Archives for category: Civil Rights

Victor Ray, a professor at the University of Iowa and a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution, reminds us that Dr. King warned about the betrayal of the white moderate after he experienced it himself.

He writes for CNN:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the White moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote these words in the isolation of a Birmingham jail, where he was imprisoned for defying a court injunction to protest the city’s segregation ordinance. In an open letter, initially scrawled in the margins of a newspaper, Dr. King addressed a group of fellow clergymen who claimed to support the Black freedom movement but criticized nonviolent civil disobedience as a tactic to confront the evils of segregation.

In the letter, King differentiated between just and unjust laws, citing measures that prevented Black Americans from voting as a form of legalized injustice. At the time, Alabama, like many states across the South, was governed by a kind of racial authoritarianism that denied Black people a say in how they were governed. The clergymen’s condemnation of King’s activism belied their stated commitment to racial justice and provided cover for the denial of basic citizenship rights, including the right to vote.

By blocking voting reform today, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are the White moderates Dr. King warned us about.

On Thursday, Sinema said that while she backs the Democrats’ voting rights laws, she would not support an exception to the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold to pass the legislation. Manchin later followed suit, saying he would not vote to “eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” By prioritizing an arcane Senate rule over the protection of voting rights, Manchin and Sinema have chosen “order” over justice.

They are more concerned about protecting a Senate procedure than ensuring the right to vote. Priorities?

Open the link and read more.

Civil rights leader Jitu Brown wrote in an opinion article for The Chicago Tribune about the importance of using the schools to combat the school-to-prison pipeline. Brown is the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which connects youth- and parent-led organizations across the nation.

Brown points out studies showing that schools with strict disciplinary policies produce high suspension rates for students of color, which in turn affects test scores and graduation rates.

He writes that schools attended by predominantly nonwhite students have fewer curricular resources than schools where white students predominate.

These environments are punctuated by so-called school resource officers — police stationed in school buildings. More than 1.5 million Black, brown and Indigenous K-12 students are attending schools that have a resource officer but no counselor, guaranteeing that many of these students will be left behind. The violence inflicted upon Black and brown children by school resource officers nationwide must stop. They don’t make our schools safer, and their presence means schools lose precious resources that could be used for counseling and social services.

White-majority schools have always offered much more in core curricular classes, Advanced Placement opportunities, after-school programs, guidance counselors and student supports. Some examples from the Journey for Justice Alliance’s “Failing: Brown v. Board” report elucidate what equity would mean for students of color:

At Marshall High School in Milwaukee, nonwhite students make up 94% of the student body. The school has basic English courses for only freshmen and sophomores and only two other classes. Menomonee Falls High School in a nearby suburb has 21% nonwhite students. It offers 10 English classes.

In Dallas, 39% of Centennial High’s students are nonwhite, compared with 100% of the students at South Oak Cliff High. Yet Centennial offers twice as many language classes, has three times the number of Advanced Placement courses and 23 career path offerings, compared to three at South Oak Cliff.

In Denver, 96% of Manuel High students are minorities. They can choose from fiveart classes, seven AP classes and only one foreign language, Spanish. At Cherry Creek High, 33% of the students are Black or students of color. They have 27 AP classes, six foreign languages and 21 classes in the arts.

The report concludes: “This is racism in action.”

The Equity or Else campaign’s major goal is sustainable community schools. The 2022 federal budget would allocate $440 million to establish such schools, reversing the trend of privatizing public education through charter schools. The movement for equity in public education aims to make American schools more welcoming and truly safe spaces for all children where they can look forward to learning.

Culturally relevant and challenging curriculum, supports for high-quality teaching, wraparound supports for every child, a student-centered school climate, and meaningful parent and community engagement make for the types of schools all children deserve.

Steve Luxenberg, an editor at The Washington Post and the author of a 2019 book on racial separation and the Plessy case, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation, wrote to correct important errors in my post about Homer Plessy.

Plessy, you may recall, was arrested in New Orleans for attempting to ride in an all-white train car, thus violating state law. His was a test case of a recently enacted segregation statute. When his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the racial segregation law, the Court issued a ruling in 1896 endorsing the law and the legality of “separate but equal.” This endorsement of de jure segregation remained intact until the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954.

