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School & District Management Opinion

Andre Dunbar’s Journey for Justice

By Anthony Cody — September 19, 2012 3 min read
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Guest post by Andre Dunbar.

My name is Andre Dunbar. I am a senior at William L. Sayre High School in Philadelphia, and I am a student organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union.

The Philadelphia Student Union is fighting back against school closures and the transformation plans we are seeing in Philadelphia and nationally. As students we don’t want to see what other cities are seeing now--closures that that are hurting their communities. These closures destroy our education.

Governor Corbett’s cuts to education leave my district with less money, which leads the district to say that they cannot afford to keeps our schools open. But at the same time that Governor Corbett is cutting school funding, he is spending more money on prisons. This shows us his perception of us as students and where he expects us to end up in our future. Not investing in neighborhood schools like my school--Sayre High School--is setting us up to fail.

There is a plan in Philadelphia to close 40 schools by the year of 2013 and 64 by 2017. This plan to close our schools will affect students in Philadelphia physically and emotionally. We will see more dropouts and fewer graduates because of the lack of resources we have in our schools. More students will believe that they can’t excel in high school because their school doesn’t have the resources they need to graduate.

At the Philadelphia Student Union, we talk with students from New York City and Boston as well, because this is bigger than just Philadelphia. In New York City they have closed 144 schools in ten years. But that hasn’t made a difference in student outcomes. Still, only 13% of Black and Latino students are college ready. These school closings are targeting students of color and they are hurting our education.

On Thursday morning, my colleagues and I will be getting on a bus to Washington, DC. This bus is part of a caravan called Journey For Justice. Eleven cities, including New York, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit will join us on our bus caravan to Washington, DC.

We will be meeting at the offices of the District of Columbia Public Schools. DCPS closed 23 schools in 2008 alone. From there, we are marching to the offices of the U.S. Department of Education.

We are going to Washington, D.C., because this problem is bigger than Philadelphia--it’s a national problem. Setting schools up to fail is a national problem. Cutting funding from the schools that need it the most is a national problem. School closings that target our communities are a national problem. So we are going to the source.

If the Department of Education stops pushing for school closings and invests in public education, more students will graduate. More students will be excited to go to school and get the education they deserve. We demand a better education so we can have a brighter future. This is why the students from the 11 cities making up the Journey for Justice bus caravan are demanding a moratorium on all closings, turnarounds, and phase-outs. We demand that the community be engaged in all school transformation processes. And we demand a meeting with president Obama. He has been listening to the wrong people when it comes to education policy. We need him to listen to the students and Save Our Schools!

The Journey for Justice 2012 “Funeral Procession” (march with coffins), and rally at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. will take place tomorrow, Thursday, September 20, 2012. Assemble at D.C. Public Schools Offices, 1200 First Street, NE at 11 a.m. Arrive at U.S. DOE, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW at 12:30 PM after march/procession. For more information, contact Jitu Brown at jitubrown@yahoo.com.

Photos used by permission of the Philadelphia Student Union.
Photo #1: Andre Dunbar (front row in denim vest) and students from across Pennsylvania sit on the steps of the PA state capitol following a student-organized rally for fair, equitable school funding. Feb 14, 2012.

Photo #2: Students gather outside the School Reform Commission meeting to protest the plan to close 64 schools and increase privatization in the Philadelphia School District. May 31, 2012.

Andre Dunbar’s photo and words appear with parental permission.

What do you think of Andre Dunbar’s message for the Department of Education? Should there be a moratorium on school closures?

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.