EDUCATORS for BLACK LIVES

Open Letter from Educators of NYC,
Demanding the Defunding of the Police and Investment in BIPOC Communities

attention:

NY City Council Committee on Education
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Mayor Bill de Blasio
Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
District Attorney Darcel Denise Clark
District Attorney Melinda Katz
District Attorney Michael McMahon

June 10th, 2020

To the aforementioned:

As New York residents as well as educators, specialists, professors, counselors, childcare workers, directors, curriculum developers, administrators, and school workers, we are outraged not only at the last weeks of police brutality in response to protests, but also the centuries of systemic murder and oppression of our communities from overfunded and increasingly militarized local police while education budgets barely survive in an increasing and ongoing deficit.

Mayor de Blasio has recently committed to reviewing the New York City budget but has not committed to reallocate the NYPD budget in any significant way. The Mayor’s proposed executive budget currently outlines more than $800 million in cuts to the Education Department. We do not consent that our children lose this plus up to $2 billion more in state aid while the NYPD continues to mobilize aggressively, directly looting tax dollars from the budgets of essential workers, teachers, and our students’ families. Following Minneapolis City Council’s groundbreaking decision to disband the MPD, we urge you to create ethical and equal reallocations of the NYC expense budget, fully away from the NYPD, and towards social and civic services including education and student mental health programs, effective at the beginning of FY21, July 1st 2020.

We write in remembrance of Eric and Erica Garner. We write in remembrance of George Floyd. We write in remembrance of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and the millions of other Black women, men, queer, trans and neurodiverse people who, since the founding of this nation, have suffered systemic violence at the hands of police brutality. We write for the lives of Black and brown children; and Black and brown autistic or disabled children, who have been lost to police violence in the name of "public safety" and remain unnamed to the public. Teachers and support staff de-escalate on a daily basis without resorting to aggression and violence, yet violence and aggression from the NYPD continues to be valued, in budget lines, over the education, well-being, and academic success and psychological safety of our city’s children.

In the wake of COVID-19, children especially have experienced more significant emotional distress due to family member loss, social isolation, and for the vulnerable many, increased time in unsafe homes. A broad range of research shows that children who face adverse events like these are more likely to develop progressively chronic diseases, autoimmune disorders, asthma, depression, anxiety and substance abuse enduring into adulthood. Reopening education in the current pandemic requires substantial resources and attention, including mental health support for students and teaching staff.

It has become clearer and clearer that your policies and the policies of your predecessors have failed education and childcare work, consistently compromising the safety and overall health of Black and brown students and families. We write to make a plea for you to act in solidarity with the ongoing Black and brown movements around the nation.

As educators, we have the responsibility of teaching students to be responsible citizens, proactive community members, and architects of our future - in a diversity of conditions. It disgusts us to imagine a world in which more money is spent on riot gear and tear gas than on learning support technology and mental health resources, for example, that are now more crucial than ever for our children.

As such, we demand the immediate decrease of police presence in response to the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and subsequent Divestment from the Police and Investment in Education and Other Civic Services.

Following the work of Arts Workers for Black Lives and the national Movement for Black Lives, we repeat and unite with the following specific demands:

Immediate Relief for Our Communities

We demand funding for educational support in the form of payroll subsidies, updated curriculum and technology, occupational therapy and mental health services for all students, as well as broader support for our students and their families in the form of rent cancellation, mortgage cancellation, a moratorium on utility and water shutoffs, and a cancellation of student, medical, and other forms of debt. We demand long-term economic solutions like a Universal Basic Income and Universal Healthcare in order to address the immediate crisis and pave the way for a just recovery that does not prioritize corporations and leave our communities behind. Support the families and the lives of those we have lost and those struggling to survive now.

Respect the Rights of Protestors

We demand that no additional harm come to protestors and that all charges against protestors be dropped. Violations of property should never be equated with the violation of human life and integrity. Scale back police presence. Immediately stop the use of tear gas, a chemical weapon banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.

Limit the spread of COVID-19, which your officers have not done enough to address. Your officers have not worn masks, and the doubling of police presence means the doubling of the chance of COVID spread not only in our communities, but among the police force itself. Reallocate the money you are using to mobilize the police toward obtaining and distributing PPE and other medical equipment for hospitals and our communities.

End the War Against Black People

End the school-to-prison pipeline by providing psychosocial services and eradicating police presence in schools, replaced by mental health trained safety personnel. Withdraw participation in police militarization programs. We call for not just individual accountability of officers after a murder, but entire police departments. We demand an end to the criminalization, incarceration, and killing of people. Suspend the use of administrative leave for cops under investigation. Withhold pensions and do not rehire cops involved in excessive force. Require cops to be liable for misconduct and settlements.

Community Control

Hold the NYPD immediately accountable by external community reviews. The most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us, from our schools to our local budgets, economies, and police department.

We, the co-signers of this letter, stand with protesters around the city and nation in demanding deep, systemic change for our communities’ fundamental rights to life. As we work in our practices to continue imagining a more just and equal world, we acknowledge the work that others have done throughout the centuries of our oppression. We amplify the calls for defunding the police and investing in our communities that now form the policy line of the overwhelming majority of us, your constituents.

We are of and for the people. We are only few of many who have no choice but to demand a better future. We will no longer stand by while that future is brushed aside.

To add your name, sign here.