WASHINGTON — There’s been a lot of conversation about systemic issues impacting the Black community, including disparities in education. On Juneteenth, D.C. educators will raise awareness about the issues at a Black Students Matter rally, complete with a call to action.
On Friday, students, teachers and their allies will descend on Freedom Plaza for a march and rally calling for justice and equality in education.
Educators for Equity is hosting the Black Students Matter protest that starts with making signs at 10 a.m. The march begins at 11 a.m., moving toward the U.S. Department of Education, which will serve as a backdrop for the rally.
Nandi Taylor, a 5th grade teacher at Turner Elementary, is all too familiar with the disparities impacting children. Her students are come from underserved communities in Southeast.
“A Ward 8 School, compared to a school that’s in Ward 1 or Ward 2 are completely different," said Taylor, who is passionate about improving the lives and quality of education that her students receive. “The classes that are offered are completely different, the resources we have are completely different, and the disparity is very obvious.”
Taylor loves her job, but admits that outdated technology and lack of resources creates challenges that make her job more difficult.
“The technology at my school is so old, we’ve had it for years, and years and years,” she said. “ It freezes, it interferes with our lessons, but we’re just expected to figure it out and it takes away from being able to teach.”
Taylor wants to see more support from the city through funding, resources and a revised curriculum that reflects the experience of African-American students and challenges them to think critically.
Elizabeth Davis is president of the Washington Teachers’ Union. She has also taught in Wards 7 and 8 for more than 20 years.
“The inequities that existed over 65 years ago over ‘Brown’ still exist today, and it’s unfortunate,” said Davis with a reference to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that ruled racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional. “It’s time for us to be very honest in saying where the inequities are.”
While millions of dollars have been set aside in D.C. Mayor Bowser’s 2021 proposed Fiscal Year Budget to improve and modernize schools, Davis wants to see more funding dedicated to technological resources.
“$11 million is what we’re asking the council and mayor to come up with to ensure that every student is going to have a device to access learning when schools reopen,” said Davis, who feels the pandemic only magnified disparities .
On Juneteenth, a day that celebrates freedom and the end of slavery, Taylor said they will call for the following:
- Defund DC police by redirecting money to programs and resources that focus on mental health.
- Equitable district funding.
- Revised curriculum reflective of African American students
- Abolish for-profit standardized testing.
- Focus on fixing schools rather than shutting them down.
"We’re not just protesting, this is action," Taylor said. "This is change I want to see across the nation."
WUSA9 reached out to a spokesperson for the DC Council about the action items, but have not heard back yet.