Now, here are the facts about Homer Plessy, as documented by Luxenberg. I am grateful to him for correcting my version (and errors in the article I quoted):

1. Plessy was not found guilty after his arrest (in 1892), and as a result, his lawyers did not appeal that conviction. The case went to the Supreme Court on entirely different grounds. Cutting to the chase for now: Judge Ferguson held off on a trial, instead issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Separate Car Act. That was a gift to Plessy’s legal team, because it meant that they could appeal Ferguson’s ruling (he said the Act was constitutional) rather than pursuing a habeas corpus strategy as planned. The Citizens Committee (the group that planned and arranged for Plessy’s arrest as a test case) did not want Plessy in jail while the appeal was wending its way through the courts.

2. Judge Ferguson never found Plessy guilty, and he wasn’t convicted in 1890. In January 1897, nearly eight months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Plessy pleaded guilty, before a different judge, to close the case. The Citizens Committee paid his $25 fine.

That ruling—Plessy vs. Ferguson— okayed racial segregation statutes that locked millions of Black Americans into second-class status, since separate was never equal in a racist society. Separate but equal remained in place until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954, a decision that was boldly resisted by the South for years.

Homer Plessy will be posthumously pardoned as a result of a sustained effort by his descendant Keith Plessy, and the descendant of Judge John Howard Ferguson.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson created a foundation to honor Homer Plessy and to advance the cause of racial reconciliation. Plessy and Ferguson and their allies worked for the past 11 years to get a pardon for Homer Plessy, and they have just succeeded.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson’s drive to right a terrible, devastating wrong came to full fruition last month, when they appeared before the Louisiana Pardon Board to ask the board to extend a pardon to Homer Plessy for his conviction in 1890 [this date is wrong]. The board swiftly agreed with the pair and voted unanimously on Nov. 12 to pardon Homer Plessy.

Keith Plessy said that his ancestor Homer was selected by a local group of activists to challenge the law.

Keith Plessy placed their crusade for justice in further historical context, pointing out that Homer Plessy was actually carefully selected by late-19th-century civil rights advocates to test the state’s segregation laws of that era.

The New Orleans organization called the Comite de Citoyens, or Committee of Citizens – a multi-ethnic group of activists dedicated to fighting the 1890 Separate Car Act – chose Plessy, a mixed-race Creole, to test the law by getting arrested and placing the matter in the courts.

Once in court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that the Separate Car Act, and as such Plessy’s arrest, violated his Constitutional rights under the 13th and 14th Amendments, an argument the court rejected with his conviction.

“I feel that working together, we have been trying to tell the whole story of the Citizens Committee and the Civil Rights Movement that continued after this case,” Keith Plessy said. “[The Plessy strategy] was the blueprint that was used over and over again [by Civil Rights advocates] in the 20th century.”

“New Orleans,” he added, “was the crucible of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Governor John Bel Edwards (a Democrat) declared that he would swiftly sign Plessy’s pardon.

I had the pleasure of meeting Phoebe Ferguson and Keith Plessy when I spoke at Dillard University, a historically Black university in New Orleans, in 2010. It was incredible to meet these two people who symbolized such an important and infamous event in American history. Thanks to these two persistent people for their fight to keep Homer Plessy’s legacy alive and to pursue Justice. We are still struggling to overcome the legacy of Jim Crow era legislation.

 

 

If you don’t know the work of Jitu Brown, this is a good time to inform yourself. Jitu Brown has worked for many years as a grassroots organizer in Chicago. He wants families and communities to be able to advocate for themselves, and he trains them to do it. He ardently opposes school closings and privatization, methods of ”reform” that are imposed on communities of color by the powerful. He led the successful hunger strike that blocked the closing of the Walter S. Dyett High School, forcing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rescind the closing and to reopen the refurbished high school. Out of his work in Chicago, Brown led the creation of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has chapters in 36 cities. J4J strongly supports the establishment of community schools that meet the needs of communities and build networks of families and communities.

