Schools Close Despite Student Walkouts and Mass Protests
There was a huge, defiant protest of parents, students, and teachers at the Board meeting February 27th, 2009. Around 150 students walked out of Orr High School and picketed in front of the Board; buses and vans came from other schools. Some TSJ teachers took off work and some brought students to the protest.
Congratulations! Despite carefully prepared testimony and strong evidence, school protests, door to door organizing, petitions, and courageous stands by families, students, communities, and teachers, the Board went ahead and voted its plan to close, consolidate and reconstitute 18 schools. Abbott Elementary School parents were victorious in stopping CPS's plan to close down their school which is the heart of the Wentworth Gardens housing community. Congratulations to Abbott parents and staff for this important victory!!
Two things are clear:
1) There is a large outpouring of opposition and many strong parent and community leaders with the clarity and will to fight for quality education for all children in their neighborhoods. They are an inspiration and the base of a city-wide movement to take back Chicago public schools.
2) CPS administration has acted with complete disregard for the will of the community and all evidence contesting their plan. The "hearings" were a complete sham. Jobs in "turn-around" schools run by AUSL were already posted and postings closed by Feb. 20, 7 days before the board was supposed to weigh the evidence and make a decision about the schools. Parents at one school were told their school would be phased out even though officials had not looked at the evidence they presented. The board meeting was worse. Although we arrived at 6:30 AM they wouldn't let us sign up to speak until 8AM; they "reserved" exactly half the seats for CPS staff and only opened one overflow room to keep the public out of the public hearing. They kept out the hundreds of others who came to oppose the board's decisions even though there were empty seats in both rooms. They arrogantly disrespected the parents and students who spoke against the board's decision. Neighborhood schools are being replaced with magnet schools, disenfranchising communities of color and handing over their schools to gentrify neighborhoods and/or save the board money.
TSJ is working with an emerging coalition that includes Pilsen Alliance, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Save Senn, Midsouth Education Association, Blocks Together, parent groups at schools, and other community groups. Our common message is: Moratorium on all school closings until there can be an independent study of the effects on students and school communities. School decisions should be determined by the school community.
*Strengthen and expand a principled coalition for equitable and quality education in the hands of communities. Define what this means and develop a protracted plan of unified action.
*Strengthening democratically elected local school councils through a state law and by going all out for the LSC elections. TSJ CALLS ON ALL TSJ TEACHERS TO RUN FOR THEIR LOCAL SCHOOL COUNCIL AND ENCOURAGE ACTIVIST PARENTS IN THEIR SCHOOLS TO RUN. AS TEACHERS, WE NEED TO WORK TO MAKE LSCs PART OF THE BACKBONE OF THIS FIGHT FOR OUR SCHOOLS.
*Build a campaign for an elected school board and the end of running schools as businesses for business. We need schools of social justice.