We are entering the third generation of children educated under mayoral control which has proven to be, by any measure, an utter failure. Particularly for Black/Latinx/Native American and immigrant students, those who are unhoused, in juvenile detention, and those with special learning needs; from the educationally and physically challenged to G&T students of color. Thousands of them could be in Specialized high schools today were it not for racism.

The purpose of education is the full development of each child’s rich potential. A human rights approach to public education and school governance would include children’s right to creative expression, emotional and social capacities, physical development, critical thinking habits and skills, as well as their academic competence.

The role of neighborhood public schools must be the social, cultural and educational anchor for a healthy community to be actualized. Neighborhood schools must be supported and strengthened as this anchor. They are what’s most accessible to students and parents, and most responsive to the needs of the community and its elected officials.

A teacher’s work is to guide student learning. Real learning includes grappling with topics that have meaning to each of us as individuals. Learning how to deal with conflicts in a positive manner is imperative to education as it addresses the goal of full human development.

This pandemic has shown us—now is the time to implement alternative forms of assessment instead of relying on biased high-stakes tests and screenings which are by definition, an inequitable and racist sorting of students.

As a nationally recognized educator, Kathy Swope has said about the centrality of “multicultural education…it is not just including perspectives, insights and information from various cultures or groups…It’s an ongoing process that empowers students to view the world from multiple perspectives and to understand the ongoing dynamics of this rapidly changing world…The anti-racist component is included when you talk about empowering students to make changes in the world, to make critical judgments about justice and equity, and not to be complacent about the status quo or about historical omissions and distortions.”

Parents and community members have a human right to participate in all decisions concerning them and their children. This is especially important in public education, which has such a pervasive influence on the quality of all their lives. The current variety of mandated constructs developed for parent engagement and involvement hasn’t resulted in parents as partners, and must be designed collaboratively by the parent community themselves. Mechanisms for parent community decision-making at all levels must be in place for these decisions to occur and take effect.

Mechanisms must be established to identify funding priorities at the school,

community and city levels. Such mechanisms will challenge the priorities of the central bureaucracy and enrich debate.

In the human rights model, teachers and their unions have a special responsibility to become partners in the social justice reform of our inequitable educational and social institutions, especially those that affect the communities they serve.

Hence, the only way forward in this era is to have a school system built on human rights principles such as a People’s Board of Education, a schools’ governance structure so democracy and accountability are both the means and the purpose of decision-making with teaching, learning, and community participation.