MEDIA ADVISORY TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7TH 10:00 AM ET


AFT’S RANDI WEINGARTEN, NEA’S BECKY PRINGLE, U.S. SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, CONGRESSMAN BOWMAN (NY-16), JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE’S JITU BROWN TO JOIN EDUCATION EQUITY COALITION AT PRESS CONFERENCE TO ANNOUNCE NEW COALITION


National Leaders Back ‘Equity or Else’ Campaign and
Push for Biden Budget Initiative: $440 Million for Community Schools


(WASHINGTON, D.C) – On Tuesday, December 7, 10 a.m. ET, the American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten; National Education Association president, Becky Pringle; U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16; Journey for Justice Alliance national director, Jitu Brown; and Schott Foundation for Public Education president, Dr. John Jackson will join national justice and education union leaders to hold a press conference in support of the “Equity or Else” campaign to announce a brand new commission, and amplify its strong support for President Biden’s education budget which will announce a groundbreaking increase of 41 percent for school funding in his proposed FY2022 budget. This Equity Commission will engage municipalities and the federal government to inform government officials at every level on how to create investments and policies that transform quality of life for all Americans, with a focus on equity.


Journey for Justice sits at the helm of the coalition that has been pivotal in shaping President Biden’s agenda on education, especially around community schools. The Equity or Else campaign is a coalition of leaders and organizers from different quality-of-life areas, including education, housing, health care, environment/climate justice, youth investment and food production and delivery, to promote education on how inequity impacts these areas and the grassroots solutions they have organized.

The coalition includes: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School.


WHAT: News Conference with National Education and Justice Leaders on President Biden’s Budget Proposal and Brand New Equity or Else Commission


WHO:
● U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD
● Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16
● Becky Pringle, president, National Education Association
● Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers
● Dr. John Jackson, president, Schott Foundation for Public Education
● Jitu Brown, national director, Journey for Justice Alliance
● Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education, state advocacy director
***

PLEASE EMAIL MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM TO RSVP*** WHEN: 10:00 AM ET, Tuesday, December 7, 2021

WHERE: The National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC (Vax card or Negative COVID Test Required)


Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/J4JAlliance

FURTHER BACKGROUND: The Schott Foundation’s national Opportunity to Learn Network, in partnership with the Journey for Justice Alliance’s Equity or Else project, is launching a nationwide campaign to reverse the trend of privatizing public schools and in its place implement its proven plan for reimagining an education system that has long neglected Black and brown children and starved their schools of resources.

Bolstered by a newly created Grassroots Equity Commission, Equity or Else has come to Washington to back the Biden administration’s budget, which would double the Title I funding that targets low-income schools and, for the first time, allocate $440 million for sustainable community schools. The commission, formed by Schott with J4J, will engage local and federal government in exploring how institutions engage Black, brown and working-class families.


Intent upon getting true equity in education for children of color and reversing the runaway school-privatization trend abetted by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, grassroots members of campaign organizations will also meet with key senators and with current Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.


The time is ripe for reimagining public education. The Biden administration is committed to allocating critically needed new resources for the task. Congress has shown itself willing and able to provide those resources. The conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers has amplified the discussion of what equity actually means. The pandemic has highlighted the stark inequity that afflicts children of color. And those who have been left behind are raising their voices to demand the rooting out of systemic racism in every institution, including: schools, hospitals, healthcare, food production and delivery systems and public safety.


The Schott Foundation’s Loving Cities index assesses how these institutions function in Black, brown and working-class communities. Equity or Else is founded on the proposition that this reimagining of policy must be guided by the voices of those who have been most deeply affected by inequity. We have come together and are finding solutions that meet our needs.

Equity or Else is doing listening projects with people in underserved communities across the country. The Equity Commission will engage officials from municipalities and the federal government to explore how those foundational institutions in those communitIes can be reimagined, with a focus on equity. By using data from all these sources, the commission will be able to inform government officials at every level on how to create equitable investments and policies to transform quality of life for all Americans.


The following national organizations are participating in the overall Equity or Else campaign: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Alliance for Education Justice, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School. For more information go to http://www.standing4equity.org

Founded in 2012, the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) is a national network of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 36 U.S. cities. For more information go to www.j4jalliance.com.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: MAYA HIXSON
321.266.2000 MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM
LAURIE GLENN
773.704.7246 LRGLENN@THINKINCSTRATEGY.COM

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Marty Levine recalls the famous saying by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. He read a new book about police killings of Black men and wonders if Dr. King was overly optimistic. Consider this to be a validation of critical race theory.

