the Journey for Justice, a national movement to retake community control of schools.

“This is our Occupy, this is our DREAMers, our LGBT equality, this is all of this wrapped into one,” says Zakiyah Ansari, the advocacy director for New York’s Alliance for Quality Education. “We want this conversation about closures and communities of color to be raised up.”

MORE:
http://prospect.org/article/pushing-arne-duncan-fast-forward

 Bruce Dixon reports on school closings at the Black Agenda Report:

A nationwide epidemic of school closings and teacher firings has been underway for some time. It's concentrated chiefly in poor and minority communities, and the teachers let go are often experienced and committed classroom instructors, and likely to live in and near the communities they serve, and disproportionately black.
It's not an accident, or a reflection of changing demographics, or more educational choices suddenly becoming available to families in those areas. It's not due to greedy unionized teachers or the invisible hand of the marketplace or well-intentioned educational policies somehow gone awry.
The current wave of school closings is latest result of bipartisan educational policies which began with No Child Left Behind in 2001, and have kicked into overdrive under the Obama administration's Race To The Top. In Chicago, the home town of the president and his Secretary of Education, the percentage of black teachers has dropped from 45% in 1995 to 19% today. After winning a couple skirmishes in federal court over discriminatory firings in a few schools, teachers have now filed a citywide class action lawsuit alleging that the city's policy of school “turnarounds” and “transformations” is racially discriminatory because it's carried out mainly in black neighborhoods and the fired teachers are disproportionately black.
How did this happen? Where did those policies come from, and exactly what are they?
More at
http://blackagendareport.com/content/obamas-race-top-drives-nationwide-wave-school-closings-teacher-firings


Note: Compare Bruce's piece with MSNBC"s coverage on Sunday, where they looked at school closings but  didn't mention "Democratic party" or
Barack Obama or Arne Duncan. Besides Zakiyah, none of the guests
demonstrated any knowledgeable of the topic
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979745/#50606348. And they call that
"mainstream". ---- Jaisal Noor


Hearing at the U.S. Dept of Education for the Journey for Justice civil rights complaint about school closings.  Apparently the testimony from the parents was very powerful.  Eventually the entire hearing will be posted on the internet.  A lot of it is available at the Save Our Schools you tube site: http://www.youtube.com/user/MarchToSaveSchools. --- Rosalie Friend


