Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Once more, a Hearing on Fairness.

We are gathering again on December 4th at 9:30 am in the Federal Courtroom of Judge Kurt Engelhardt to present arguments concerning the fairness or lack thereof in the School Board restricting the Parish-wide access of parents and their children to a Magnet School education. Most of the Magnet Schools within the parish have opened after the hurricane and flood and since have been expanding in facilities and participation, providing exceptional and comparable grade advanced education for high achieving students. This is a service the School Board agreed would enhance educational competitiveness within the parish and bolster its attractiveness to businesses, development and communities within Jefferson Parish. Yet, in this effort, the board is heeding the advice of counsel and tainting its efforts with what essentially are the words "separate but equal". Come to court and hear the arguments to know what the future holds for our Magnet School system.

I hope to have the opportunity to address the court with the following transcript:

The School Board, Superintendent, attorneys and their constituency have been working to present to you Judge their best efforts to create a unitary public school system. I believe this continuing effort is creating the strongest, most competitive and diverse system for educating our young people within a major metropolitan city. A milestone well overdue and one that I believe can possibly improve the dynamics of parental involvement in their child's education as well as the reputation of elementary and secondary education in all of Southern Louisiana.

Segregation however is a dirty word. Anything preceded by the word “segregated” or “separated” in school will ultimately result in students receiving unfair and unequal consideration, treatment, services, facilities and opportunities. Rep. Steve Cohen, Tenn. Congressman, introduced a resolution in Feb of 2007 that received bipartisan support calling for the United States Government to issue an apology for the institution and consequences of slavery and Jim Crow. In part of his address he echoed my concerns this morning:

“This country had an institution of slavery for 246 years and followed it with Jim Crow laws that denied people equal opportunity under the law. There was segregation in the south and other places in this country, at least through the year 1965 when civil rights laws were passed. There were separate water fountains for people, marked white and colored, there were restaurants, there were separate hotels, and there were job opportunities that were not available to African-Americans.

He goes on to say:

…because only a great country can recognize and admit its mistakes and then travel forth to create indeed a more perfect union that works to bring people of all races, religions and creeds together in unity as Americans part of the United States of America."

I point this out not for hyperbole but for all to consider. The School Board and Superintendent have not worked so diligently to prepare our Parish to operate a unitary public school system only to segregated it by the Mississippi River. Let's rise up and prevent the mistakes caused by legal segregation and prevent what may ultimately lead to future apologies due to the unfair restriction of Parish-wide Magnet School access. The choices now and in the future that are available within the Magnet School system I believe will serve only to raise the standards and expectations of public education and be an example throughout all of Louisiana of the care we have for the preparation of all the children of Jefferson Parish to lead in a just and humane society.