December 3 — 1:27 pm, 2009

Youth groups push for voice in national education tour

Members of the Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change protested the kickoff of a national “Listening and Learning Tour” by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Reverend Al Sharpton, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Philadelphia in September.

The goal of the trio’s tour, which started at Mastery Charter School in West Philadelphia, and later made stops in New Orleans and Baltimore, is to engage communities and gather feedback around the issue of education reform.

But youth advocates here say they are outraged that the leaders of the tour did not include students in the discussion about America’s urban public schools.

“It’s supposed to be a listening tour, but the community members whose voices should be heard aren’t being heard,” said PSU member Koby Murphy, a graduate of Bodine High School for International Affairs.

PSU and YUC members say they made many attempts to meet with the trio prior to the tour’s launch but received no response.

PSU Executive Director Nijmie Dzurinko said the organization now has an agreement with Duncan and Sharpton to have students, parents, and community members meet with them when they return to Philadelphia. 

PSU is following up, but Dzurinko said they’ve gotten no response lately. “We have made it known that we are interested in meeting with them,” she said.

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