Column

Behind thousands of school “walk-ins,” a simple request: Give black and brown people the resources and political rights they are owed

Action in context

Photo of Andre Perry

Degree of  Interest

#EdWalk4CFE is one of the more than 200 groups that held demonstrations as part of the AROS alliance Thursday, Oct. 6.

There is a strike looming in Chicago where teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, 2015. And on Thursday, Oct. 6th, the union affiliated Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) organized “walk-ins” in 200 cities and 2,000 public schools in black and brown communities.

On their day of action, hundreds of affiliated parent, education and student groups rallied to end what AROS called “the long-standing and systematic under-funding of their public schools.”

These latest efforts must be placed in a context in which the NAACP, the Movement for Black Lives and numerous college assemblies are making it plain through their manifestos, platforms and detailed agendas what educational justice looks like. In all of their eloquence, these manifestos are actually simple requests for getting the resources and political rights that black and brown people are owed.

For instance AROS put forth a six-point platform that the national coalition has rallied behind including: greater investments in public schools and development of “sustainable community schools” that offer culturally relevant curricula, restorative practices and wrap-around services.

Like the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives, the coalition calls for an “end to the expansion of unaccountable charter schools.” They want a termination in harsh discipline policies and police officers in public schools. The group seeks to put the brakes on high stakes testing and end takeover practices that disenfranchise local voters and reduce local control in schools.

These are not unreasonable demands. To say these positions are that of a wayward organization or a union is to dismiss the thousands if not millions who have demanded the same in cities across the country.

Related: School police have used electroshock weapons on at least 4 kids since August

An aside — Reform groups have transitioned from cajoling the NAACP out of changing their stance on placing a moratorium on charters to downright attacking and shaming them. There is a palpable difference between how reformers are dissing the NAACP and tiptoeing around the Movement for Black Lives.

You can’t help but feel the lack of respect for the NAACP. Is the NAACP supposed to be bought and paid for? The difference is that BLM will certainly show up and show out. But don’t forget the NAACP has a history with that kind of thing.

As was mentioned, there are those who opposed AROS’s various positions so expect to hear rebuttals of twisted logic that demanding accountability and transparency for public schools is an affront to choice; teachers must deny themselves pay raises (that funders of reform proudly enjoy), districts have to be broken-up in order to be saved; and students have to be suspended or expelled in order for them to learn.

Related: What happens when two separate and unequal school districts merge?

Another aside – There are those who are actually arguing against the planned teachers strike in Chicago on grounds that its teachers are the highest paid in the country. Let’s be clear, teachers are not getting paid enough in Chicago (repeat Chicago) where conditions are some of the worst in the country.

Asking for the resources that black and brown students and teachers deserve is a reasoned response to those who would have us believe it’s noble in education to do “more with less.” It’s among the muckety mucks of this social scene in which demands for basic needs are disparaged as turpitudes, and those who only ask for their fair share are viewed as criminally backward and ungrateful.

All one has to do is look in a neighboring county or parish at how different black communities are treated and resourced. Educators in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit are assumed to sit on their hands in the face of stark material inequality and obvious emotional pain among our youth. The benefactors of status quo – and yes the deep pockets of reform are status quo — always deem anything that amounts to inaction the most appropriate method of dissent. For the comfortable, it’s never the right time to stand up for what black and brown people deserve: good pay, great neighborhood schools and representation along with their taxation.

Related: Obama administration to schools: Stop using police to enforce rules

It’s really not too much to ask that our schools receive full funding. Communities shouldn’t have to demand a democratic say in who holds our schools accountable. However, citizens have been placed in the position of having to ask for their voting rights back.

When did standing up for services and commensurate resources to help students cope with the trauma caused by bad public policy become counterproductive? At some point, parents, educators and students must demand the resources required for great schooling.

Again, the recent calls for educational justice and denouncements of particular reforms are not unreasoned, unfounded or new. They’re actually historic. The only difference between now and ten years ago is that more people are mobilizing.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

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Andre Perry

Dr. Andre Perry, a contributing writer, is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at The Brookings Institution. Perry was the founding dean of urban education at… See Archive

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