He begins:

In 1968, shortly before he was murdered, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was still giving us hope that we would overcome. Speaking at the National Cathedral, he said we needed to keep not become despondent when things seem to be stuck because “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I am now wondering if he was correct.

I’m reading “America on Fire”,  a recently published book looking at police and community violence written by Elizabeth Hinton, a Yale Associate Professor of History & African American Studies and Law. Spurred to write by the series of police murders of Black men and women and the protests and violence that arose in response, Professor Hinton has found a history of a national failure to learn and unwillingness to confront reality. Time after time police violence was the match that set off violent uprisings in Black communities which had been marginalized and systematically kept in poverty and neglect. Time after time she found we said we knew that we needed to invest in people and communities. And time after time, she found, that we ignored these lessons and turned our resources to defending the built-in bias, expanding our police forces, and expanding our prison systems.

Hinton’s conclusion, formed after she analyzed more than 2,200 separate community outbreaks between 1964 (Harlem, New York) and  2001 (Cincinnati, Ohio) was that the conflict is more than just a symptom of racism and poverty. “They happened when police seemed to be there for no reason, or when the police intervened in matters that could be resolved internally (disputes among friends and family). Rebellions began when the police enforced laws that would almost never be applied in white neighborhoods (laws against gathering in groups of a certain size or acting like a “suspicious person”). Likewise, they erupted when police failed to extend to residents the common courtesies afforded to whites (allowing white teenagers to drink in a park but arresting Mexican American teens for the same behavior).”

Those in power were interested in protecting their power and the status quo rather than bringing the changes they promised. They listened to the voices of the hurting communities, said pious words about their now seeing the pain of those left out of the American Dream, vowed to take on the underlying and systemic problems that had been ignored, and then did little beyond strengthening the police.

Duke historian Nancy MacLean, author of the superb Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, wrote recently in The Washington Post about the sinister origins of school choice. Its true purpose was to protect segregation and abolish public schools. (For my view, see this article in The New York Review of Books.)

MacLean writes:

The year 2021 has proved a landmark for the “school choice” cause — a movement committed to the idea of providing public money for parents to use to pay for private schooling.

Republican control of a majority of state legislatures, combined with pandemic learning disruptions, set the stage for multiple victories. Seven states have created new school choice programs, and 11 others have expanded current programs through laws that offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schooling and authorize tax credits and educational savings accounts that incentivize parents moving their children out of public schools.

On its face, this new legislation may sound like a win for families seeking more school options. But the roots of the school choice movement are more sinister.

White Southerners first fought for “freedom of choice” in the mid-1950s as a means of defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which mandated the desegregation of public schools. Their goal was to create pathways for White families to remove their children from classrooms facing integration.

Prominent libertarians then took advantage of this idea, seeing it not only as a means of providing private options, but also as a tool in their crusade to dismantle public schools altogether. This history reveals that rather than giving families more school options, school choice became a tool intended to give most families far fewer in the end.

School choice had its roots in a crucial detail of the Brown decision: The ruling only applied to public schools. White Southerners viewed this as a loophole for evading desegregated schools.

In 1955 and 1956, conservative White leaders in Virginia devised a regionwide strategy of “massive resistance” to the high court’s desegregation mandate that hinged on state-funded school vouchers. The State Board of Education provided vouchers, then called tuition grants, of $250 ($2,514 in 2021 dollars) to parents who wanted to keep their children from attending integrated schools. The resistance leaders understood that most Southern White families could not afford private school tuition — and many who could afford it lacked the ideological commitment to segregation to justify the cost. The vouchers, combined with private donations to the new schools in counties facing desegregation mandates, would enable all but a handful of the poorest Whites to evade compliance.


Other Southern states soon adopted voucher programs like the one in Virginia to facilitate the creation of private schools called “segregation academies,” despite opposition from Black families and civil rights leaders. Oliver Hill, an NAACP attorney key to the Virginia case against “separate but equal” education that was folded into Brown, explained their position this way: “No one in a democratic society has a right to have his private prejudices financed at public expense.”


