IMG_2748*NEW YORK, NY  — Holding signs charging “Separate and Unequal, Still” and “Great Schools Now,” 18,500 parents, students, and educators rallied in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza on Wednesday, demanding an end to education inequality that traps 478,000 New York City children—90% of whom are black and Hispanic—in a separate and unequal system of failed schools.

After the rally, hundreds continued on to march across the Brooklyn Bridge to join Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

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Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe Award Winner Jennifer Hudson, international DJ and producer DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Grammy-Nominated Aloe Blacc performed for parents at the rally, amplifying the call for bold action for every child in New York City to receive equal access to excellent education.

Speakers to the crowd of 18,500 assailed the “Tale of Two School Systems” that foreclosed opportunity for children trapped in failed schools. According to a recent study on educational mobility by Families for Excellent Schools, A Tale of Two Schools, students attend one of two distinct sets of schools that are walled off from each other. The 116,000 students attending the city’s top 141 schools are essentially guaranteed academic success because their elementary schools commonly feed into the city’s best middle and high schools. But in a separate, unequal, and effectively segregated set of 850 schools, 478,000 students (90% of color, 89% living in poverty) are consistently trapped in low-performing schools, with only a fraction able to escape and attend a quality school. The number of students locked in this inferior school system is bigger than the entire school districts of Dallas, Washington DC, and Boston combined.IMG_3043

“For too many kids in this city, zip code determines destiny,” said Grammy-nominated Aloe Blacc. “There are 478,000 mostly black and Hispanic students trapped in a system of schools that are failing them. In reality, this is not one system, but two — separate and unequal — and children of color are the ones who suffer.”

While hundreds of district schools have failed black and Hispanic students in New York City, charter schools have proven to be effective in bridging the city’s racial achievement gap. Black and Hispanic students in the city’s charter schools performed nearly twice as well on math (42.8% proficient) than in district schools (22% proficient) and nearly 50% better on English Language Arts (28.1% proficient in charter schools; 19.5% proficient in district schools).

Parent speakers told stories of their children being trapped in failed schools while Mayor de Blasio’s administration abandoned education promises and offered only incremental steps in his first two years in office. Parents demanded immediate access to excellent schools, particularly public charter schools, not more rhetoric and incremental change.

“For my family, these two school systems are a matter of life and death,” said Jessica Ramos. “We’re going to rally, and march, and organize our communities. We’re going to fight back against these separate and unequal schools.”

“It’s time for the Mayor to stop opposing charter schools, and give families access to the schools they want. It’s time for the Mayor to live up to the promises he made to New York families. It’s time to end this Tale of Two School Systems!” said Zarida Teel.