Friday, March 22, 2013

Fighting School Closings, Chicago Style

Do you know what Unity Caucus people are going to say? "You see, if only the CTU had not been so militant and struck. This is retaliation. We know how to deal. We know we have to be good boys and girls and they will let us live a little longer.

Karen Lewis would say they want to kill us sooner or later. Our only chance is to fight them on all fronts sooner and with all guns blazing.

In reality, if CORE had not won the election, the Chicago Teachers Union would be a bare bones shell by now. And what irony that the very people who led the CTU down the road to extinction are now saying that CORE did not do enough. The proverbial guy who kills his parents and pleads mercy on the grounds he's an orphan.

Chicago Teachers Union Closings Update
Dear CTU member,
You probably heard yesterday that the school district plans to close, co-locate and turnaround 70 schools this year. Your sisters and brothers in the CTU will stand tall with you during these difficult times. You have newly won rights in this situation, and our field staff will help you assert them, should the need arise.
The CTU will continue to fight any and all school closings or other actions that displace our members and harm the education of our students. We are planning a mass rally on March 27th, we are developing legal challenges to these closings, we will continue to pursue legislative action, and we will continue working with our members and community to build a mass movement to stop this massive privatization drive. Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked Board of Education are attempting the largest mass school closing in the history of the nation—but the mayor is more vulnerable now than ever, thanks to the strength we have all built together with parents, students and community.
We have the momentum, for the first time:
  • Thousands of people came out to public hearings to reject school closings over the last month.
  • The public knows CPS is lying about the budget and underutilization because they are:
    1. expanding charters
    2. inflating the deficit
    3. creating $1 billion more in liability, by CTU estimates, if they actually do what they promise (hardly likely) and install air conditioning, provide sufficient security, and adequate social supports to the receiving schools, and
    4. they will increase class size, not decrease it.
  • Rahm hopes to project strength with these closings because he is actually weaker now than ever.
  • Black aldermen and legislators are finally waking up to the realization that this will have a devastating impact on their communities.
  • The newspapers are actually covering the educationally damaging and discriminatory impact these closings will have on Black students, special needs students, and low-income communities.
  • Our members are united like never before. We held a packed House of Delegates meeting on school closings just last week. 250 people have agreed to be arrested on March 27th and schools are ready to take the next steps.
Everyone knows the closings will increase the violence and harm the academic opportunities for our children. CPS has even adopted military planning strategies for these closings. They mean to make war on our neighborhood schools. It seems that Rahm is more committed to a high “body count” of school closings than helping our communities survive and thrive.
What can we do?
  • Know your rights – in the event that the school does close you should be aware of what your rights are.
  • The March 27th Rally is essential. It is one of best chances to show how strong and powerful we are. If we flood the streets with thousands, surround City Hall, take hundreds of arrests and express a booming rejection of these harmful, undemocratic policies, we have a fighting chance.
  • Take home all your parent phone numbers over the break and get them to come out on the 27th and to a future meeting to fight the school closing.
  • Come to the Bank of America action tomorrow, Saturday 3/22/13, to make them give $36 million back to CPS for rip off loans since 2008 -- this money, if returned, could keep all our schools open and then some. The training and action is from 10am to 12:30pm tomorrow at 2229 S. Halsted.
We must prepare for a big confrontation. Power concedes nothing without a fight; it never did and it never will. The future of our public schools and the well-being of our students are in jeopardy. This is a critical battle and your union is with you 100%.
Please contact Lupe Coyle if you would like to schedule a meeting with members from your school during Spring break to meet with an organizer or field representative. We will get back in touch with you as soon as possible to schedule a day and time.

