Jan 9, 2012
Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school board ran into trouble after announcing they would close or “turnaround” 21 public schools, and open 12 new charter schools – some put in buildings that had housed public schools.
Several of the targeted schools have fought back. Teachers at Piccolo and Casals elementary schools canvassed their neighborhoods, discussing with neighbors and parents. Teachers at Casals drew up a fact sheet refuting the Board’s reasons for closing the school. Together, teachers, students and parents of the two schools organized an after-school protest.
Parents at Christopher House Elementary circulated a petition protesting the decisions to open a UNO charter school on their school’s campus. More than 1000 community members signed it including almost all the parents. UNO is a charter school network run by a friend of Rahm Emanuel.
The night before the December Board meeting, the teachers union organized a rally of five hundred outside the board, including teachers from the targeted schools, students, parents, and other activists, including from Occupy Chicago. About forty stayed overnight to be in line for the board meeting the next day.
At the Board meeting itself, the audience decided it had had enough of the Board’s lies. A parent got up to speak during CEO Brizard’s presentation, backed up by members of the audience. When security escorted the parent out, others intervened, until the School Board retreated into its private chambers. The teachers union continued the public meeting, with parents and staff presenting their problems in the room without the Board.
A week later, there were rallies at eight of the schools targeted for closure.
People need to go on fighting to keep their schools. Closing schools and opening charters benefits no one, but some real estate interests – displacing poor children out of neighborhoods where condos are to be sold to upper class people. But this policy has not meant educational improvement for the students.
If the past ten years in Chicago Public Schools have shown anything, it is the failure of the policy being pushed by Emanuel and Arne Duncan, former chief of Chicago Schools and now Obama’s Education Secretary.