Activist planning education rally

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An East Liberty activist yesterday said the Pittsburgh Public Schools' restructuring efforts aren't enough to lift black, poor students out of "subservience" to white, higher-income peers, and he called on residents to join him in an education rights campaign.

Salvador Wilcox, chief executive officer of Education Innovations Inc., has planned an "Education Crusader" rally for 11 a.m. May 17 outside school district offices in Oakland. "Education Crusader" is the name of Mr. Wilcox's blog.

While he said students and teachers should consider walking out of their classrooms to take part, school district and union officials cautioned against that.

"There's no question that teachers should not leave their assignments to participate in such a rally, regardless of how important the issues are or well-intentioned the organizers of the rally are," Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President John Tarka said.

School district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said, "Of course, students need to be in school on a school day."

Education Innovations is an East Liberty nonprofit group that's been trying for more than a year to obtain the district's permission to open a charter school. Mr. Wilcox said the district's rejection of various groups' charter school proposals has put poor and minority students at a disadvantage because wealthier families upset with the district's academic problems can move to the suburbs or pay for private schools.

"Our low-income children have not been taught at the same level as their high-income counterparts. Our poor children do not have the opportunity to attend college. Our children cannot get living-wage jobs," Mr. Wilcox said in what he called the first of a series of pamphlets.

Since joining the district in August 2005, Superintendent Mark Roosevelt has unveiled initiatives to boost overall test scores, shrink achievement gaps and better prepare students for the global economy. He has called for more choice in high school programs, and he and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl have unveiled the Pittsburgh Promise to help students pay for college.

Ms. Pugh said the district doesn't object to "quality" charter schools.

Mr. Wilcox announced formation of a fund, "1954 Pittsburghers," to raise money for the charter school that Education Innovations still hopes to open.

He said the group is seeking 1,954 donations of $1 to $1,000. The fund takes its name from the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling that struck down school segregation.


Joe Smydo can be reached at jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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