St. Louis community and faith-based organizations renewed a commitment to increasing equity in public schools at an education summit on Saturday, October 1 sponsored Metropolitan Congregations United, United Congregations of Metro East and the St. Louis chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
A mix of educators, faith leaders and community members spent the day in discussion, worship and planning for a November 20 walk-in in support for community schools.
Called “Mike Brown vs. Board of Education,” the summit drew connections between the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, and the troubled school district where Michael Brown Jr. studied prior to his death on August 9.
“It harkens back to another Brown family that faced inequalities in education,” said MCU Education Chair Carolyn Randazzo.
“IN many of our underserved communities, such as our North County communities, the education funding that’s available is not equitable, and the education services that are available are not equitable,” Randazzo said.
About 18 school districts in both Missouri and Illinois were represented at the summit.
United Congregations of the Metro East President Charles Burton said one of the major problems in Illinois public schools is inequity in funding.
“Our current system is unequal and we believe unfair. It’s unjust,” Burton said. “So how we fix that’s important and having people engaged in that work’s important. Having people not only involved in the school district, but engaged in the envisioning of the school district – that’s important.”
Schott Foundation for Public Education President John Jackson delivered the summit’s keynote address, a passionate speech that inspired clapping and stomping from the audience.
Jackson told summit-goers that those fighting for equity in education were rightfully weary, when today’s children were still not free to fully grasp educational opportunities despite no longer being shackled by the restraints of segregation.
“When we still see the opportunity gaps that exist in education, in health disparities, in voter engagement, these are all indicators of some level of de jour segregation or de facto segregation that still exists,” Jackson explained after the speech. “Our goal is to create a society where the good or bad indicators are not identifiable by race or ethnicity and we all have an opportunity to fail and an opportunity to succeed equally.”
Jackson told participants that the public education system had followed a standards-based agenda for too long, and needed to switch over to a support-based agenda, where parents, educators and faith-based communities come together to insure the success of all students.
He also said it was time for schools to end out-of-school suspensions except in federally mandated cases, such as those involving weapons.
“Students can’t learn when they’re not in school,” Jackson said.
Breakout sessions during the summit focused on developing action plans for school governance and funding, discipline methods, early childhood education, and increasing school – community interaction. They hope to present those plans to area schools on November 20 during a scheduled “walk-in” to support community schools. As the name suggests, community members are invited to walk students to school on the day of the walk-in as a show of support.
Reprinted with permission from news.stlpublicradio.org.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille