The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago:
Twenty day hunger strike for new school

Jun 11, 2001

Starting May 13 fourteen people started a hunger strike at 31st and Kostner Streets in Chicago to demand a new high school. Four other people soon joined the hunger strike which was taking place in a tent camp in the Little Village Mexican area. The hunger strike attracted considerable attention in the Mexican community. Hundreds of people regularly came to visit the fasters.

In 1998 the Chicago Board of Education had announced that it was going to build a new high school at the location and allocated 25 million dollars for construction. In 2000, the Board's budget listed the project, but removed its funding. Meanwhile the city built two high schools elsewhere in the city designed for students directed toward college.

The hunger strikers complained about conditions at Farragut High School, located a bit north of Little Village. There are constant problems with gangs, drugs and violence, with the police outside almost every day. A number of the mothers on the hunger strike said they didn't want their children to be bused to other schools, but to go to high school in the neighborhood.

School Board Chief Executive Paul Vallas said of the hunger strike, "It's not going to force me to make a decision." But within days Vallas was forced by Mayor Daley to resign as the head of the School Board, following Gery Chico, who resigned as president of the Board.

But the removal of two officials does not mean that the parents have won their school. It's simply an old trick the politicians play –remove an official to play for time, hoping that people's anger dissipates.

The majority of parents with children in the public schools today are angry at the terrible conditions they are in. If the parents are to really have their demands met, they'll have to continue and broaden this fight.