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Published by: The Washington Post on May 14, 2014
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www.j4jalliance.com
 4242 S. Cottage Grove Chicago, IL 60653
 
info@j4jalliance.com
 (773) 317-6343
Coalition for Community Schools - New Orleans
 
May 13, 2014 Eric Holder Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Educational Opportunities Section, PHB Washington, D.C. 20530 Arne Duncan Secretary of Education U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Ave SW Washington, DC 20202 Dear Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan: During this week that marks the 60
th
 anniversary of
Brown v. Board of Education
, community organizations in Chicago, Newark, and New Orleans, all members of the national Journey for Justice Alliance, file three complaints under Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights of 1964 with the Education Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice
’s Civil Rights
Division
(“DOJ”)
 and the Department of
Education’s
 Office for Civil Rights
(“OCR”)
.
As we commemorate the landmark civil rights victory that struck down the “separate but equal”
doctrine and the system of codified racism in our public schools, we respectfully request that you open an investigation of the racially discriminatory school closings that are the subject of these complaints. Journey for Justice is a coalition of grassroots organizations in twenty-two cities across the country. The coalition has come together because, across our communities, e
ducation “reformers” and privati
zers are targeting neighborhood schools filled with children of color, and leaving behind devastation. By stealth, seizure, and sabotage, these corporate profiteers are closing and privatizing our schools, keeping public education for children of color, not only separate, not only unequal, but increasingly not public at all. Adding insult to injury, the perpetrators of this injustice have cloaked themselves in the language of the Civil Rights Movement. But too many of the charter and privately-managed schools that have multiplied as replacements for our beloved neighborhood schools are test prep mills that promote prison-like environments, and seem to be geared at keeping young people of color controlled, undereducated, and dehumanized. Children of color are not collateral damage. Our communities are not collateral damage. Thus, we stand in solidarity, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago, Coalition for Community Schools and Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes in New Orleans,
New Jersey’s
Parents Unified for Local School Education in Newark, and Journey for Justice member organizations across the country, to shed light on the racial injustice of school closings. Neighborhood schools are the hearts of our communities, and the harm caused by just one school closure is deep and devastating. This is death by a thousand cuts. We wait with hopefulness for DOJ and OCR to investigate our civil rights complaints so that we can begin the work of rebuilding our communities and using sustainable and community accountable school transformation models to build
schools that meet all children’s needs.
 Respectfully, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (
Chicago, IL
), Coalition for Community Schools (
New Orleans, LA
), Conscious Citizens Controlling Community Changes (
New Orleans, LA
), New Jersey Parents Unified for Local School Education (
Newark, NJ 
), and the national Journey for Justice Alliance
 
 
1220 L Street, NW
 
Suite 850
 
 
Washington, DC 20005
 
202.728.9557
 
202.728.9558
 fax
ap@advancementproject.org 
 
www.advancementproject.org 
 
LA Office: 1910 W. Sunset Boulevard
 
Suite 500
 
Los Angeles, CA 90026
 
213.989.1300
 
213.989.1309
 fax
 
May 13, 2014
VIA MAIL
Eric Holder Attorney General Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001 Arne Duncan Secretary of Education U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue SW Washington, DC 20202-1100
VIA EMAIL AND MAIL
Taylor August Regional Director Office for Civil Rights
 Dallas Office U.S. Department of Education 1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620 Dallas, TX 75201-6810 Email: ocr.dallas@ed.gov
Re: Civil rights complaint filed against the Louisiana Department of Education, Recovery School District, and Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education I. INTRODUCTION
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the consequent levee breach ravaged the City of New Orleans. Thousands of lives were lost, citizens were displaced, and homes, businesses, and entire communities were destroyed. While many New Orleanians were struggling to rebuild their lives
at the urging and with the financial support of the federal government and private foundations
 
