Teachers protest before Board of Education’s July 28 meeting

More than 110 people, most of them teachers and members of the Chicago Teachers Union, protested in a spirit picket line outside the headquarters of the Chicago Board of Education an hour before the Board’s montly meeting on July 28, 2010.

Despite the expensive and dangerous obstacle course created on orders from Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman in front of the Board of Education's headquarters, Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey (above, with bullhorn) was able to talk to the spirited crowd of more than 200 union members and supporters during the picket line on Clark St. prior to the July 28, 2010 Board meeting. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.Eventually, the protest took up the entire east side of Clark Street from the alley north of the Board headquarters to Adams St. One line was going north under the scaffolding (that seems to appear at the Board whenever protests are planned) as the other line went south outside of it. Several people noted that it was a pain in the butt to manuever around the scaffolding as well as the the large planters.

The pickets chanted as they marched, protesting the firing of hundreds of teachers by CPS officials this summer. Many in the line also poked fun at CPS officials who claimed there was a huge budget “deficit” while wasting millions of dollars in ways that every teacher can see.

The pickets were organized by the new leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, which took office on July 1. The new officers, who ran for union office on the CORE slate and who defeated the old officers in a June 11 runoff, are Karen Lewis (president), Jesse Sharkey (vice president), Michael Brunson (recording secretary), and Kristine Mayle (financial secretary). The CTU no longer has a treasurer as a result of a November 2009 vote to eliminate the position orchestrated by former CTU president Marilyn Stewart.

The pickets were required to run an obstacle course around the eternal scaffolding that CPS keeps in front of its headquarters building to discourage protests. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.The main speaker at the protest was CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey, who two months ago was a history teacher at Senn High School. Sharkey told the crowd that the union was going to fight against all cuts and refuse to accept the increases in high school class sizes that Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman was trying to implement, behind claims that CPS still had a massive budget “deficit.”

Many in the crowd were veterans of earlier protests, and began nothing that CPS seems to be creating a fortress outside and inside the building under Huberman and Board President Mary Richardson Lowry. The scaffolding and blockages that CPS arranges on protests days are similar to the blockades against the public ordered by Huberman and Lowry inside the massive Loop office building. One of the things the blockages accomplish, from the point of view of thwarting protest, is to make it difficult for TV news crews to get a good angle on the protests (unless they fill the streets, as union teachers did on May 25).

While the spaces in front of the CPS headquarters are usually empty (it’s a no parking zone), cars parked in front were also new this week. The police informed this reporter that there were meters there last week — looked like "some kind of VIP parking" and they wanted to but couldn't issue tickets because there were no signs either!

In addition to the scaffolding and large planters in front of CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago, the city added some street work to disrupt the planned protests on July 28, 2010. One teacher commented that the scene was like the political disruption satirized in the HBO movie "The Wire" that has become a bible of sorts for many of those now organizing the insurgency in CPS. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.There were no special signs in the windows of the SUVs that were lining the street and blocking much of the protests. Substance reporters have promised to go downtown in the coming days, to check in front of the building, because it looked like "free public parking" was available to help thwart protests. One teacher noted wryly that the entire scene was like something out of the HBO series "The Wire," where politicians and media cooperate.

No meters. No signs saying "No parking." “Apparently this is the only block in the downtown area with that old time freedom…” said one teacher.

Teachers who attended the protest and the Board meeting promised that regular protests were going to continue until the Board stopped scapegoating teachers and privatizing much of public education in Chicago. 


July 29, 2010 at 12:40 PM

By: vinicius De Mello

Someone set Catalyst Straight they said 75

They said only 75 folks were there

July 29, 2010 at 6:42 PM

By: vinicius De Mello

Someone set Catalyst Straight they said 75

They said only 75 folks were there

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