Session 7: Sunday, June 3rd: 2:00 - 3:50pm
Teachers and communities in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, Jersey City, Chicago, Puerto Rico, New York, and elsewhere are mobilizing against aggressive attacks on overall public school budgets, leading to crumbling infrastructures, depleted resources, and poorly paid staff. Educators understand how their poor working conditions are linked to poor learning conditions. Disinvestment is part of a plan to undermine public education and make way for privatization through voucher programs and charterization (public funds to privately operated schools with little to no oversight or accountability). Both major parties are largely united behind this “educational reform” agenda. In New York, it uses high-stakes testing to punish students, teachers, and schools in high-poverty districts for predictably scoring low on standardized tests. Their public schools are then closed as “failing” and replaced with privately-managed charter schools. A whole new profit center has been created by wealthy investors to make money in the testing and charter school industries. These same wealthy interests promote candidates and lobbying groups that advocate cuts to high-bracket taxes, public school funding, and the rights of teachers’ unions. This test-punish-and-privatize agenda has become the substitute for desegregating and fully funding public schools, the only education reform that has really worked to radically close achievement gaps. Desegregation by race and class has also improved education for students of all backgrounds, who do better in terms intellectual self-confidence, leadership, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and tolerance. But spurred by a series of court decisions since the 1970s that have increasingly approved segregation in fact as long as it isn’t segregation codified by law, segregation continues to grow, especially in New York where schools are now the most segregated in the nation, with two-thirds of black students attending schools that are at least 90% minority. How have these policies played out in New York? What are communities doing to identify these issues and fight for public voice and agency in the kind of education they want? This panel will discuss organizing for a progressive education reform agenda based on equitable and adequate school funding, an end to high-stakes testing and privatization, and a gifted-quality education for every child.