Defend Durham Schools: Opposition Letter

In a joint letter to Dr. Eric Hall, PA and the Durham NAACP expressed their concern for and opposition to the privatization of Glenn Elementary School. Please read the letter below.


 

October 9, 2017

Dr. Hall,

The Durham People’s Alliance and the Durham NAACP are writing you today to express our concern for, and opposition to, considering Glenn Elementary School as part of the Innovative School District.  As two community organizations that strive to represent the values and best interest of the citizens of Durham, we ask you to hear our request that you allow our city to maintain local control of all of our schools, and work with our elected school board to continue to improve them.   Our community is strong, and we know what is right for our children. Privatization of Glenn Elementary is not what we want or need.

Durham is not blind to the struggles at some of our schools.  Our public school system serves all children, including those with high cost special needs and high percentages for whom English is not their first language.  As you know, DPS demographics are 82% children of color and 65% free and reduced lunch.

We recognize and share the belief that our struggling schools need support to successfully serve our children. 

Instead of taking over and privatizing Glenn, we want the state to increase per pupil funding to the levels we enjoyed before the recession.  This would allow us to restore teaching positions, instructional assistant positions, and equipment and supplies.  With increased funding and flexibility through Restart programs and school improvement grants, we will have the tools needed for growth with one clear difference:  our school stays a part of our community system, governed by the board that our community elected, and accountable to the families of the children that attend them.  We do not want our schools controlled by a board in Raleigh.  We do not want the decisions made for our public schools dictated by a private charter program. 

Our organizations know and support the incredible work already being done by the dedicated faculty, staff, and leadership at Glenn Elementary with very limited resources and many students struggling with complex needs.  We know that we want to continue to fight for more resources and more flexibility to help this school grow.  We ask you today to allow that to happen outside of the Innovative School District.   This is not the innovation that Durham wants, or feels is best for our children. 

We appreciate your time and consideration of our communities’ request.

Sincerely,

The Durham People’s Alliance
The Durham NAACP

 


Defend Durham Schools

In the coming weeks, a small group of un-elected officials will visit six schools across the state of North Carolina to make a recommendation that two of them be taken away from their local school district and handed over to a privately-run charter company.  All six school communities are comprised of smiling, learning, and growing young people; dedicated staff who commit their lives and hearts far beyond a 40-hour work week; and loving and trusting parents who want the best for their kids.  Two of the elementary schools, Glenn and Lakewood, belong to us here in Durham.  We intend to keep them.

This takeover plan, called the Innovative School District, is one more piece of the privatization agenda advanced by the political leadership of North Carolina (and the U.S.) for decades.  This effort, carried out by politicians from both parties with the backing of wealthy supporters like the Koch Brothers, Betsy Devos, and Art Pope, rests on a long history of racism and profit-seeking-at-all-costs that has no place in our public lives.  Here’s a brief summary:

  • In the years following legally-mandated desegregation, persistent and increased residential segregation and white and middle-class flight have kept our schools largely segregated by race and class.
  • Starting in the 1980s, a variety of factors, including tax cuts for the wealthy, deindustrialization, increased spending on military and prisons, and intentional neglect have left our schools and our communities, urban and rural, without basic necessities. Our students, their families, and our school communities have struggled mightily with the trauma and instability forced on them by racism and poverty.
  • As our schools and communities crumbled without the resources that they needed and deserved, privatizing politicians argued that schools should be held more accountable for the outcomes of the lives of the young people that they served. Even as the rest of society failed them. The privatizers’ propaganda teams designed and spread the narrative that “public schools are failing,” and they wrote legislation that opened the door for more standardized testing (read: more profit for testing companies).
  • Using isolated data points obtained through testing that any educator will tell you is racist, classist, and completely fails at accurately assessing what our students are capable of, the privatizers now had their “evidence” that public schools were failing. They responded with more budget cuts, attacks on educators and our rights, and increased opportunities for “school choice” through voucher programs and privately-run charter schools, all framed as a concern for the very students their whole legislative agenda was hurting.

Now, the ISD leadership is claiming that “we had our chance to fix these schools.”  But we know better.

The schools targeted for takeover are all over 80% students of color and over 80% students receiving free and reduced lunch.  Our students can, and do, learn and grow every single day.  But those struggling with the historical legacy and present conditions of racism and poverty need more, not less, to thrive.

Our students deserve more.  They deserve small class sizes, school nurses, counselors, art, music, P.E., world languages, and more books and resources than they could ever dream of using.  They deserve economically-stable educators equipped with the best tools and best training possible.  They deserve to eat nutritious food, sleep in safe homes, and walk through the world treated with dignity and love.  The ISD offers none of this.  It is one step closer to the complete privatization of our schools, and all evidence suggests it will be a miserable failure for our students.

 

 

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