Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) joined community members at the June 26 Seattle Public Schools board meeting, where they expressed their disagreement with Seattle Public Schools quietly dissolving a partnership agreement and a memorandum of understanding between the district and the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA), which would have secured the Robert Eagle Staff Middle School (RES) building facility for Native programming. Sawant issued the following statement of support for UNEA and the indigenous community:
“As reported by the Seattle Times, the Clear Sky Native Youth Council after-school program run by UNEA provides job training, cultural activities, free meals, and most importantly, a network of caring community members who watch over and nurture the students. We cannot overstate the value of the program to students, community, and the school district.
“Across our education system, racial bias in school discipline, poverty, racial discrimination, homelessness and housing instability lead to some of the lowest academic outcomes among our most vulnerable communities. In contrast, UNEA has for over a decade demonstrated 100 percent high school graduation rates for the students who have regularly participated in the Clear Sky program. This year alone, nearly a hundred students have participated in Clear Sky.
From UNEA’s letter to SPS Boardmembers:
(T)here is nothing preventing SPS from maintaining a modified partnership or MOU that honors the agreement made when the Wilson-Pacific site was re-purposed to allow UNEA to continue to access the sacred, historically and culturally significant site free of charge. There is nothing preventing SPS from engaging with UNEA leadership to explore expanding their role in the school and/or district to one that is more robust. There is nothing preventing SPS from amending your aligned partnership policies and procedures to also allow partnerships that align with broader district goals, with which UNEA unarguably aligns.
“At a time of unprecedented inequality, when young people are fighting back against racial injustice, this is a serious step backward by Seattle Public Schools (SPS). After centuries of treaties being signed and then violated across the continent, it’s stunning – though unfortunately not surprising – that Seattle Public Schools is treating Seattle’s urban native community with the same indifference. Native peoples have had to struggle to maintain cultural heritage and murals at RES. This is an unconscionable decision, and I urge SPS to reverse it. I also urge the students, community members and others to build a movement to fight for the reinstitution of this program on an immediate basis.”