Action Now joined other community and labor organizations made up of parents, students, teachers and community members for a rally and press conference at City Hall on November 2nd to call for a moratorium on school closings and charter expansion, as well as to request a meeting with Mayor Emanuel.
The event began with over 100 people rallying on Lasalle Street outside of City Hall chanting slogans like, “Hey Rahm, we’re no fool, you will not close our schools!” Then everyone went to the 5th floor of City Hall to hold a press conference outside of the Mayor’s office.
Windy Pearson, Action Now member and LSC member, led the press conference, “The truth is that closing neighborhood schools has nothing to do with improving education or fixing budgets. It has to do with making more room for charter schools that are operated by rich corporate businessmen. The real agenda is to privatize our schools. CPS and Mayor Emanuel want to do to our schools what Mayor Daley did to parking meters! Well we’re not going to let them!”
Other speakers at the press conference were parents and students from Action Now, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Albany Park Neighborhood Association, VOYCE and Teachers for Social Justice. Chicago Teacher’s Union Vice-President Jesse Sharkey also spoke. After the press conference, parents, teachers and students held a sit-in outside of Mayor Emanuel’s office in an effort to get a meeting with him. They stayed until 10 p.m. and instead of getting a meeting commitment, they were arrested!
The rally, press conference and sit-in were held because Chicago’s students, parents, teachers and neighborhoods are suffering from school closings, turnarounds and consolidations that disrupt children’s education and hurt communities. The Consortium on Chicago School Research has found that school closings fail to improve student achievement and that the racial achievement gap has only gotten larger.
Schools targeted for closing and turnaround are often in African-American and Latino low-income communities. A study published last month by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that in Chicago, nearly half of the black students are in schools that are at least 99 percent minority. The study’s lead author, Gary Orfield, wrote that segregated black and Hispanic schools offer students “profoundly unequal opportunities.”
Action Now President Michelle Young said, “There is a racial and economic bias in CPS policies of schools closings and allocation of resources. It is time for the community to have input in all school decisions. Our neighborhood schools should be supported, not closed and privatized.”
Video of parent Jeanette Smith from Kenwood Oakland Community Organization explaining why she attended the rally and was willing to be arrested:
Chicago Tribune, “CPS wants to delay decision on school closings”
Catalyst Chicago, “In the News: Protest, arrests over school closings”