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An Open Letter to RCSD Teachers, and Urban, Public School Teachers

Op/Ed By Howard Eagle


Howard_EagleAs you all know, due to an array of deep-seated, historic and contemporary issues and problems, many of our students are not doing well (academically and/or otherwise). In fact, larger numbers than ever  have been tuning out, flunking out, and dropping out of school at earlier and earlier ages, which has significantly increased the possibility they will end up in trouble with law enforcement agencies, and jailed, or imprisoned.

We also know that, in many cases, rather than helping to provide adequate and appropriate forms of support, the policies, practices, rules, and regulations that guide and govern our school system function in manners which have a tendency to push students out, as opposed to functioning in manners that increase the likelihood of effectively supporting and retaining them.

There is no denying that a direct link, and correlation, exists between high rates of out-of-school suspensions, and high rates of crime-related probation, and incarceration. This much-researched phenomenon has become known as the school-to-prison-pipeline.

Considering these indisputable facts, many RCSD parents, and local, state, and federal tax-paying citizens, have been absolutely flabbergasted and appalled to discover recently, that the New York State Teachers Retirement System (NYSTRS)  reportedly has invested millions of dollars, via thousands of shares of stock, “in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the largest private prison companies in the world.” This means that NYSTRS “qualifies as a major shareholder in CCA and GEO Group.”

It is unconscionable that RCSD teachers and/or other New York State, urban, public school teachers in particular (but not exclusively), would be supportive in any way, form or fashion of the fact that any part of their retirement funds, or any other type of related funds, are invested in New York State prisons, and necessarily linked to the school-to-prison-pipeline.

It is probably a reasonable assumption that rank and file teachers generally have not been aware of this atrocity, which speaks to the purpose of this article, i.e., to help make them aware.

This very serious matter has been brought to the attention of Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski, who is also a Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers, an organization of which New York State United Teachers, and Rochester Teachers Association, are affiliates. Dr. Urbanski has said that he is attempting to determine whether or not the reported prison investment is in fact true, and has stated that, if it is true, he will “do all [he] can to call for immediate and full divestment.”

There is no doubt that the information I’ve referenced above is absolutely factual. Therefore, now that rank and file teachers have been made aware of the situation, it is our hope, and expectation, that they will join us, and hopefully Dr. Urbanski as well, in calling for immediate and full divestment.

Visit the links below for additional information regarding the matter.