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Author:Vogt, Leonard
Position:Essay
 
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Race and Education

"Yes, It's a Racial Thing" by Gary Younge (The Nation, May 12, 2014) reports on the Network for Public Education's conference in March, 2014 and its panel on "Grassroots Organizing." An audience member made it clear to the all-white panel that the concerns of the conference (to "give voice to those opposing privatization, school closings, and high-stakes testing") disproportionately affected people from poor and minority communities who, because of the all-white panel, were given no voice as to how they might contribute to the discussion and the resistance.

May 17, 2014 celebrated the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 U. S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited states from segregating schools by race, overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision of "separate but equal." As successful as Brown was for inspiring freedom rides, sit-ins, voter registration drives and other actions leading ultimately to the civil rights legislation in the late 1950s and 1960s, it "was unsuccessful in its purported mission [of undoing] the school segregation that persists as a central feature of American education today" (portside.org, May 13 and 16, 2014).

Another celebration in the summer of 2014 was the June 50th anniversary of Mississippi's Freedom Summer, launched to end the systematic and violent disenfranchisement of African Americans in Mississippi by registering them to vote and also to cultivate the organizing skills of local leaders. Fannie Lou Hammer, one of these leaders, is also celebrated on this 50th anniversary for her testimony at the Council of Federated Organizations about her brutal injustices when trying to vote and about the forced sterilization of African American women in Mississippi. Freedom Summer 50th was a five day conference held from June 25 to 29 in Jackson, Mississippi at Tougaloo College to explore present-day struggles for justice not only in Mississippi, but globally (info@freedom50.org). Radical Teacher published the Mississippi Freedom Schools curriculum in issue # 40, available on JStor.

Charter Schools

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana seized 102 of the city's 117 schools and transformed them into charter schools under the watch of the Recovery School District. The Washington Post recently wrote an article praising the success of this 100% charter school system which was rebutted by Mercedes Schneider in her blog of May 20, 2014 ("On the 'Success' of a 100% Charter Recovery School District").

Even when charter schools have more honest success than the ones in New Orleans, they can create a toxic dynamic when traditional public schools and charter schools exist under the same roof. This is the case with the Harlem Success Academies, New York City's most successful and well-funded charter school network. For a dozen years under ex-mayor Bloomberg, charter schools were offered free rent in city-owned school buildings, creating a highly visible disparity between the "have" charter school students and the "have-not" public school students. As the...

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