Education activists: National school reforms violate civil rights law

June 22, 2012

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Chicago education activists are going national with their complaints against Chicago Public Schools.

They and several groups from cities across the country say federal education reforms violate civil rights law.

From New York to Oakland, Detroit to Atlanta, groups from more than 10 large cities gathered in downtown Chicago Thursday morning.

They said they are filing separate civil rights complaints arguing that national education reforms — like school closings, turnarounds and charter schools — negatively affect black and Latino children.

Former CPS chief Arne Duncan brought many of those reforms to the national level when he became President Obama’s education secretary four years ago.

Jitu Brown, an organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, said there’s a reason they announced the filings in Chicago.

“This is the birthplace of all that mess,” Brown said of the reforms.

Chicago Public Schools closed or turned around 100 schools in the last decade. Each year, communities protest the actions.

A WBEZ analysis found most of the affected schools were predominately African American. More than half of the schools targeted for changes now admit students through a lottery or test scores.

Activist Helen Moore drove to Chicago from Detroit, where the public school system was handed over to an “emergency manager.”

“All the things that have happened to our children in the last few years are the same all over the country,” Moore said.

The groups said they are requesting a meeting with Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said its Office of Civil Rights has received a complaint from just the Chicago group. She said Ali and someone in Duncan’s office have already offered to meet with the group.