On June 19, 1865, a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were read General Order No. 3, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves. Starting in 1866, Juneteenth has been celebrated annually not just for emancipation in Texas, but as a symbol of freedom from slavery across the country.
Realizing racial justice in public education is impossible when Black and Brown students are criminalized in their own schools. Students, parents and education justice groups have long known this, and while we've seen some inspiring reforms in school discipline thanks to tireless grassroots organizing efforts, the present moment offers the chance for serious leaps forward. Minneapolis is no different, with education justice organizers calling for structural changes long before the most recent uprising.
While COVID-19 is novel as a virus, the pestilence of anti-Black racism that dictates its disproportionate impact on Black communities is centuries old. Few things drive this point home more poignantly than the massive protests sparked by the recent killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade at the hands of the police and white vigilantes. The inability to breathe for Black people stricken with COVID-19 and George Floyd’s last breaths being stolen from him by a white police officer’s knee on his neck are profoundly painful symbols of the intersecting threats to Black life caused by the ubiquitous plague of anti-Black racism.
The Schott team is personally devastated by the brutal killing of George Floyd, yet one more tragedy that further exposes the deep systemic racism in America. We mourn for his family, and for all Black families who must continually face the fear of death at the hands of the police or, as we have seen during COVID-19, from inequities in our health care system.
The changes needed to truly eradicate systemic racism cut cross every sector, from health, to policing and incarceration, to housing and employment, to our public education system. We want to lift up one ray of hope in this dark moment: The Minneapolis Board of Education made an important step in that journey when it voted to sever its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which until now had been the recipient of more than $1 million in education funds to put police officers in schools.
The widespread closure of public schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic have put a spotlight on their importance not just in educating children, but providing nutrition, mental and physical health support, and critical services to the neighborhoods and communities in which they’re located. But just because they’re closed doesn’t mean they’re not under attack: as we’ve seen happen in places like New Orleans and Puerto Rico some policymakers are using this crisis to push privatization in a moment when it’s more difficult than ever to mobilize students, parents, and educators against such an agenda. And across the country, well before the disaster of COVID-19, many communities were already suffering from the crisis of underfunded schools, racist school discipline and policing, and a systematic disinvestment of public services. Our public schools aren’t failing: they’re being failed.
While we must be responsive in the here-and-now to the pressing need of mutual aid and the defense of our schools, this crisis is also an opportunity for us to reimagine public education from the ground up and build the social movements needed to make a more just and equitable public school system a reality. Every child deserves a well-funded sustainable community school that’s the beating heart of their neighborhood.
Join us for musical performances and a wide ranging conversation about the danger and hope of this moment from students, parents and educators, how people are forging new bonds through struggle, and what you can do to make sure we emerge from the crisis stronger than we entered it.
From demanding local control of Little Rock School District to hosting an equity bus tour to Little Rock Middle Schools to shine a light on the educational and economic disparities that exist in the district, Grassroots Arkansas (GA) has been a champion of public education. Like so many Schott grantee partners, the Grassroots Arkansas community has seen long existing inequities in education, food security, and housing reinforced and magnified through school closures and the Covid19 pandemic.
As the saying goes, when the average American coughs, a person of color catches the flu. While COVID-19 is far more serious than the flu, its intensity — as measured by loss of life, lost wages, and learning gaps — has been devastating to people of color. Across the nation, we are now forced to reckon with just how inequitable and inadequate our social safety net actually is. Now, more than ever, we are seeing the critical role our public institutions play in anchoring our society in a storm. And we cannot help but see the deep inequities that people of color face in weathering that storm.
All of the issues that have been swept under the rug for decades are now laid bare for us to see: No paid sick leave. Broken healthcare systems. Lack of affordable housing. Families who were living paycheck to paycheck that are now unemployed. Inequitable funding for our public schools, worsened by closures and students without access to food or the internet.
The Schott Foundation’s partners are providing critically-needed aid in their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as they’ve done during previous crises. At the same time they are fighting to ensure those most impacted by school closures, job and housing insecurity, and hunger are included in shaping policies and allocating resources, especially in historically marginalized Black and brown communities.
As a member of the Class of 2020 you are facing extraordinary challenges of school closings, trying to complete courses via distance learning, without in-person support from teachers and the connection to friends—and possibly without the graduation ceremony you and your family have been looking forward to for years.
You’re tackling these challenges—as you have overcome other hurdles throughout your school years—and we celebrate your determination, your resilience. Needed now more than ever.
The Proud #PublicSchoolGrad scholarship is way to celebrate you – and help you take the next step of continuing your education.
The undersigned organizations representing school administrators, teachers, parents and education and civil rights advocates are committed to equitable educational opportunities for our nation’s students. Understandably, as the COVID-19 pandemic extended to the United States, federal, state, tribal, and local governments have closed school buildings to prevent the spread of the novel virus. School closures have impacted 55 million K-12 students nationwide. Although school buildings are closed, education and support services have continued, as “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.” Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954).
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