The following is a company-submitted press release and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of School Planning & Management magazine.

New Report Finds Link Between School Takeovers and Disenfranchisement of African American and Latino Communities

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), a coalition of nine national organizations that together represent more than seven million parents, students, educators and community members, released a report arguing that state takeovers of public schools and districts are systematically targeting African Americans and Latinos and denying them the right to run their schools.

The report, launched as students across the country go back to school, critiques what AROS calls an intentional effort to remove local control so that schools can be privatized without the opportunity for communities to voice their public opposition. The report examines some of the most prevalent state takeovers of schools and school districts.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • Recovery School District, LA:  Created in 2003 but used in 2005 to seize virtually all public schools in New Orleans, the state-run RSD has now converted to charters, or closed all of the 107 schools it seized.
  • Achievement School District, TN:  Modeled after the RSD, the Tennessee ASD has removed 29 schools from the Memphis and Nashville school districts.  All but one of those schools has been handed over to a private charter operator.
  • Education Achievement Authority, MI:  After decades of disinvestment and under-funding, the State of Michigan seized control of the Detroit Public Schools in 1999. In 2009, after a brief return to local control, the State again installed an Emergency Manager with control over the district. In 2012, the state created the Education Achievement Authority and removed 15 schools from the already-state controlled district. The results of these takeovers have included massive financial deficits, plummeting enrollment, school closures, high teacher turnover and more. Student academic performance is unimproved.

Despite the failure of these “achievement districts” to achieve much of anything for the students and families who lose control of their local public schools, legislation to create more of these state-run districts has been aggressively pursued across the country this year. In the past six months, three additional states have created state-run districts: Georgia, Wisconsin, and Nevada.  Similar bills have been proposed in a half-dozen other states.

In conjunction with the report launch, AROS groups across the country will be taking actions on the ground in their local communities. 

“Districts that have been weakened by years of disinvestment are now being declared ‘failures’ and seized by the State,” said Keron Blair, Director at AROS.  “Communities are being inundated with a flood of failing charter schools that suck resources from their public schools and cut off community access and democratic engagement.

“It's one thing for states to take over schools and provide high-quality institutions, but it is quite another to highjack schools from communities and hand them over to private interests that don’t have the best interest of children and communities at heart.

“Each and every student should get a chance at a more equitable quality of education regardless of where they live. It’s time for local and state officials to put a stop to the takeovers.”

The coalition’s recommended model for sustainable community schools includes:

  • Curriculum that is engaging, culturally relevant and challenging, with a broad selection of classes and after-school programs in the arts, languages, and ethnic studies, as well as AP and honors courses, services for English Language Learners, special education, GED preparation and job training;
  • An emphasis on high quality teaching, not high stakes testing;
  • Wrap-around supports such as health care, eye care and social and emotional services available before, during and after school and provided year-round to the full community;
  • Positive discipline practices such as restorative justice and social and emotional learning supports, and
  • Transformational parent and community engagement in planning and decision-making. This process recognizes the link between the success of the school and the development of the community as a whole.

AROS demands that the rights of parents and communities to make decisions about their schools be returned to them and that they are provided with the resources necessary to establish sustainable community schools, that the ability of citizens to use their civic engagement capacity to impact their schools and communities be expanded.

You can read the report here: http://bit.ly/1KCu88L.

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