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We Have Work To Do

Tags: Education
June 15, 2020 11:00 AM
By: Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera

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Over the past several weeks, as communities across the country have erupted in deep-seated anger and frustration over George Floyd's murder, I've been listening and reflecting on what I can do to help spur the change our society has needed for generations.

Don't get me wrong, I'm outraged. Outraged that George Floyd's murder is just the latest incident in a multi-generational history of ignored brutality. Outraged that unarmed black men and women continue to die at the hands of law enforcement. Outraged that black and brown communities continue to live in fear of individuals who have pledged to serve and protect. Outraged that systemic racism continues to exist in our nation.

This must stop.

Our education system is not without fault in perpetuating the systemic inequities and institutional bias that many of our communities have accepted as normal. Education is an institution rife with historic inequities in resourcing, inequities in discipline, and inequities in opportunity.

These structures must be dismantled.

As a leader in our education system, I'm taking my outrage and using it to fuel my commitment to right these wrongs, correct for the injustices, dismantle the systemic barriers, and ensure every student has access to the opportunities to learn and achieve regardless of their skin color.

Educators are change agents and community leaders.

Our education system is part of the solution. Over the past few years, we've taken steps to advance this mission. We created a toolkit for school communities to prevent, respond and recover from racist incidents. We've begun to prepare our teachers and school leaders to use equitable practices and engage in uncomfortable conversations about race and discrimination among themselves and with students and families. We're recruiting more minority educators, so more students see teachers, principals, and superintendents that look like them at school. Moving forward we will continue to build and offer more trainings to equip teachers and school leaders to support their own self-awareness and on how to create more equitable and thoughtful learning spaces. This isn't a victory lap – it's our responsibility, and it's a call to action as more work needs to be done.

We need to continue to dismantle the barriers to opportunity.

We must work together to reconstruct this system so it serves everyone equitably. We need to call on our elected officials to equitably resource our schools – accounting for not just academics, but the social, emotional, and mental health needs of our communities. We need to construct an education system that empowers our black and brown youth and gives them the tools and supports they need to be our next generation of leaders and change agents. Leaders in our classrooms, leaders in our corporate suites and executive offices, and leaders in our communities.

The work is difficult but needs to be done. We must use this moment to recommit and move forward. We cannot look back a generation from now and say, "what if we had done more?"

In my role as an education leader, I will continue to denounce and speak out against racism and inequities. I will continue to advocate on behalf of our students impacted by educational structures that have failed them. And I will lead my organization to keep equity at the forefront of everything we do.

We need to reimagine what an education system can look like without barriers. We need to hold one another accountable to advancing these goals. And we need to use this moment, this outrage, this commitment to move forward.

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