March 6, 2012
America's Schools Are Still Separate and Unequal
AFT's Randi Weingarten: "Our failure to address this problem will consign legions of minority children to a disadvantaged and economically limited life."
WASHINGTON— Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection release:
"Sadly, America's schools are still separate and unequal. Our failure to address this problem will consign legions of minority children to a disadvantaged and economically limited life. That is a betrayal of our collective duty as a nation to guarantee every student a fair shot at success.
"It is neither morally acceptable nor economically wise to continue to ignore this problem. It is urgent that we summon the political will to address this problem now in a serious, thoughtful and comprehensive way. Most important, we must use this data as an opportunity to drive needed change and reflect on our role as educators of our children, not to further demonize teachers.
"Each of us—teachers, parents, administrators, elected officials and community leaders—has a critical role to play in nurturing the development of our children and eliminating barriers to their success.
"The bottom line is that we must make all our schools places where all our children can succeed.
"There are kernels of success in districts across the country, where schools have created a strong learning community in which teachers and students are respected and receive the tools they need. These schools invest in mentors, counseling and other services for students.
"Today's report makes clear the importance of high-quality teacher preparation and development programs that prepare educators and school staff to support diverse learners in healthy learning environments and gain classroom management skills and experience. This deep knowledge and training is something that is missed in shortcut programs that parachute teachers into classrooms for short teaching stints.
"We must change our school culture and environment to support all students. This report speaks urgently of the need to address the chronic suspension of minorities, the growing resource gap between wealthy and poor school districts, the failed policy of closing public schools and destabilizing neighborhoods, the use of law enforcement as an extension of school discipline, and the inexcusable fact that children of color are routinely shut out of opportunities for gifted-and-talented and college-readiness programs.
"It's not enough to pay teachers more to teach; we must address other factors such as safety, resources, crumbling school buildings, inadequate school facilities, and dated textbooks and instruction materials.
"While this report brought to light important issues regarding the education our children are receiving, we would have preferred the department had broadened its reach beyond teacher salaries and personnel matters to all factors, inside and outside the classroom, that affect children's lives. These results also fail to take into account such personnel matters such as teachers needing to take maternity leave or leave to receive treatment for cancer or other chronic illnesses."
Follow AFT President Randi Weingarten: http://twitter.com/rweingarten
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.