Protesters calling for more resources in inner city schools stood across the street from Miami’s InterContinental Hotel on Thursday, where school leaders from across the country were meeting for a national conference on urban education.
A small group representing alumni associations at predominately African-American high schools held signs depicting Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as Pinocchio to draw attention to what they say is an unequal distribution of resources in the school district.
“A lot of the promises he made to us have not been met,” said Milton Parris Jr., the president of Miami Gardens’ Norland Senior High School alumni association and a member of the group, which calls itself ICARE.
Parris accused the school district of misallocating Title I funding, federal funds earmarked for low-income schools, and failing to fund magnet programs in urban core schools. He said the magnet programs that exist are not given adequate resources or teachers trained in the area of focus, like law or robotics.
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The school district strongly refuted the allegations, citing a report issued earlier this year in response to ICARE’s claims. The report found that nearly half of the district’s Title I funding — some $51 million — has gone to schools in districts 1 and 2, areas in North Miami-Dade and inner-city Miami. The district also says that more than half of its new magnet and choice programs are in those areas.
“While we respect and value the opinion of every member of this community through open dialogue, we continue to make every effort to improve historical inequities,” said school district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego. “Students across Miami-Dade, particularly in urban core schools, have benefited from robust academic programs through a variety of first-rate magnet and choice educational options. Over the last eight years, the academic vitality of our most vulnerable schools has strengthened, and none of the schools that were once threatened with closure by the state have met such an end.”
The district pointed to the new $42 million Norland High School building as one example of a recent investment in the urban core.
But Parris, one of seven protesters outside the Council of the Great City Schools Conference, said the new building already has plumbing problems and was built with too few classrooms to accommodate all of the school’s teachers. ICARE members have also voiced their concerns at school board meetings, and the exchanges have been heated. One ICARE member was escorted out of a recent school board meeting after cursing at the superintendent.
Carvalho has won a string of national awards in recent years for his oversight of the largest school district in the state, including being named the nation’s top schools chief in 2014 by the School Superintendents Association.