Black Movements in the US - Fall 2008 : Future Activities and Goals
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InnerCity Struggle students and parents decided that the next step for improving the quality of education needed to be transforming the expectations of students. This had to begin with making the idea of going to college a real possibility for thousands of mostly brown and black youth.
Currently, only 22 percent of the 9th graders in the Los Angeles school district complete high school having satisfied the college course requirements. Called the A-G requirements, they refer to the three additional courses needed (in addition to current graduation requirements) that include a foreign language and an extra year of math. Without A-G, students are barred from attending a University of California or California State University campus directly after high school and thus also have diminished chances of finding a job that pays a living wage.
Through a survey of over 2,500 students, InnerCity Struggle learned that a majority of students want to attend a four year college and are encouraged to do so by parents and teachers. Members of ICS also learned that college access is not equal among all schools in the Los Angeles school district and in LA County. Although 77 percent of the students at Garfield High and Roosevelt High are interested in attending 4-year colleges/universities and 53 percent of students at Wilson High are planning to attend college, the resources do not exist for all students to become eligible. Most Los Angeles Unified schools do not offer a sufficient number of A-G classes. As a result, 40 percent of white students finish high school having completed the requirements while only 25 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Latinos do so. These results are within a district that has over 80 percent of its student population comprised of African American and Latino children and youth.
In fall 2004, InnerCity Struggle joined the leadership body of a city-wide alliance that brought together students, parents, and community leaders to demand equity for African American and Latino students in East, Central, and South Los Angeles. The alliance, composed of over 20 organizations and called Communities for Educational Equity, launched a city-wide campaign to make the college course requirements part of the high school graduation requirement. InnerCity Struggle led the organizing work in East LA to build mass support from youth, parent, and community members, and collected over 7,000 signatures in support of the "A-G campaign," as it was called.
InnerCity Struggle works closely with the Community Coalition, an organization based in South LA that strives for social justice by building the leadership of black and brown communities. Together, InnerCity Struggle and Community Coalition mobilized over 2,000 youth, parents, and community members from East LA and South LA to build a multi-racial movement for educational justice.
On April 26, 2005, Communities for Educational Equity delivered over 14,000 petition signatures at district offices, which included InnerCity Struggle's petitions. Two school board members out of seven publicly announced their support for the A-G resolution while others were on the fence. The board members' weak stance on the issue further galvanized members of both InnerCity Struggle and the Community Coalition to fight harder. Both organizations developed a plan consisting of a series of direct actions aimed at exposing and pressuring the school board members. On May 10, 100 youth and parent members rallied in front of district offices during a school board meeting and delivered additional petition signatures and demanded equity in schools located in the poorest communities.
On May 24 the Los Angeles School Board was scheduled to vote on the proposed resolution. Almost 1,000 students, parents, educators, and community supporters gathered outside the school board offices to demand passage of the resolution. They were ready for defeat; as one InnerCity Struggle commentator said, "The LAUSD school board has made an art form out of stalling the vote on the A-G Resolution." Indeed, they did not vote that day.
They finally did vote on June 14, with 500 people mobilized on their doorstep. The resolution passed 6-1. This will mean major changes in the lives of thousands of Los Angeles youth, as has already happened in San Jose, where the A-G requirement was extended in 1998 and graduation rates increased. More students will be able to enter college and not be forced to enter the low-wage labor economy, enlist in the military, or make a living in the underground economy, many ending up in prison. It is big victory number two for Los Angeles youth.
The next step right now it is working to end the "zero tolerance" culture at schools with policies that push students out for any minor infraction, with suspension often the very first consequence. For InnerCity Struggle, the June 14 victory, like those before it, is part of continuing the legacy for educational justice sparked by the 1968 blowouts. Two of the original 1968 demands have been won by InnerCity Struggle youth: a new high school and college access for all. The work will continue to focus on building understanding in the community about systems of oppression and promote a vision of education that is based on justice.
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