May 12, 2014

Brown vs. Board of Education ruling 'inspires us to continue fighting'

Author: Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT Communications

LIVE VIDEO. Via AFT and We Act Radio: "To mark the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, parents, students, educators and community members from across America are rallying at the U.S. Supreme Court to continue the struggle for racial and educational justice and win the public schools all our children deserve. We will meet at 12:30 on Tuesday, May 13 in front of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, rallying with several high-profile speakers. National organizations in the Alliance include Alliance for Educational Justice, American Federation of Teachers, Annenberg, Institute for School Reform, Center for Popular Democracy, Network, Journey for Justice Alliance, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Education Association, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, Service Employees International Union."


NYSUT and its national affiliates this week mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation policies in the nation's public schools and inspired the civil rights movement. 

"The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling inspires us to continue fighting every day for equity in public education," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "NYSUT is committed to closing the achievement gap between students in low- and high-income districts in New York State, a gap that disproportionately affects students of color. We have made progress but more must be done, and our union will continue working to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to succeed."

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The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association are commemorating the unanimous May 17, 1954 ruling as part of the "Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools" campaign that aims to fulfill the promise of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision - which also propelled into national prominence Thurgood Marshall, America's first black Supreme Court justice who, as a lawyer, argued before the court that school segregation was a violation of individual rights under the 14th Amendment. 

The campaign will kick off Tuesday when NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will be joined by educators, students, parents, community organizations and labor unions for the "Organizing for Educational Justice for All!" rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The NEA also will be releasing a report titled, "Time for Change: Diversity in Teaching Revisited," which will provide a vision for an education workforce that's reflective and responsive to the diversity of America's students. 

The AFT will be taking the lead in staging events throughout the week in various cities nationwide, including New York, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, Boston, Los Angeles and St. Paul. 

A full schedule of events and more about the Alliance to "Reclaim Our Schools" campaign can be found at ReclaimOurSchools.org. The campaign runs through Saturday, May 17.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said issues such as school closings, privatization, zero-tolerance approaches to school discipline, austerity and high-stakes testing all threaten to undercut communities of color. These lingering problems - despite Brown vs. Board of Education - have fueled communities across the nation to band together to "reclaim the promise of public education," Weingarten said.

"There is a groundswell movement of teachers, parents, students and community members pushing for solutions that we know bring about equity - promoting early childhood education, expanding professional development opportunities, recruiting and retaining a diverse teacher corps, boosting parental involvement, shifting our discipline policies, curbing privatization, and fixing, not closing, schools," she said. "Together, we are working to reclaim the promise of public education." 

Van Roekel said the onus is on lawmakers and the nation's courts to end the inequality that continues to plague the nation's public schools. 

"If 'separate is inherently unequal,' then why have lawmakers at every level—local, state, and federal - failed to fix these inequities?'" Van Roekel asked. "The Supreme Court has failed to recognize the disparities in what America's students receive are just as much of a constitutional affront as racial segregation was and is today. We have systems that continue to perpetuate inequality based upon zip code and family income. Lawmakers and the judiciary across America should view this anniversary as a wake-up call that the promise of Brown seems to be more elusive now than ever before." 

More on Brown vs. Board of Education and the issue of school equity can be found at nea.org

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