The Spark

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

Chicago School Demonstrations

May 13, 2013

The past weeks have seen a number of demonstrations against the mayor’s school board, and their drive to privatize Chicago’s public schools and decrease the educational opportunities available to Chicago’s students.

More than 200 students from half a dozen high schools in the city boycotted the second day of Illinois’ state tests. The students first gathered at the Board of Education headquarters, protesting the overuse of standardized tests and school closings. The Board did not allow them to speak. The students then bused down to a demonstration at Banneker, an elementary school slated to be closed.

In another demonstration, parents at Dewey Elementary protested the Board’s plan to “Turnaround” their school this year. In a “Turnaround,” the entire staff of a school is fired, from the principal to the lunchroom staff, and a new staff brought in, under management of a private contractor. Parents upset about the plan gathered at Dewey and disrupted an attempt to inventory the school’s materials for the private operator.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to use an advanced curriculum program as an excuse to fire a number of veteran teachers at some high schools. When students at Lincoln Park High school heard that eight of their teachers would be fired, they staged a walkout. Hundreds of Lincoln Park’s 2,000 students stayed out of the school for three hours on a Friday morning, to protest the firings.

Five parents and sixty-five students at Williams Elementary on the South Side of Chicago staged a sit-in at that school to protest its closing.

Emanuel says he will not listen, that his closings plan is final. But a number of parents, teachers and students are showing they’re not ready to accept that.