Saturday, February 28, 2009

People need to know what is happening in Chicago--forecast for the US

People need to know what is happening in Chicago because it is a preview of the national agenda for urban schools.

Since 2004, under Arne Duncan, Chicago has been closing neighborhood schools in African American and Latino working class communities and turning them over to charter schools, selective enrollment schools for new gentrifiers, or to an outside “turnaround specialist.”

We have been fighting for quality neighborhood schools in every neighborhood and against these school closings every year. This year Duncan, before he became Sec. of Ed, recommended closing or turning around 22 schools on a few weeks notice. In the end the Board of Ed. voted to go ahead and close or "turn-around" 16 neighborhood schools, rocks of stability in their communities, each with a compelling story to tell. We saved 6.

We, a multiracial coalition of grass roots community organizations, teachers, parents, and students are angry but not surprised. They ignored research data (2 reports that disputed their reasons for closing the schools), the data from the parents and teachers and students who testified for hours and compiled elaborate piles of documents in their defense.

At the Board meeting, Board members admitted not one had read the testimony from these hearings -- the tears, anger, pleas, careful documentation and reasoned argumentation of hundreds and hundreds of African American and Latino working class parents and children and their teachers and administrators.

This travesty of democracy and disrespect, this crass closing of neighborhood schools for gentrification and charter school give aways, this "cost cutting" on the backs of Black and Brown communities is made possible in part because the mayor, who works in collaboration with the most powerful corporate and financial interests, runs the school system and appoints the Board of Education and CEO of CPS. They are completely unaccountable. Now Arne Duncan recommends Detroit (and what other cities?) follow Chicago’s lead with mayoral control.

After candlelight vigils in the cold, many many community meetings, 2 mass rallies and marches, a tent city sleep over in front of the Board of Ed in subfreezing temperatures, and many other kinds of protests, we are tired but unbowed.

We are pushing for a retroactive moratorium on school closings in the state legislature right now and regrouping for the next phase. It's the parents, especially women, and youth and community members who are the heart and soul of this fight.

Their courage and determination to fight, to picket and march and speak out day after day, to become media spokespeople overnight, and to rise up as grassroots leaders should inspire us all. It's a long fight because the stakes are high. People need to know. This is the national education agenda on the horizon. We have to stop it.

For good coverage of the recent phase of our struggle see

Teachers for Social Justice, Chicago

Pauline Lipman
Professor, Policy Studies
College of Education
University of Illinois-Chicago
1040 W. Harrison, MC 147
Chicago IL 60607-7133

1 comment:

  1. If Chicago public school activists organized a REALLY BIG protest in advance, and got the word out inviting their sympathizers from out-of-state to attend the protest on their behalf, I would definitely plan on going. I'd even try to drag my family along.

    I think the Chicago organizers might get hundreds of extra people from all around the country.

    Maybe such a rally could become our first national big stand. It's about time our side gets some national press.

    I'm sick and tired of all this crap. I hate crowds but I'd be happy to put up with one to make this big point to the nation.

    I hope you'll pass this idea along to anyone you know in Chicago. Maybe they can identify a date that has meaning (for instance, Tuesday, October 20, 2009 will be the 150th anniversary of John Dewey's birth).

    Let's get the ball rolling!


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