Honoring MLK: Fight for education opportunities, equity

Apr 4, 2018

Today, on the anniversary of his assassination, people across the country are remembering the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and assessing the impact of his legacy on today’s society.

A big part of that legacy has to do with access: access to jobs, access to housing, access to financial freedom, and access to political power.

One of the key underpinnings for all of those issues, the most important area of access for future success for people of all races, genders, religions and economic statuses is access to a quality education.

The Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri is fighting to improve this key access issue throughout Missouri by working to help families have more power over choosing where to send their children.

School choice, whether it be the freedom to attend a public charter school regardless of where your house is located, getting help covering tuition for an innovative private school, getting access to more high-level courses through virtual education, or taking advantage of a high-quality neighborhood district school, is all about giving every person the opportunity to get the best education possible.

This is the dream that Dr. King envisioned: a world where every child could access the key right, education, that would set them on the path to equality.

A new book, An Education Dream, examines how the fight for education opportunity has unfolded in the city that Dr. King died in 50 years ago today.

The new anthology by the Campaign for School Equity, with support from the National Civil Rights Museum, tells the story of that unrealized dream — the story of education in Memphis in the 50 years since Dr. King departed this earth and left us to make his education dream a reality.

In the book and the video below, Tennessee Charter School Center CEO Maya Bugg talks about how charter schools, and their integration into a public school system, have helped to improve education outcomes in Memphis and helped the city move closer to Dr. King’s dream.

The book also highlights the work of Stand for Children Tennessee, a non-profit similar to Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, focused on helping parents and students fight for better access to high-quality education.

Stand for Children Tennessee Memphis City Director Cardell Orrin talks about how the fight for education needs to be focused on what is best for kids, not on preserving existing institutions that may not be truly helping to build a community that is just.

As important as improving access to education is, Dr. Howard Fuller, a leader in the national school choice movement, also points out in a new opinion piece that access alone will not guarantee better outcomes.

“We must recognize that true education reform does not begin or end at the schoolhouse door,” writes Dr. Fuller. “If we are truly going to honor King, we must be willing to fight for laws, policies, and practices that impact our students’ lives every day.”

“If we are going to honor King, we have to do better at putting ourselves into the shoes of the students entering our classrooms,” he adds. “We need to respect these students and provide a caring, nurturing environment that will help them see the benefits of education and encourage them to want to learn.”

So as we remember the work of Dr. King and his legacy over the past 50 years today, let us also ask what the next 50 years will look like and what we can do to make sure that it is a bright future for every child.