Jan 17, 2013

DC's Ward 8 Parents Tell Mayor "Enough is Enough" !

By Candi Peterson

On a cold, rainy night (January 15)  an estimated 300 parents, students and concerned citizens took a page from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s social action playbook on his official birthday and took direct action by holding a vigil at the home of Mayor Vincent Gray, who chose to work late rather than meet with his neighbors.
Led by Ward 8 State Board of Education representative Trayon White, the animated group of parents and children pleaded for the opportunity to keep their neighborhood schools open. “Enough is enough! Instead of giving our children less in Ward 8 we should be giving our children more.”
Parents say it’s more than an inconvenience it’s a threat to their children’s future.
Chanting “Save Our Schools”, parents and activists were joined by a number of enthusiastic children from schools such as Malcolm X elementary as one particularly angry mother stated, “A lot of people don’t have transportation to get these kids back and forth to school. Is that what they are trying to do, they are trying to push us out. It’s not us that is suffering but our children.”
Kaya Henderson appears to be tone deaf to the concerns of the District’s poorest neighborhoods, as she released a statement saying, “As you will see DCPS will reinvest funds from consolidate schools to improve programming across the District. The goal is to use funds and resources more efficiently”.
Poor parents are particularly upset at the cavalier attitude that DCPS has to their desire to keep neighborhood schools open that are in walking distance of their home. In addition to the cost and the added burden of busing their children to schools outside the neighborhood, there are legitimate security concerns as Ward 8 has one of the highest crime rates in the city.
In addition to Malcolm X, two other elementary and one other middle school is a target for closure in Ward 8, and three other elementary schools and another middle school in nearby Ward 7, which represent half of the 20 schools slated for closure.
The irony of the bad timing of these schools closing during the week when the District commemorates the heritage of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a parade in the street named in his honor in Far Southeast, and the nation gears up to celebrate the inauguration of the President, the Chancellor plans to announce her school closing plan this week before a long holiday weekend.
Across the District the spirit of direct civic action is being renewed around the issue of public education. Leading up to the vigil at the Mayor’s residence was an education Summit on DC school closures, sponsored by EMPOWER DC this past Saturday at ward 5’s Guildfield Baptist church where a packed basement of activists participated in a social justice training session.
Those plans call for a similar vigil at the home of Chancellor Henderson this Thursday, and a protest at the Department of Education to meet with Education Secretary Arnie Duncan on January 29th where activists from across the country are expected to come to the Nation’s Capitol to protest policies that promote the privatization of public education.
Public school closures has finally become the galvanizing issue that has gotten the attention of a broad cross section of parents, educators and education policy activists into an effective coalition.

© Candi Peterson 2013


Anonymous said...

Great coverage and brilliant idea to take the protest to Shrinking violet Mayor Vincent Gray's home.

Maria said...

Big, BIG Ups to the parents, teachers and community who braved the elements to protest against the cruel public school closings. Power to the People.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the continued updates.