By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The Grassroots Education Movement recently testified before Arne Duncan at a U.S. Department of Education hearing in Washington, D.C., on the impact and civil rights violations resulting from the unchecked closings and turnarounds of schools serving predominantly low-income, students of color.
The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), which has been working with student and parent groups to reverse the CPS decision to phase out Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., joined approximately 500 students, parents and community representatives, impacted or at risk of impact by school closings. The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) consists of 18 cities from across the country including: Ambler, Pa.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; District of Columbia; Eupora, Miss.; Hartford, Conn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Newark; New Orleans; New York; Oakland, Calif.; Philadelphia; and Wichita, Kan. Organizations from each state attended the hearing.
Fears of school closures hit home for many Hyde Parkers late last year when Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett announced that many Hyde Park schools are underutilized, which is a justification for closure.
At the hearing, GEM demanded that the U.S. Department of Education include a moratorium on school closings until a new process can be implemented nationally. They also demanded the implementation of a sustainable, community-driven school improvement process as national policy and a meeting with President Obama so that he could be directly made aware of the impact of school actions.
Krista Alston, parent leader with KOCO, said it is crucial that policymakers hear the issues, recognize the discriminatory and destabilizing impact the closings and turnarounds have brought about and take immediate steps to put a moratorium on school closings to stop the divestment in our youth.
“Cities across the country are experiencing the racially disparate effects of top-down, neglectful actions by the closing and turnaround of schools serving low-income students of color,” Alston said “The devastating impact of these actions has only been tolerated because of the race and class of the communities affected.”
The community hearing was followed by a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King Memorial.