On Thursday the union-affiliated Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools organized “walk-ins” in 200 cities and 2,000 public schools in black and brown communities to fight against “the long-standing and systematic underfunding of their public schools," AROS said in a press release.
Hundreds of affiliated parent, education and student groups rallied behind a six-point platform, which includes:
- a call for the investment of billions of dollars in public schools, particularly in black and brown communities;
- a call for “sustainable community schools”—which AROS identifies (pdf) as having five major components such as expansive, culturally relevant curriculum, restorative practices and wraparound services;
- an end to the expansion of unaccountable charter schools that drain billions from traditional public districts;
- an end to harsh discipline policies and the use of police officers in public schools;
- an end to high-stakes assessments; and
- strong parent and community engagement in schools and an end to practices and policies (such as state takeovers) that disenfranchise local voters and eliminate local control in schools.
Several of these "walk-ins" were directly tied to revenue battles in Los Angeles, Chicago and across the state of Massachusetts. And 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 platforms and detailed agendas what educational justice looks like. In all of their eloquence, these manifestos are simple requests for the resources and political rights that black and brown people are owed.
Interestingly enough, education-reform groups have transitioned from cajoling the NAACP out of changing its stance on placing a moratorium on charters to downright attacking and shaming the organization. There is a palpable difference between how reformers are dissing the NAACP and tiptoeing around the Movement for Black Lives. You can’t help feeling 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.
Most importantly, these are not unreasonable demands. And to say that these positions are those of a wayward organization—which I've heard in some education circles—is to dismiss the thousands, if not millions, of people who have demanded the same things in cities across 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.”
There are those who opposed AROS’ various positions so expect to hear rebuttals shaped by the 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.
Let me give you an example of how deep this flawed logic goes. There is a strike looming in Chicago, where teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, 2015. And there are those who are actually arguing against the planned teachers strike in Chicago on the 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.
It’s only among the muckety-mucks of this social scene that 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 people have to do is look in their own communities or the communities around them to see how differently black communities are treated and resourced. Educators in Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit are expected to sit on their hands in the face of stark material inequality and obvious emotional pain among our youths. 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.
When did standing up for services and commensurate resources to help students cope with the trauma caused by bad public policy become counterproductive and controversial? It’s really not too much to ask that our schools receive full funding. At some point, parents, educators and students must demand the resources required for great schooling, and that's why these nation-wide "walk-ins" are necessary and right on time.
Be clear, 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 10 years ago is that more people are mobilizing, and the institutional racism at play has nowhere to hide.