×

Justice in education discussed at First Congregational Church

  • Marianna Islam, director of advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, talks about education justice Saturday morning, Aug. 26, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Laura Baker, director of education at Westfield State University and a member of Racial Justice Rising, introduces Marianna Islam, director of advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, during a talk about education justice Saturday morning at Greenfield's First Congregational Church, Aug. 26, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—



Recorder Staff
Saturday, August 26, 2017

GREENFIELD — Education should be equal and free. That’s what Marianna Islam, director of advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, discussed with about 25 people gathered in the First Congregational Church Saturday morning.

“It should be in an environment that appreciates each child. Things like skin color, religion, it’s all irrelevant. Racism is really prevalent in our education system, and it has to be dealt with,” said retired educator David Greenberg at the start of the event. Greenberg is now a part of the Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution organization.

The program, about two hours long, was free and open to the public. Islam highlighted grassroots organizing as a way to improve the nation’s current education system.

Organizing “can achieve really great wins for the community” by creating “policies such as restorative justice, school resources and teacher supports,” Islam said. She said one example was the voting down of legislation this year that, had it passed, would have allowed more charter schools in the state.

“Also an important win as a result of grassroots organizing is moving forward the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment to the 2018 ballot,” Islam continued. “The amendment, if passed, could bring an estimated $1.9 billion for public education and transportation by creating an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income above one million dollars.

“Right now, there are a lot of eyes on education. The vision that’s put out at the federal level doesn’t provide equity,” Islam said.

Saturday’s gathering was intended to “push back against things being promoted at a national level.” One example is privatization of education, which is “concerning for our communities,” she said.

Another circumstance that speakers said creates poor learning environments is underfunding.

“There is great inequity by race, class, sexual orientation. Public education is at risk right now,” said Laura Baker, director of education at Westfield State University and a member of Racial Justice Rising — which sponsored the talk through a local Cultural Council grant. Baker had invited Islam to speak.

To overcome educational inequalities, retired educator Bob Cooley, a candidate for the Greenfield School Committee, highlighted a need to change, from low to high, “our teachers’ expectations for students of low-income, people of color.”

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo