Dear President-elect Biden,
On behalf of the parents, students and community organizations that make up the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) in over 30 cities across the United States, we congratulate you on your historic election victory. Your incoming administration has an enormous opportunity to prioritize equity for Black, Brown, and Indigenous families to address deep-rooted systemic racism in housing, health care, policing, the environment, and especially public education.
Over the past 20 years, our communities have suffered through thousands of school closures, punitive standardized testing, students funneled into the school to prison pipeline and the expansion of the for-profit and non-profit charter industry as the government ignored the harm to our students and as the inequity created an apartheid system of education in our communities. The evidence is clear; 5 out of 6 Americans want their neighborhood public schools improved and not closed and an overwhelming majority of the public want fully resourced, equitably funded public schools as opposed to the charter industry and vouchers that have drained billions from our public schools.
The next Secretary of Education should not only be an educator but firmly committed to racial justice and uniting education expertise with community wisdom to finally create education equity in the United States. Appointing another pro-privatization Secretary of Education would cause more harm to Black, Brown, Indigenous and LGBTQIA students and would be disrespectful the struggle and sacrifices of the education justice movement. J4J co-sponsored the historic presidential forum that you attended last December in Pittsburgh, Public Education Forum 2020; Equity and Opportunity for All which was attended by over 1000 people and viewed on MSNBC. It was clear from the forum that Black, Brown, and Indigenous parents, students, and educators across the U.S. are calling for equity: not the illusion of school choice.
At that forum, you told us that if you were in the White House, we would “not ever have a better friend for education.” We are eager to see the results of that promise, beginning with the critical selection of the Secretary to lead the Department of Education.
We are recommending the following people for Education Secretary as they have the expertise and the track record that would be a beacon of light for our communities.
- Dr. Judith Browne Dianis-Executive Director of the Advancement Project. Dr. Browne Dianis has consistently championed the civil rights of public education students and stood with communities in the struggle for education equity. Dr. Browne Dianis is hailed as an expert on voting rights, education equity and is a pioneer in the struggle to end the school to prison pipeline. The Title VI Civil Rights complaint that her office filed with parents from Newark, New Jersey successfully proved that school closings harmed Black students.
- Dr. Julian Vasquez Helig, University of Kentucky College of Education Dean-Dr. Vasquez is an award winning, teacher, researcher, leader, and dynamic voice for equity in public education. Dr. Vasquez is a leader in the NAACP as well as a board member of the Network for Public Education.
- Dr. John H. Jackson-President of the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Dr. Jackson has been a leader in moving philanthropy to support Black-led community organizing for education justice. He has been a leader in the NAACP and was appointed by President Clinton to be a senior advisor for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. He is from Chicago, a product of Chicago Public Schools and a graduate of HBCU, Xavier University of Louisiana.
- Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers-Representing over 1.7 million educators across the United States, Mrs. Weingarten has over 30 years in the classroom and stood side by side with Black and Brown communities to expand evidence based education strategies such as sustainable community schools and resisting harmful practices such as school closings and the expansion of the charter industry. She has demonstrated the ability to hear our communities appeals for racial justice and education equity and responded as a friend to public education.
President-elect Biden, Black Lives Matter must mean more than slogans, marches or the take down of confederate statues. For us, it means transforming how institutions function in Black communities and dismantling educational racism. You have an enormous opportunity to transform public education and we humbly, yet vehemently assert that any of these selections would be a courageous step in the right direction. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you and your team.
Journey for Justice Alliance