Jaisal Noor text below


JAISAL NOOR: PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS AND STUDENTS FROM 18 CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY GATHERED IN WASHINGTON, DC THIS WEEK TO DEMAND A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS.
FEDERAL PROGRAMS LIKE RACE TO THE TOP OFFERED FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO CITIES AND STATES FOR RADICALLY CHANGING THEIR SCHOOLS, INCLUDING FIRING STAFF AND SHUTTING SCHOOLS DOWN. WHILE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TOUTED THE COMPETITIVE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR PROGRAM AS A WAY TO IMPROVE EDUCATION AND BETTER PREPARE STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE AND THE WORKFORCE, MANY PARENTS, STUDENTS AND TEACHERS SAY THE CHANGES ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTING LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.
(CLIP HELEN MOORE) "I came here to demand, I am demanding an education for our children. We pay the money, we have a right to have our kids educated"
THAT’S HELEN MOORE, A DETROIT  EDUCATION ACTIVIST. SHE WAS ONE OF HUNDREDS WHO ATTENDED A HEARING TUESDAY IN WASHINGTON DC CALLING FOR A NATIONAL MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS. BROWN WAS PART OF A GROUP THAT FILED A TITLE VI CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT LAST SUMMER CHALLENGING THE POLICIES. SHE SAYS SCHOOL CLOSINGS IN DETROIT, A CITY ALREADY MARKED BY HIGH RATES OF UNEMPLOYMENT, VACANT HOUSES AND FORECLOSURES, ARE DESTABILIZING THE COMMUNITY.
(CLIP HELEN MOORE) "The neighborhood start going down as the families start moving out. They don;t want to be told what school to go to because there is no other school.
WHEN A SCHOOL IS CLOSED, THE STUDENT POPULATION OFTEN HAS TO TRAVEL TO A DIFFERENT SCHOOL BUILDING OR RE-APPLY TO GO BACK TO THEIR SCHOOL. ADDITIONALLY, THE STAFF IS OFTEN REPLACED AND RESOURCES ARE REGULARLY CUT, SOMETIMES IN FAVOR OF A CHARTER SCHOOL THAT IS OPENED IN THE SAME BUILDING.
SETH GALANTER IS WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS. HE SAID THEY ARE INVESTIGATING PEOPLE’S CONCERNS AND THE 6 TITLE VI COMPLAINTS THAT WERE FILED:
(CLIP SETH GALANTER)" When we look at these things, i need to emphasize, we cannot deal with every harmful decision that happens. sometimes people are negatively affected, but that doesn't mean civil rights violation. THe question we are asking is if there's an intent to discriminate or decision to make an illegal closing. Not only investigate weather to close schools, which schools to close, and how these decision impacted and affect on students. "
AFTER THE HEARING, HUNDREDS OF PARENTS AND STUDENTS MARCHED TO THE MARTIN LUTHER KING MEMORIAL FOR A RALLY, CONTINUING THEIR CALL FOR JUSTICE. JOEL VELASQUEZ , A PARENT FROM OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA SAYS HE FOUGHT PLANS TO SHUT HIS SON’S SCHOOL BY LEADING A 3-WEEK LONG SIT-IN AT LAKEVIEW ELEMENTARY.
(CLIP  JOEL VELASQUEZ) "After a year of trying to meet with officials, superintendent, we were left with no options, we took our school back. "
HE WAS JOINED AT THE RALLY BY OAKLAND EDUCATOR AND ACTIVIST MIKE HUTCHINSON WHO SAYS SCHOOL CLOSINGS AND INCREASED CHARTER SCHOOLS ONLY TARGET THE CITY’S LOW INCOME COMMUNITIES
(CLIP HUTCHINSON) "If you look at a map of Oakland, we have the flatlands and the hills. In the flatlands, which are less affluent, that's where all the school closures have happened, thats where all the charters are. There are no school closures and charters in the hills. If charter schools and school closures are the best option I would expect them to be applied across the board, but I haven't seen that happen"
A DELEGATION FROM NEW ORLEANS, THE CITY WITH THE HIGHEST PROPORTION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTRY, ALSO TRAVELED TO DC. STUDENT TERREL MAJOR SAYS HIS PUBLIC SCHOOL GETS LESS RESOURCES THAN THE CHARTER SCHOOL THAT SHARES THE SAME BUILDING.
(CLIP TERREL MAJOR)"Like when the storm Issac came, after we came back from the storm, - their side of the cafeteria- we sit on different sides, their side of the cafeteria and our side was damaged for weeks. It made me feel lesser than, that I didn't really matter in our own school."
MAJOR CALLS THAT DISCRIMINATION. DESPITE THE CHALLENGES, SOME ARE ENCOURAGED BY THE GROWING GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT AGAINST SCHOOL CLOSINGS, INCLUDING NEW ORLEANS PARENT AND ACTIVIST KARRAN HARPER ROYAL.
(CLIP KARRAN HARPER ROYAL) I think we are at a turning point because there are people organizing around the country. In Seattle its testing, we are organizing around school closures, there are teachers organizing around evaluation systems. We are at a critical point because we are not getting the desired outcomes. "
IN ADDITION TO A NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON SCHOOL CLOSINGS, ACTIVISTS ARE CALLING FOR SUSTAINABLE SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION, INCREASED RESOURCES AND A COMMUNITY-BASED INPUT PROCESS . ORGANIZERS HAVE VOWED TO RETURN TO WASHINGTON IF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DOES NOT TAKE ACTION. REPORTING FOR THE REAL NEWS AND FSRN, THIS IS JAISAL NOOR IN WASHINGTON.

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