One of the ironies of corporate-style reform is that the reformers like to pretend that they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our day.

Arne Duncan says that closing low-performing schools, firing staff, and turning around schools is the civil rights issue of our time.

Mitt Romney says that supporting vouchers and charters and for-profit online schools is the civil rights issue of our time. we have heard this from many others in recent years.

This phrase gets attached to every proposal to privatize public education, to crush teachers’ unions, and to break the education profession and open it to amateurs.

But wait. New voices are being heard. Parent activists in minority communities are organizing and speaking out. They don’t see the closing of their neighborhood schools as a triumph for the civil rights movement.  They see the heavy hand of state and federal and city government singling out their communities for school closings and privatization. They don’t think that vindicates their civil rights. They plan to sue, claiming that these policies are violations of their civil rights.

They are starting to  see the national picture. When they do, it will be very hard for hedge fund managers, billionaires, politicians, corporate executives, and socialites to portray themselves in the forefront of “the civil rights issue of our time.” The U.S. Department of Education may not be able to maintain the claim that closing down community schools in minority neighborhoods advances civil rights at the same time that black and Hispanic families are suing them for trampling on their civil rights.