Despite such objections, key conservative and libertarian thinkers and foundations, including economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, Human Events editor Felix Morley and publisher Henry Regnery, backed the White Southern cause. They recognized that White Southerners’ push for “freedom of choice” presented an opportunity to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources, starting with primary and secondary education. They barely, if ever, addressed racism and segregation; instead, they spoke of freedom (implicitly, White freedom).


Friedman began promoting “educational freedom” in 1955, just as Southern states prepared to resist Brown. And he praised the Virginia voucher plan in his 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” holding it up as a model for school choice everywhere. “Whether the school is integrated or not,” he wrote, should have no bearing on eligibility for the vouchers. In other words, he knew the program was designed to fund segregation academies and saw it as no barrier to receiving state financing.


Friedman was far from alone. His fellow libertarians, including those on the staff of the William Volker Fund, a leading funder on the right, saw no problem with state governments providing tax subsidies to White families who chose segregation academies, even as these states disenfranchised Black voters, blocking them from having a say in these policies.


Libertarians understood that while abolishing the social safety net and other policies constructed during the Progressive era and the New Deal was wildly unpopular, even among White Southerners, school choice could win converts.


These conservative and libertarian thinkers offered up ostensibly race-neutral arguments in favor of the tax subsidies for private schooling sought by white supremacists. In doing so, they taught defenders of segregation a crucial new tactic — abandon overtly racist rationales and instead tout liberty, competition and market choice while embracing an anti-government stance. These race-neutral rationales for private school subsidies gave segregationists a justification that could survive court review — and did, for more than a decade before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional.

When challenged, Friedman and his allies denied that they were motivated by racial bigotry. Yet, they had enough in common ideologically with the segregationists for the partnership to work. Both groups placed a premium on the liberty of those who had long profited from white-supremacist policies and sought to shield their freedom of action from the courts, liberal government policies and civil rights activists.

Crucially, freedom wasn’t the ultimate goal for either group of voucher supporters. White Southerners wielded colorblind language about freedom of choice to help preserve racial segregation and to keep Black children from schools with more resources.

Friedman, too, was interested in far more than school choice. He and his libertarian allies saw vouchers as a temporary first step on the path to school privatization. He didn’t intend for governments to subsidize private education forever. Rather, once the public schools were gone, Friedman envisioned parents eventually shouldering the full cost of private schooling without support from taxpayers. Only in some “charity” cases might governments still provide funding for tuition.

Friedman first articulated this outlook in his 1955 manifesto, but he clung to it for half a century, explaining in 2004, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education any more than it is for providing food and clothing.” Four months before his death in 2006, when he spoke to a meeting of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he was especially frank. Addressing how to give parents control of their children’s education, Friedman said, “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

Today, the ultrawealthy backers of school choice are cagey about this long-term goal, knowing that care is required to win the support of parents who want the best for their children. Indeed, in a sad irony, decades after helping to impede Brown’s implementation, school choice advocates on the right targeted families of color for what one libertarian legal strategist called “forging nontraditional alliances.” They won over some parents of color, who came to see vouchers and charter schools as a way to escape the racial and class inequalities that stemmed from White flight out of urban centers and the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow White Americans to avoid integrating schools.

But the history behind vouchers reveals that the rhetoric of “choice” and “freedom” stands in stark contrast to the real goals sought by conservative and libertarian advocates. The system they dream of would produce staggering inequalities, far more severe than the disparities that already exist today. Wealthy and upper-middle-class families would have their pick of schools, while those with far fewer resources — disproportionately families of color — might struggle to pay to educate their children, leaving them with far fewer options or dependent on private charity. Instead of offering an improvement over underfunded schools, school choice might lead to something far worse.

As Maya Angelou wisely counseled in another context, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” If we fail to recognize the right’s true end game for public education, it could soon be too late to reverse course.

President Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Education will take legal action against the eight states that do not permit school districts to require students and staff to wear masks. In so doing, these states put students at risk and violate their right to education.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Erica L. Green wrote in the New York Times:

President Biden, escalating his fight with Republican governors who are blocking local school districts from requiring masks to protect against the coronavirus, said Wednesday that his Education Department would use its broad powers — including taking possible legal action — to deter states from barring universal masking in classrooms.