Here is the Ravitch post with Karen Lewis' response

Karen Lewis on Chicago School Closings

by dianerav
The mass closing of public schools in Chicago should be the lead story on every news channel tonight. It is not. The fact is that a dozen years of No Child Left Behind and three-plus years of Race to the Top has persuaded the American public that closing schools is "reform."
It is not.
It is a dereliction of responsibility. It is an abdication of any oath of office that a public official in this country takes. It is a betrayal of any commitment to equality of educational opportunity. It is a capitulation to corporate interests. I wish I could be in Chicago on March 27 to stand with the teachers, parents, and students who have been abandoned by Rahm Emanuel and all those who carry out his shameful orders to close neighborhood public schools.
Here is the statement of Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union:
CHICAGO –The Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the following at a news conference regarding proposed school closings:
“We are standing here today in the beautiful Mahaila Jackson elementary school in our city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. This school was named for one of the greatest gospel singers in our nation’s history, a woman who sang at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, a woman who was instrumental in our Civil Rights struggle. Unfortunately, we are gathered here today not to talk about this pioneer or even about how this school does an outstanding job of providing a great learning community for some of our special needs students. We are standing here because this school, along with scores of others, has been targeted for closure by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Public School district....
“Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscious will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the Black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS School Actions are African-American. And this is by design.
“Closing 50 schools is not grand or glorious. This is nothing to celebrate or marvel.
“These actions unnecessarily expose our students to gang violence, turf wars and peer-to-peer conflict. Some of our students have been seriously injured as a result of school closings. One died. Putting thousands of small children in harm’s way is not laudatory.
“There is no safety plan. There is no transportation plan. The city has already raised CTA fares and now they expect parents to put their five-year-old on a crowded city bus in order for them to get to school, when they used to be able to walk to a school in their neighborhood. The way this is being done is an insult and it is disrespectful.
“The CTU is the bargaining unit for 30,000 of the district’s employees SEIU and Unite HERE represent thousands more. Yet CPS did not feel obligated to brief any of us in advance of today’s announcements. Instead, they called a few aldermen last night and then summoned principals this morning at 6:00 a.m. to spring the news on them. They had no consideration for their employees or our students—at all. They have no regard for our parents. They do not care about the children of their employees, many of whom also attend our public schools.
“I also find it extremely cowardly for the Mayor’s administration to announce these actions while he is vacationing out of town. They are also making this announcement days before people are headed into spring break. CPS has spun our entire district into utter chaos, a management model perfected on Clark Street where they are headquartered.
“This city cannot destroy that many schools at one time; and, we contend that no school should be closed in the city of Chicago. These actions will not only put our students’ safety and academics careers at risk but also further destabilize our neighborhoods.
“This is why we intend to rally, united and strong, on Wednesday, March 27 to send a signal that we are sick and tired of being bullied and betrayed. Some of us are going to put our bodies on the line—because a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And when we declare the victory, some of us will sit back and sing the lines of one of Mahaila Jackson’s songs—How I Got Over.
“Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit. We are the city of big shoulders and so we intend to put up a fight. We don’t know if we can win, but if you don’t fight, you will never win at all.
“The people of this city can no longer sit back and allow this mayor, his school board and his corporate cronies to run rough-shod over democracy. They’ve turned their backs on affordable housing; turned their backs on job creation; and, now they’re turning their backs on our students, their families and our schools. We are tired of playing their school reform games. But who are the winners and losers? Who made the rules? And what do they keep telling the losers to keep them playing their games?
“We do not have a utilization crisis. What we have is a credibility crisis. CPS continues to peddle half-truths, lies and misinformation in order to justify its campaign to wipe out our schools and carry out this corporate-driven school reform nonsense. CPS continues to peddle an ‘underutilization myth’ and ‘billion dollar deficit lie’ as justification for their actions. When research and the facts prove them wrong they simply reconfigure their talking points in order to further perpetrate their sham and to keep us playing their school reform games.
“For the past several weeks there has been a resounding cry against school actions from parents, students, educators and community stakeholders. The Mayor and the CEO have ignored these petitions for justice at these hearings and apparently have not listened to single word that was said. Parents have been direct, loud and clear. Students have been loud and clear. Principals have been loud and clear. Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been loud and clear: DO NOT CLOSE OUR SCHOOLS! GIVE US THE RESOURCES WE NEED, RIGHT NOW, TO SUPPORT OUR STUDENTS AND GIVE THEM THE EDUCATION THEY DESERVE.
“Enough with the lies and public deception: School closings will not save money and taxpayers will not see costs benefits in two years. Why? Because vibrant school communities will be quickly transformed into abandon buildings, neighborhood eyesores and public safety hazards.
“This is the mayor’s 25% solution. Yet, who will be held accountable when one of our students is harmed as a result of these policy decisions? And, who will be the ones to ensure justice is served?”
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at


  1. Unity slugs like me wont say anything bad about Karen Lewis and her decision to strike in Chicago. But we will point out that she, unlike you, bears the burden of leadership. In the real world, decisive actions provoke responses, and the outcome is never predictable. But in your world, Norm, there are no negative outcomes. Had you been in charge, not one school would have been closed, every grievance would be won, all contracts would have raises with no givebacks, and the politicians would all clamor to pass labor-friendly laws.

  2. Ahhh, the burden of leadership wears so hard on your shoulders. In my world I am a realist and not an idealogue. I believe in taking what you can get but without saying " surrender" first. In essence you are pretty much saying what I accused you of -- her decisive actions causes this retaliation. Ask Karen if she would do it again. In your world you would take 25 closign schools not organize a massive reaction to it and claim victory.

  3. Back in September I was asked to show my support to the CTU with a donation. I gladly did this. However I will not be that stupid again. The teachers in Chicago diserve to be fired. When I saw what the city was offering (5 months to find a new job) I said to myself anybody who votes for this contract is an idiot. The city will start massive closing of schools and fire the teachers. Chicago teachers I have no sympithy for you. You got exactly what you voted for. Good luck being unemployed.


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