The Ferguson Commission, a 16-member panel appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon in November, has released a copy of its 198-page report online. This report highlights and makes clear to the public that inequity and disparity exist in St. Louis and its surrounding communities. As educators, we have a role in seeing that the recommendations laid out in this report are implemented with the children in mind as we strive for better schools that break the school-to-prison pipeline and provide students equal opportunity for a better future. It is of great value that the Ferguson Commission has strongly reported that inequity exists in education for black and brown children and that a solid plan for community schools has been laid out.
The report maintains that it was not written as a plan of implementation, but rather an outline as a path. It is our duty and our responsibility to rise up to the call, as valued educational professionals, and develop the plan of implementation that we know will reshape and renew the current systems. The Ferguson Commission implementation plan strongly supports community involvement while maintaining the focus of youth at the center of this rebirth.
The Ferguson Commission calls for engagement and planning that support the whole child. BATs recognize that need in all communities and has long advocated for the development of community schools that rebuild the vision of a school district as a cornerstone of the community. Their Calls to Action include establishing school-based health centers, reforming school discipline policies, and ending hunger for children and families. Incorporated in these Calls to Action are points of reform that include investing in early childhood education, supporting educational innovation, and revising the school accreditation system.
While we look forward to seeing and hopefully assisting with any future plans that create a comprehensive systematic change of the current educational structure, we also insist upon community involvement and ownership of all changes and programs that are implemented. To guarantee success and truly build these communities, strength and perseverance must be allowed to flourish from within. We say this based on the national systemic attacks we have seen on our black and brown communities: Chicago, where there are 12 parents on a 4 week hunger strike to keep their last community school open; the closing of all public schools in New Orleans; and the move towards privatization in Detroit. What these three events have in common is that the elected voice of black and brown voters has been denied as elected school boards are sent into exile and the role of running the schools is handed over to mayoral control. Our hope is that the Ferguson Commission and other stakeholders will also recognize the disenfranchisement of black and brown voices in making educational decisions for their communities. All educators must fight for black and brown voters to have their elected school boards returned so that educational decisions are made by the community.
The Badass Teachers Association Administrative Team
Kathie Wing Larsyn
Terri Rector Michal
Kelly Ann Braun
Donna Yates Mace
Kathleen Hagans Keskey
Lee-Ann Pepper Nolan
Rebecca Lehnart Armstrong