 2 Louisiana politicians and business leaders were plotting behind closed doors to turn New Orleans into the
nation’s
first all-charter school district.
1
 Three months after Katrina, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 35 allowing the state-run Recovery School District
(“RSD”)
to take over 107 New Orleans public schools previously controlled by the Orleans Parish School Board
(“
OPSB
”)
.
2
 OPSB then fired over 7,500 school employees, including 4,000 teachers. The stated goal of Act 35 was to allow the RSD to
“meet the educational
needs of
all 
 
students residing in the jurisdiction of the transferring school system.”
3
 This did not happen. What did happen was the implementation of
RSD’s
real agenda to privatize public education by recklessly closing or converting all district-run schools.
4
 The results of that plan are clear: in May 2014, RSD will close the last five public schools and become the first all-charter district in the nation.
5
 RSD told parents and community members that it was closing schools to improve the educational outcomes and increase academic achievement, but that was false. Today, most students in RSD still attend underperforming or failing schools.
6
 As cities across America are ha
iling the New Orleans “experiment” as
a national example of
“education
 reform,
7
 and profit-
driven investors, researchers and philanthropists claim “victory,”
many African-American New Orleanians tell a cautionary tale.
8
 Most African-American students are still trapped in failing or near-failing public schools, experience a deeper, more severe form of
1
 
See
cf 
. R
ECOVERY
S
CHOOL
D
ISTRICT
,
 
L
EGISLATIVELY
R
EQUIRED
P
LAN
 4 (2006) (Hurricane Katrina created a "once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to create a fundamentally better public education system in New Orleans.”) available at:
http://www.louisianaschools.net/lde/uploads/8932.doc (last viewed May 4, 2014); R
AY
N
AGIN
,
 
B
RING
N
EW
O
RLEANS
B
ACK
C
OMMISSION
R
ECOMMENDATIONS
 (2006). Private foundations and the federal government exerted significant influence on the State and New Orleans to increase the presence of charter schools. The federal government offered Orleans Parish School Board a $20.9 million grant to help support new and existing charter schools. Similar money was not provided for the district-run public schools. Robert Garda,
The Politics of Education Reform: Lessons from New Orleans
, 40 J.L.
 
&
 
E
DUC
. 57, 67 (Jan. 2011)
. Arne Duncan said Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” Mary Bruce, “Duncan: Katrina Was the ‘Best Thing’ for New Orleans School System”
ABC
 
N
EWS
 (Jan. 29, 2010, 5:26PM), http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/01/duncan-katrina-was-the-best-thing-for-new-orleans-schools/;
see also
 B
OSTON
C
ONSULTING
G
ROUP
,
 
T
HE
S
TATE OF
P
UBLIC
E
DUCATION IN
NOLA, April 1, 2008 (explaining that Hurricane Katrina
presented “both tragedy and opportunity” for New Orleans.).
 
2
 LA.
 
REV.
 
STAT.
 
ANN. § 17:10.7 (2005).
3
 
Id 
.
(emphasis added)
 
4
 
In this complaint, the terms “closure” or “school closure” are meant to capture when a school district closes a school or
changes its management and enrollment status resulting in the removal and exclusion of a significant percentage of the
school’s staff and students. This includes what are often described as “turnarounds” and “conversions” when a district
turns over the management of a school to a charter organization. These are some of the actions required for districts to receive federal school improvement grants.
5
 Danielle Dreilinger,
Recovery School District will be country’s first all 
-charter district in September 2014
, T
HE
T
IMES
-P
ICAYUNE
, Dec. 19, 2013, http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/12/recovery_school_district_will_3.html.
6
 C
HARLES
H
ATFIELD
,
 
R
ESEARCH ON
R
EFORMS
,
 
R
ECOVERY
S
CHOOL
D
ISTRICT IN
N
EW
O
RLEANS
:
 
N
ATIONAL
M
ODEL FOR
R
EFORM OR
D
ISTRICT IN
A
CADEMIC
C
RISIS
 2 (2012), http://www.researchonreforms.org/html/documents/Paperon2012SPSk.pdf.
7
 Several districts have already duplicated reforms in New Orleans and are awaiting the results.
See
Stacy Teicher Khadaroo,
New Orleans goes all in on charter schools. Is it showing the way 
? T
HE
C
HRISTIAN
S
CIENCE
M
ONITOR
, March 1, 2014.
8
 
See generally 
 Kristen L. Buras,
New Orleans Education Reform: A Guide for Cities or a Warning for Communities? (Grassroots Lessons Learned, 2005-2010)
, 4 B
ERKELEY
R
EVIEW OF
E
DUCATION
1, 123-160 (2013).

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