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Explainer: #Vision4BlackLives Agenda Highlights School Reform Critics' Priorities (With Some Key Exceptions)

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Most of the attention on the Movement for Black Lives' agenda, released earlier this week, focused on the call for reparations and other agenda items.

However, a little-noted part of the comprehensive agenda was its education section, which calls for "An End to the Privatization of Education and Real Community Control by Parents, Students and Community Members of Schools Including Democratic School Boards and Community Control of Curriculum, Hiring/Firing, and Discipline Policies."

Some highlight quotes: 

*Privatization strips Black people of the right to self-determine the kind of education their children receive.

*Using mayoral control and state takeover, they impose their experimental, market-based approach to school reform.

*The education crises plaguing most of our public school districts are the result of corporate-controlled, state-sanctioned and federally-funded attacks to reverse Brown v. Board of Education, and create a desuetude discrimination and educational apartheid that must be challenged and overthrown.

*Their aims are to undermine Black democracy and self-determination, destroy organized labor, and decolor education curriculum, while they simultaneously  overemphasize  Standardized Testing, and use school closures to disproportionately disrupt access to education in Black communities.   

The authors of this section include Jonathan Stith (Alliance for Educational Justice), Hiram Rivera (Philadelphia Student Union), and Chinyere Tutashinda (Center for Media Justice). According to an Tweet from Stith, "A squad of Black education justice parent & youth organizers [was] present as well." The resources provided for this agenda include the Every Student Succeeds Act ExplainedAROS Demands Memo, and Journey For Justice.

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 In case it isn't clear, this call for elected school boards, an end to privatization, and a pullback from foundations like Gates and Broad is very much a reform critic's view of what needs to be done -- not at all a reformers' vision.

Or, as The American Prospect's Rachel Cohen put it, "There are some high-profile Teach for America alums in Black Lives Matter, but the platform calls for the program's end."

As such, this is the second time in recent weeks that we're reading about reform groups seeming to have been outflanked by their critics. The earlier instance was the development of the DNC party platform, which included amendments from Randi Weingarten and others that called for similar things.  (You could also include the release of stolen DNC emails in which campaign officials urge against mention of Common Core.) 

It's also an early indication of where the larger Black Lives Matter movement might be headed on education issues, which has been until now a murky thing to understand. There are several TFA alumni among the leaders of the movement, but the movement has also partnered with teachers unions in places like Chicago (where a BLM activist surprised union leaders by denouncing the police union). 

However, there are areas in which the movement's agenda would seem to go along with the priorities of many reform groups -- and put them in conflict with organized labor. Some quoted highlights:

*Put a moratorium on all out of school suspensions.

*Remove police from schools and replace them with positive alternatives to discipline and safety.

*Inequitable funding at the school district, local and state level leave most public schools — where poor communities of color are the majority — unable to provide adequate and high quality education for all students, criminalizing and targeting Black students through racist zero-tolerance discipline policies.

*Key stakeholders, such as parents, teachers, and students are left out of the decision making process.

*Create Community Schools that have wrap-around services for students and community members as a turnaround model instead of closing schools or charterization.

It's also well worth noting that this document, released by a group calling itself the Movement for Black Lives (aka ), may not represent the larger movement's education agenda, or the focal point of BLM efforts on education.

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How is that list going along with the priorities of so-called "reform" groups and in conflict with labor? Unless you're referring to police unions in the second one, that entre characterization is wildly inaccurate -- the opposite of reality. "Reformers' " favored charters are far more ruthless and aggressive in suspending even very young children than public schools are, and are notorious for their "no excuses" zero-tolerance discipline that rains harsh punishment on low-income children of color. "Reformers" promote policies that eliminate parents, students and teachers from decisionmaking, such as mayoral control with appointed school boards and privately run charters unanswerable to anyone but their self-appointed boards. "Reform" critics (including me) have worked to promote community schools, while "reformers" are the ones who advocate closing schools and charterization.

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