Chicago Teachers Kick Off Three-Day March Against Mass School Closings
Chicago Teachers are taking a stand once again in protest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to close dozens of schools in low income Chicago communities—this time with a three day march for "education justice."
The Chicago Teachers Union launched the march Saturday morning, with plans to tour throughout the city, stopping at several schools targeted for closure along the way with "block party style rallies."
The 30-plus mile march, “Our City. Our Schools. Our Voice,” is slated to include thousands of parents, students, teachers, clergy, citizens and community leaders. The route will end with a mass demonstration in Daley Plaza.
Emanuel plans to close a total of 54 Chicago schools—a move that many have said will disproportionately affect low income, minority, and and special education students.
As one writer at Daily Kos reports, "Many of the neighborhoods along the South and West side routes that marchers will travel already have been adversely affected by rising crime during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first term, in addition to the long-term impact of massive home and business foreclosures and steady unemployment."
As Valerie Strauss reports for the Washington post,
...independent hearing officers who were hired by the school district to look at the plan to close the 54 schools said they opposed closing 13 of the targeted schools for several reasons, including child safety and lack of evidence that the students were being assigned to better schools, something that schools officials said would happen
Many parents of the 30,000 affected oppose the closures because of safety concerns. Many children will have to walk through violent neighborhoods, and go to school with other students who are considered enemies — and their parents don’t believe that the city’s Safe Passage plans to get young people to and from school will work well enough.
The mass public school closings in Chicago sparked a pair of federal civil rights lawsuits earlier this week, charging that the proposed closings "will inevitably put [minority students] at greater risk for academic failure."
One lawsuit charges the Chicago School Board with violating the Illinois Civil Rights Act by "singling out poor and marginalized African American children to bear the educational and human costs of the closings."
"This city has worked systematically to undermine our public education system and destabilize certain communities," said recently re-elected Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
“Despite the testimony of thousands of parents, teachers and people who work and living in the school communities impacted, Rahm Emanuel is dedicated to entering the history books as having destroyed the most public schools in one year than anyone in history,” Lewis said. “He refuses to listen to independent judges, law enforcement officials, educators, researchers and the students themselves. We have no choice but to use power of organizing to engage in what will be a long fight to restore sanity to our school district.”