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Detroit participates in National Rally for Educational Justice in Washington, D.C.

Detroiters rally for educational justice in Washington, D.C. / COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Detroit youth, parents and community activists converged Sept. 20 on the nation’s capitol for the National “Journey for Educational Justice 2012” March. The group joined with some 18 cities comprising the coalition for educational justice to demand a national moratorium on school closures and charter turn-arounds, a reinvestment in public education, a system-wide commitment to school transformation models that include community voice, a federal hearing on the disparate impact of corporate reform polices on communities of color, and a meeting with President Obama.

The protest march and rally was a planned response to the United States Department of Education’s refusal last July to agree to a national moratorium on school closures until a federal probe could be conducted into the effects of these closures on displaced students and their communities.

In June of this year, Detroit joined several cities, including Chicago; New York City; Newark, N.J.; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Wichita, Kan.; and Eupora, Miss., in nationally-coordinated Title VI filings with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, citing that school closures and top-down corporate reforms discriminated against African American, Latino and other vulnerable student populations such as English learners and students with disabilities.

The Detroit marchers included students, parents, grandparents, local youth and representatives from the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP, activists from Keep the Vote/No Takeover Coalition, and other concerned citizens. Activist and DPS advocate Helen Moore, who filed a Title VI letter on behalf of Detroit with the Office of Civil Rights, organized the Washington, D.C. trip with the other coordinating cities in the alliance. Moore felt the trip was necessary for several reasons.

“I went to expose those who pretend to be concerned about our children’s education. It was important that our youth be allowed to express themselves concerning how they have been cheated under the guise of ‘reforms’ that have been enacted by corporations and dictators who attempted to fool the public that they were the saviors and not the enemies. It has not worked.”

Youth from all over the country carried signs that read “Stop Killing Our Schools!” and coffin props painted with “RIP Public Schools.” DPS advocate Moore explained that the school closure tactic is a deliberate policy tool used to sabotage vulnerable communities and the young people that they house.

“One of the main instruments that has been used is the closing of schools, and that has led to the dismantling of neighborhoods and the demise of neighborhood schools. Some students have had to attend at least three schools while in elementary schools. Their brothers and sisters have dropped out because many of the high schools have been taken over by EAS (Education Achievement System, governed by the Education Achievement Authority) leaving them no choice to a quality education.”

Also attending the action in D.C. was Moore’s grandson, CJ, who says he “went to be a part of change” in order to return schools “back to the democratic process where citizens are meaningfully involved. It starts with the stopping of school closures and repeal of PA4 (Public Act 4).”

As a result of the national action, the Department of Education confirmed it will commit to national hearings in Washington, D.C. this coming January to address the allegations filed in the civil rights complaints.

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