Civil Rights & Education Justice Groups File Title VI Complaints in Chicago, New Orleans and Newark

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 13, 2014

CONTACT:  Cynthia Gordy, Advancement Project, cgordy@advancementproject.org, 718-755-4340

 

Civil Rights and Education Justice Groups File Title VI Complaints in Chicago, New Orleans and Newark

Civil Rights Complaint and New Report Detail Discriminatory Impact of School Closures and Privatization on Students of Color

 

WASHINGTON – This week marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine for public schools. But 60 years later, stark inequities remain in public education and communities of color are still fighting to make the promise of Brown a reality. One of the most striking examples is predominately African-American and Latino communities being targeted for school closings – with students re-enrolled in different schools, or neighborhood schools turned over to private companies.

Today the Journey for Justice Alliance (a coalition of community and education justice organizations across 21 cities) and the national civil rights organization Advancement Project took bold action. On behalf of Journey for Justice organizations, Advancement Project filed three complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in use of federal funds, alleging discrimination in Newark, New Jersey; Chicago and New Orleans – each a city deeply impacted by school closures. The complaints, which detail the racially discriminatory impact of school closures and privatization on children of color, were filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, as well as with the U.S. Department of Justice. Details in the complaint include:

  • In Chicago, 50 public schools were closed during the last school year alone. These closures targeted African-American communities, with Black students accounting for only 43 percent of all Chicago students but making up 87 percent of the students affected by the closures.
  • With the dramatic rate of school closures and the expansion of charter schools in New Orleans, the city’s Recovery School District has only five remaining traditional public schools and is on its way to being the nations’ first all-charter school district.
  • Newark’s public schools have been under state control since 1995, with no local control or community accountability for nearly 20 years. As a result, Newark communities are powerless to stop New Jersey’s plan to close neighborhood schools – many of which are generational schools that fathers and grandmothers of current schoolchildren had attended years before.

“So-called school ‘reformers’ have consistently shown that they are more willing to subject children of color to unproven education practices,” said Jitu Brown, National Coordinator for the Journey for Justice Alliance. “They are less concerned with providing experienced teachers and small class sizes, and less willing to accept that our communities know what is best for our children. Young people should not be treated as collateral damage in these failed and discriminatory educational experiments.”

“In each of the cities where we filed Title VI complaints, African-American children are being uprooted, shuffled around and ultimately sent to schools that are no better than the one that closed,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Districts are shirking their responsibility to educate our children and instead are giving multi-million dollar contracts to companies to do the job. In each city, African-American students’ hopes of equal educational opportunities are being dashed.”

Also today, Journey for Justice released a report on the real-life impacts of school closings and privatization. Entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts: Racism, School Closures, and Public School Sabotage, the report provides a searing look at the national pattern of school districts setting community schools up to fail through policies including high stakes testing-based accountability systems, and enrollment policies that concentrate the most disadvantaged students in a few schools without providing the needed resources. Once these schools consequently suffer under-enrollment and financial shortfalls, public officials then justify closing them.

As the report details, school closures not only hurt educational outcomes; they have far-reaching negative consequences for children of color and their communities. For example, since 2001, 20 area schools near Chicago’s Dyett High School have been closed, converted to charter or selective enrollment schools, or subjected to other “turnaround” strategies. Students have been displaced multiple times, leading to increased community violence as well as emotional and academic harms to area youth. When schools close, people lose their jobs and their families suffer as a result. Residents lose community services housed in schools, such as pre-K programs and health clinics. Meanwhile, there is no empirical evidence that closing schools down is beneficial to students’ education.

“Under the guise of education reform, corporate profiteers and politicians have zeroed in on Black communities, leaving behind devastation and destabilization,” said Debra Jones of the New Orleans organization Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes (C-6). “The approach of closing, turning around and privatizing schools has not only kept public education separate and unequal, but increasingly not public at all.”

“In the process of school closings and turnarounds, public education has been put under the control of a powerful few while taking away community accountability and involvement,” said Karran Harper Royal, an education advocate with the New Orleans organization Coalition for Community Schools.

“We cannot tolerate anyone telling us that these policies are for our own good,” said Sharon Smith, president and CEO of the Newark, New Jersey organization Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE). “Research shows that school closures, privatization and charter school expansion have not produced higher-quality education for young people. Our lived experience shows that these policies cause emotional harm to our youth and devastate our neighborhoods.”

“These educational experiments target communities of color as solutions to a problem that Brown v. Board of Education should have solved – the need for access to a fair, quality education,” said J. Brian Malone, executive director of Chicago’s Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “Instead, education ‘reformers’ have created a system of failed education policies that continues to burden youth of color.”

For the full Journey for Justice report, Death by a Thousand Cuts, visit http://www.j4jalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/J4JReport-final_05_12_14.pdf.

View the Title VI complaints here: http://www.advancementproject.org/pages/journey-for-justice-and-advancement-project-files-title-vi-complaints-again

 

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Journey for Justice (J4J) is an alliance of 36 grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 21 cities across the country. Our members are grassroots, base-building organizations working for community-driven school improvement as an alternative to the privatization and dismantling of public school systems.

Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.