Friday, June 08, 2012

School Closures and Accusations of Segregation in Louisiana

From The Nation:

Teachers in Louisiana have found themselves on the frontlines of austerity.

First, in an unprecedented vote, the Jefferson Parish School Board voted 8–1 to close seven campuses, four of them traditional elementary schools and the rest alternative programs for students struggling academically.

The board issued more bad news when it announced it was dropping plans to add an art instruction wing at Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts due to cost concerns.

Construction of the wing is a hot-button issue in the area because the proposal to convert Lincoln into a magnet school that would draw students from across the parish was a result of the deliberations leading up to the system’s settling a forty-seven-year-old desegregation lawsuit last year.


The Southern Poverty Law Center filed not one, but two, civil rights complaints against the board.

In the first complaint, SPLC alleged that the school system discriminates against black and disabled students. Part of the evidence presented by SPLC was comments made on Twitter by Mark Traina, a school psychologist in Louisiana.

“Young black thugs” need to be “put down like the dogs they are,” Traina tweeted.

SPLC also claims African-American students are being unfairly subjected to arrests and seizures. The complaint outlined what the center calls a widespread and disproportionate number of arrests of black students for minor school disciplinary matters.

SPLC cited the fact that African-American youth comprise 46 percent of the student population yet 76 percent of all school-based arrests.

More here.

Actually, this article isn't simply about Louisiana schools. Rather, it's about the public schools in Jefferson Parish, which is where I live. Nice to know, I guess, that my reading about political, cultural, and economic doings overall in the US has a payoff for me locally. That is, the second excerpt above reflects the rise in overt racism this nation has seen since Obama, our first black President, was elected, combined with the standard other-bashing that historically comes with hard economic times--it's also worth noting that Metairie, which easily comprises the biggest chunk of the parish, is definitely the most racist community in which I've ever lived, so racist, in fact, that it sent a former KKK leader to the state legislature back in the late 80s; that probably has something to do with it, too, latent racism waiting for the right circumstances to once again raise its ugly head.

The first excerpt may also have something to do with the return of overt racism, in terms of how the school board is deciding what to cut, but the fact that they have to cut at all has nothing to do with racism: it's about the shitty fucking economy and the fact that the federal government, which is also facing severe budget shortfalls, but could easily and very cheaply borrow enough to bail out every school system in the country, absolutely refuses to do so. I mean, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has been asserting a lot recently that if the feds bailed out the states, which would put tens of thousands of cops, fire fighters, teachers, and other workers back on the job, we would be well on the road to recovery. And, oh yeah, a nice little bonus is that we don't have to close down schools and fire teachers. Or eradicate arts programs, which, according to now numerous studies, gets students to perform better in all academic areas.

I'm pretty sure that the theater arts teaching position I had back in Texas no longer exists.