Mr. Biden said he had directed Miguel Cardona, his education secretary, “to take additional steps to protect our children,” including against governors who he said are “setting a dangerous tone” in issuing executive orders banning mask mandates and threatening to penalize school officials who defy them.

“Unfortunately, as you’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House, adding, “We are not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”

Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post about Biden’s announcement:

He did not name any specific governor, but Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, are among those state leaders who have threatened to withhold funding from districts or take other action against those districts that defy them. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the country, on Wednesday passed a universal masking mandate — with only a medical opt-out — as did Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“I’m directing the secretary of education to take additional steps to protect our children,” Biden said. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said masking is one of the strongest tools that can be taken to protect the spread of the delta variant, which has caused a rise in pediatric coronavirus cases. The agency this summer, in a shift in guidance, recommended everyone over the age of 2 — even those who are vaccinated — wear masks inside school buildings.

In letters to the governors of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, Cardona said bans on school masking mandates are putting students at risk and “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by federal law.”

Cardona, in a Wednesday post on the department’s Homeroom Blog, said the department can investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions “may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally.”

“The department will also receive and respond as appropriate to complaints from the public, including parents, guardians, and others about students who may experience discrimination as a result of states not allowing local school districts to reduce virus transmission risk through masking requirements and other mitigation measures,” he wrote. “As always, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights evaluates allegations of discrimination on a case-by-case basis, looking at the specific facts of each case.

Bob Moses died on July 25 at the age of 86. He was noted for his intellect and courage. He was a leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), leading a voter registration drive in Mississippi at a time when violence against Black civil rights activists were at risk of being murdered, and no jury would convict their killers. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which tried unsuccessfully to replace the all-white Democratic delegation to the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, he founded the Algebra Project, to teach algebra to underprepared Black youth. He received multiple honors for his work. He graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Hamilton College (where he majored in philosophy and French), and earned a master’s degree at Harvard in philosophy.

One of his friends and admirers forwarded the following story:

It might be of interest that Bob’s first stop on his way South from the Bronx was the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] office on east 19th street He said it was his first stop and affirmation of friendship and sncc sds solidarity


He was always a friend


He spoke at a University of Michigan commencement ceremony
He said “people don’t like long speeches and that are hard to remember. Mine will be short.

I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution” then he paused and then said “So you remember I will repeat: I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution.” Then he sat down.

It was stunning. The University president expecting a long something didn’t know what to say… having previously mis-introduced him as. author of “Racial Equations”

I found the address memorable and it might be well in memory of our friend to rededicate ourselves to the common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution. Bob Moses, Presente!

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, tweeted that today is the anniversary of the certification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

https://twitter.com/JimGrossmanAHA/status/1420396715723603972

On this date in 1868 Secretary if State William Seward officially certified the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Every American should read this text today. #EverythinghasaHistory constitutioncenter.org/interactive-co…

He suggests that today would be a good day to read the 14th Amendment, which guarantees full citizenship to all citizens born or naturalized in the United States.

In particular, read Section 2:

Section 2

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

If the Supreme Court rereads Section 2, it will strike down any state laws that abridge the right to vote, especially when those laws were designed to suppress the Black vote.

Much has changed since the 14th Amendment was written. Women and Indians have the right to vote, and the voting age has been lowered to 18.

But what has not changed is that it is unconstitutional to abridge the right to vote.

In this post, Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle respond to a recent article that pitted civil rights groups against advocates for the Finnish model of education. They found the dichotomy puzzling. They wrote this article for this blog.

They write:

Two decades ago, Finland made big news in international education circles. Against all odds it became a top-performer in OECD’s first PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) study that compared 15-year-olds’ knowledge and skills in reading, mathematical and scientific literacies. Since about 2010 education experts and pundits in the United States have debated whether there is anything at all that American school systems could learn from that small Nordic nation’s school system. Ten years on and these debates still go on.


In their March 15, 2021 essay “Finland Meets Civil Rights”, Professor Jal Mehta and co-author Krista Galleberg make good points, including “we can draw on Finnish lessons while making them more relevant to our complex, multi-racial, and systemically inequitable context”, and “build shared responsibility instead of finger pointing, policies based in trust instead of distrust, and schools where Black and Brown students thrive instead of merely survive.”


