Multicultural coalition targets education, economic justice

Miami citizens join 60 other cities in National Day of Action

D. Kevin McNeir | 12/19/2013, 9 a.m.
A newly-formed group of parents, teachers, students and community members have teamed up to form the Dade Coalition for Education ...

A newly-formed group of parents, teachers, students and community members have teamed up to form the Dade Coalition for Education and Economic Justice [DCEEJ] with the goal of demonstrating the connection between education and economic opportunity. In their first press conference held earlier this month, they announced their platform as similar groups in 60 other U.S. cities jointly participated in the National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.

“Educational attainment has always been an issue dear to the heart of our community and it remains the key to upward mobility,” said Gepsie. M. Metellus, executive director, Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center and a DCEEJ member. “We are demanding that the State fully fund public schools and programs that help our children. Too often today’s emphasis is on unnatural reforms like high-stakes testing and accountability systems that divide communities. We believe we have an opportunity to make [things] right, to turn the tide and to reach out to friends who believe in the promise of public education. We reject the notion that our children cannot learn or cannot pass standardized exams but those tests must be free of bias.”

United Teachers of Dade President Federick Ingram said the day of action and the forming of the Coalition was not just about one singular protest but rather an example of a growing movement of unions, educators, parents and community leaders who are demanding a new direction for public schools. “We come from different cultural backgrounds across Miami-Dade County to show that we will no longer be divided,” he said. “We are coming together across cultural and socio-economic lines to reclaim the promise of public education and economic justice. By working together we can uplift our public schools and make them the cornerstone of our community.”

According to a DCEEJ spokesperson, the group was founded on several key principles that include: 1) the voices of the community matter; 2) a demand for fully funded schools guaranteeing equity for those in the urban core; 3) a strengthening of public schools thereby strengthening local communities; 4) the importance of reconditioning local communities so that they recognize the importance of participating in the political system and voting in all elections; 5) putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline which disproportionately impacts children of color; 6) helping children of color overcome not only the digital divide but the “hopeless” divide; and 7) ending the philosophy of winners versus losers in public schools.

“Education and economic justice go hand in hand,” said D.C. Clark, alumni president for Miami Central Senior High School and a co-founder of the Coalition. “For too long we have seen resources earmarked for schools in need go to more affluent schools — a kind of Robin Hood in reverse.”

Mari Corugedo, director, Hispanic Educators LULAC Council, said Florida is spending too much money on standardized tests that don’t celebrate the unique skills of students.

“This Coalition is here to stay and our goal is to make Tallahassee recognize that we mean business,” Ingram added. “We are hopeful that we can do right by our children but that means people will have to get involved. If we are willing to speak with one voice we can show our political leaders that those who don’t support public education will be sent home packing. Miami is a microcosm of America. Other parts of the country are beginning to look like us with our rich diversity. If we can reclaim the promise of education for all of our children, if we can make things right, anyone can.”