Still Separate and UnEqual: A fast for equity in education


POOR correspondent - Posted on 25 June 2010

tiny/PNN
Friday, June 4, 2004

"Arnold (Schwarzenegger) couldn't take any time out of his busy schedule to meet with any of the students, elders or children , even though he already knew that we were coming many months ahead of time - that's one of the reasons we are fasting", the morning sun jumped in and out of sight behind a huge tree which shaded several large tents in the background as I stood with one of the dedicated young scholaz, 17 year old Berkeley High School student Julia Ibarra, at Oakland City Hall's Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Ms Ibarra continued to detail the roots of the struggle that led to the water only fasting of 1 mother, 2 teachers, 2 students, and 2 community members at the City and State buildings in Oakland , Ca " Before the fast we walked 70 miles over 7 days to meet with the Governor to talk about the serious crisis that faces education and the platform we are demanding; Equity in Education, Fully fund propisition 98 and eliminate the West Contra Costa County Debt"

On this, the 50 th anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education, the state of education in California is not so much about segragation as it is about institutional racism and classism, i.e., if you are in the right neighborhood with the right tax base ( i.e, middle and upper income folks paying property taxes ) your experience in the public schools is not so bad, you probably have books, maybe an art or science program and some form of specialized Physical Education, but for the rest of us, especially those of us in areas populated by low-income families, education in California is Still Separate, Still Unequal. And although the 1964 Civil Rights Act declared the that education is a civil and human right in 2004 California ranks 40th in education spending and 1st in prison spending.

"Schools in Richmond don't have soccer club, they have a asthma club, because of the close proximity to Chevron and that's how it is in the Bayview, West Oakland and a lot of poor communities of color across the nation, teacher , poet and activist Cesar Cruz who is also one of the organizers and participants in the fast described the flagrant disparities in education and why they needed to do this fast, " Poor communities have different realities, cause they dump everything on the poor."

" Go to Sacramento, keep fighting and don't let them stop you" On Day 7 of the fast, the amazing civil rights warrior Delores Huerta in the tradition of the United Farm Workers fasts for civil rights, joined the fasters in solidarity, encouraging them to migrate to Sacramento and camp out in front of Schwarzeneggers office until he responds to their demands. In so doing, Ms. Huerta squelched the efforts by (not) strong mayor Jerry Brown and his Oakland Police Department troops to give the fasters trouble in the first few days of their fast. Now the mayor has proclaimed Monday, May 17, Equal Education Day in honor of the fasters.

As the sounds of Hip Hop scholarship filled the morning air, Cesar Cruz spoke thewords of resistance that summed up this crucial fight, " We're migrating the fight up California , we'll be at Richmond High School tonite, and then off to Sacramento cause poor children fight these conditions every day, us fasting for eight days is nothing, so we're gonna go on til we see changes…. as long as it takes"

UPDATE**********************

The Fasters Have Reached a Historic Agreement with Governor Schwarzenegger

Governor Schwarzenegger has singed a law called the Daucher Bill that would help the poorest district including Compton, West Contra Costa Unified, any school district with major loans, changing their interest from 5.7% to 1.7%.

Through the work of Jackie Goldberg's office, any school district that is in any loan trouble, their loan will be put off 2 years until Prop 98 funds kick in. This means that, for example, none of the libraries in West Contra Costa School District will not have to close.

After the 70 mile march and 26 day fast the Governor has agreed to come to Richmond to meet with the students and everyone who marched at Downer Elementary in October. This time he has agreed to come meet with them in their home after shunning them in Sacramento after their march.

We have gotten the Governor to really crumble, they rarely give in to protest, said Cesar Cruz on his 25th day of fasting. They thank Dolores Huerta for all the work and teaching that she did to make this amazing victory possible.

For more on this struggle go to www.march4education.org.

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