EVENT RECAP – Over 500 parents, students and educators rallied in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 13th, the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The rally kicked off a National Week of Action organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which represents over 7 million parents, teachers and students nationwide who are fighting for equal opportunity and educational justice. The Alliance was there to honor Brown’s 60th anniversary and to renew the call for equity and opportunity in our nation’s public schools.
Jessica Morillo, a student leader with the Urban Youth Collaborative, and Ocynthia Williams, a parent leader from the Coalition for Educational Justice, together MC’ed the event, keeping the crowd lively even in the scorching 90-degree heat. Explaining the purpose of the rally, Williams said, “Our schools have become high stakes testing factories and corporate America is trying to privatize them. We say no more! We are reclaiming our public schools and demanding that the promise of public education be fulfilled.”
Sharron Snyder of the Philadelphia Student Union shared how school closures and cuts to education affect students. “We demand full funding and support for neighborhood-based schools. Education is a right, not a privilege! We refuse to stop fighting until we have the education we deserve!”
An important aspect of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is how it unites parents, students and communities with school professionals. This community-labor alliance is a powerful collation with which to advocate for the resources and opportunities all students deserve. Labor leaders spoke at the rally including Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the NEA, and Valeria Long, Exec. Vice President of SEIU. Weingarten rallied the crowd saying that 60 years after Brown, parents, students and educators need to work together to demand “great public schools that help all children achieve their dreams.” Dennis spoke of the legacy of inequities in education and the rise of economic and racial inequalities. Valerie Long inspired the crowd to keep up the fight.
Senator Eleanor Holmes Norton gave a fiery speech reminding the crowd that they weren’t there merely to commemorate the Brown decision but to demand a 21st Century version of equality. Diamond McCullough shared how Chicago Public Schools slated her school for closure and how schools in low-income communities of color offer inferior education. “This is a slap in the face to Brown v. Board of Education. This is why we’re on a Journey for Justice.” Lucinda Talbert, grandaughter of Brown v. Board Plaintiff Lucinda Todd, gave a heartfelt testimony about her grandmother’s activism and the devastating impact of current unequal schooling. “We still have not realized my Grandma’s dream.”
Jitu Brown of Journey for Justice, an Alliance member organization, and Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project released a new report, “Death by a Thousand Cuts
Kia Hinton, a parent leader from Action United and Center for Popular Democracy spoke of the devastating effects of the budget cuts in Philadelphia and the Alliance’s fight for our students, schools and communities. Ramon Garibaldo, a youth leader from United We Dream, spoke passionately about the need for dignity and fair treatment of immigrant students. He led the crowd in a chant of “Up up with education, down down with segregation!” Deborah Jones of Journey for Justice spoke of charters pushing students into prisons in Chicago and showed us that we are an example of what we can do when we come together!
The protesters then marched to the Department of Justice to file Title VI complaints detailing the harm that corporate reform strategies have on schools and communities nationwide. Across the country, inequitable funding, mass school closures, charter expansion, over-testing and harsh discipline policies are undermining public education.