“If you’re from Barry Farm, you’re entitled to the same education opportunity as those who live on Brandywine Street in Northwest,” attorney Johnny Barnes told The Education Town Hall on Jan. 24. (Listen beginning at 40:40.) Barnes, self-described “People’s Lawyer” and former executive director the the American Civil Liberties Union-National Capital Area, outlined legal action in response to the DCPS Consolidation Plan, which disproportionately affects African American and low-income students. He is working with Empower DC to legally block 15 school closings planned for this year.

Barnes seeks to “remind the city and the government” of the District’s “rich and very proud tradition” of fighting for equal education. He spoke of the Hobson v. Hansen case (1967), which challenged the practice of tracking only some students for college prep. The case, he said, “ended unconstitutional tracking and forced equal spending and equal use of resources across the city not concentrated in the more wealthy areas of the city.” The current litigation strategy aims to halt further educational inequities in the District.

Questions, Concerns about Consolidation Plans

Also on the Jan. 24 show, independent school finance consultant Mary Levy questioned savings the District is hoping to realize through the closings and the reasoning behind upheaval to the lives of thousands of the city’s most vulnerable students. Levy also seconded the concern, noted by Council Member David Catania, chair of the Council’s Education Committee, that DCPS is at a tipping point, with the District poised to lose its system of neighborhood schools.

Additional call-in guests — describing their ward’s response to closing announcements — included Eboni-Rose Thompson of the Ward 7 Education Council, Donna Stewart of the Ward 8 Education Council, and Faith Hubbard of the Ward 5 Education Council.

January 24, 2013 Education Town Hall