But in framing their argument, Mehta and Gallebergmake the curious claim that “Since the beginning of the No Child Left Behind era, there has been a schism between what you might think of as the ‘Finland folks’ and much of the civil rights community, particularly its policy and legal advocates.”


We are aware of no such schism. We are curious to know which civil rights advocates would oppose the key foundations of the Finnish education system that are adaptable to the American context – such as comprehensive healthservices for every child and mother from birth, teachers trained and respected as professionals, free healthy school lunches for all, regular play and physical activity as part of every schools’ workplan, smaller class sizes, early indidualized special education support throughout schooling, equitable funding of schools, universal early childhood education and care as a basic right of every child, and highly collaborative schools that strive to integrate students of different capabilities and backgrounds.


According to Mehta and Galleberg, “accountability in the U.S. has historically been promoted by civil rights advocates and bemoaned by the Finland folks.” In fact, the opposite is true in Finland, which places the highest national emphasis on accountability– based on trust and constant productive dialogue between highly professional teachers, children, parents and policymakers. Moreover, Mehta and Galleberg also fail to explain to their readers that in Finland all schools and teachers operate under professional responsibility that expands far beyond the typical punitive,vertical accountability mechanisms that are typical in U.S. education administration.


What Finland does not is waste time or money on so-called “test-based accountability,” or basing its school system on the low-quality, expensive and ineffective governing metric of the universal standardized testing of children, as the United States has done under Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, and seems to be continuing under President Biden, despite his clear campaign promise to stop it. Instead, the performance of Finland’s education system is monitored by multiple measures that include state-led sample-based standardized student assessments and locally managed school self-evaluations and peer reviews.


 The verdict is in on test-based accountability – it doesn’t work. Twenty years of it has achieved little to no sustained improvement in reading and math outcomes or in reducing achievement gaps in the United States, which were its main objectives. Today, the main driving forces behind “doubling down” on this failure are not civil rights organizations but under-informed philanthropists, politicians and business leaders.

We also find claims by Mehta and Galleberg that “Even today, educational reforms in Finland are framed as part of the country’s national defense plan” and “Excellent education for all is part of the nation’s response to Russian aggression” strange and without factual basis. It is a mistake to believe that Finland’s education policies are designed primarily to serve economic or national security interests. Furthermore, arguing that “Educational equity is therefore not treated as a national security imperative in the United States as it is in Finland” is simply not true. Promoting equity and social justice through education in all Nordic countries is based on human rights imperatives before anything else, certainly something that any civil rights advocate in the United States would wholeheartedly support.


The main lesson of Finland for any nation is that it is possible – and indeed necessary – to strive for both excellence and equity for all students. According to recent data from the OECD, Finland achieves both the highest efficiency of all the developed world’s education systems as measured by hours of study and learning outcomes, and the least performance variation between schools. “The neighborhood school is the best school” is a mantra often heard in Finland, and it is a reality that is widely achieved.


 Finland has deliberately designed its education system, from primary school to higher education, on the values and principles of equal rights to education. Finland upgraded the teaching profession in the 1980s to serve that purpose, so that each and every child would have a great public school in their neighborhood.

In the context of civil rights, Finland is the ultimate American school system.

The landmark Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case of 1954 declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, but it also stipulated in its order that public education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” That simple, beautiful phrase is settled national policy in the United States, but it has never been fully honored.
 

Those words should be symbolically carved onto the entranceways of every school, legislature and education ministry on Earth.

In Finland, they already are.

Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator who has researched and examined education policies in Finland and the United States. His book “Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from Educational change in Finland”published by Teachers College Press won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award issued by the University of Louisville for an idea that has potential to change the world. He is currently Professor of Education Policy at the UNSWSydney.


William Doyle has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Finland, as a lecturer at Finland’s largest teacher training university, and as an advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland. In the last three years he has been a public school father in New York City and Tokyo, and currently in Helsinki, where he lives with his family.


Sahlberg and Doyle are co-authors of “Let the Children Play: For the learning, well-being, and life success of every child” (2019), published by Oxford University Press.