CTU and community partners to hold vigil at Chicago Board of Education on the night of December 13, 2011

Continuing a tradition that can be said to have been initiated by many of those who are currently in the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union during the coldest nights of January and February 2009, the Chicago Teachers Union is co-hosting a vigil against the 2012 Hit List outside the headquarters of the Chicago Board of Education at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago on the night of December 13, 2011. The vigil will begin at 6:00 p.m. and will last all night. At its end, people will sign up to speak out against the 2012 school closing and turnaround "Hit List" proposed by the Board of Education and announced to the public on December 1, 2011.

On the night of February 24, 2009, dozens of people gathered in front of CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. to hold an all-night vigil and camp out (in tents) opposing the school closings and other changes that were to be voted on the following day. Above, early in the evening of the vigil, Jackson Potter, at the time a teacher at Social Justice High School and a leader of CORE, spoke to the press about the opposition to the closings, which were then under Mayor Richard M. Daley's "Renaissance 2010" program. Now, nearly three years later, many of the same protesters will be outside CPS headquarters on the night of December 13, 2011 to protest another round of closings. Daley is gone. Ron Huberam (CEO at the time of the 2009 vigil) is gone. But under Chicago's ruling class, the new mayor (Rahm Emanuel) and the new CEO (Jean-Claude Brizard) following the same script. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.According to a December 12 press release from CTU:

Chicago Teachers Union organizes parents against CPS “school actions”; candlelight vigil, other protests planned

CHICAGO – Arbitrary school closings, turnarounds, consolidations, phase-outs and other drastic “school action” reform measures will not reduce the achievement gap among Chicago Public School students. Ignoring poverty, income disparities and racial inequities within the city’s school district only deepens the education divide. This is why the Chicago Teachers Union will engage in a series of direct action campaigns designed to educate the public about the hidden costs of CPS “school actions.”

— CTU will lead a spirited, candlelight vigil and sit-in at 6 p.m. Tuesday, December 13th in front of the Board of Education, 125 S. Clark. Scores of people, including parents, students, and civil rights community and economic justice activists are expected to attend.

One of the "victories" at the February Board of Education meeting in 2009 was the termination of the threat to close Peabody Elementary School, in the 27th Ward. CPS voted to close one of two community schools (Carpenter) but announced that Peabody would not be closed. Above, Peabody children and parents join with protesters during the vigil on the night of February 24, 2009. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.— On Wednesday, December 14th, at 9:30 a.m., CTU, school leaders and community activists will conduct a news conference at 125 S. Clark before the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting. Following the news conference, parents, educators and others will give testimonies to Board members about proposed “school actions.”

— On Thursday, December 22nd, a number of city-wide, non-violent actions will be held simultaneously to protest proposed “school actions.”

— In coming weeks, CTU will conduct briefings about the implications of school closings with members of the City Council.

“It is critical that we increase our capacity to fight against these misguided policies that only hurt our students and children,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “School closings, turnarounds, consolidations, and phase-outs simply do not work — and we have 15 years of evidence to support this. Shutting down one under-resourced school and sending its students to another under-resourced school makes absolutely no sense at all.”

Before the tents were placed on the sidewalk in front of 125 S. Clark St., leaders of the protest, including Jitu Brown and Rico Gutstein (on the right in the above photograph) had to negotiate with police. Police eventually agreed to allow six tents for the protesters overnight. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. CTU is a leading voice in the fight to save neighborhood schools from capricious and arbitrary “school actions” by the Board of Education. For the past several weeks, the Union has held a number of community education forums and parent organizing meetings in neighborhoods where schools are targeted for CPS “school actions.” On December 4th more than 500 people attended a teach-in at King College Prep High School.

Union leaders contend that the Board’s policies adversely impact African American students, who bear the brunt of these “school actions,” and ultimately cripple communities and perpetuate poverty and neighborhood violence. The majority of schools targeted by CPS this year for “school actions” have predominantly black student populations and teachers.

“Instead of fixing the structural problems within our system, CPS’ answer has been to blame the parents, blame the teachers and blame the students themselves,” Lewis said. “Our children deserve equal access to a high quality education in the neighborhoods in which they live. The Board must stop starving our schools of the resources they need and shutting them down when it’s politically and economically feasible to do so.”

CPS had minimal security during the night of February 24, 2009, and protesters were allowed to use the washrooms inside after an arrangement was made. In 2011, CPS security under Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard has created a virtual police state both at CPS headquarters and in the schools where Brizard holds carefully staged meetings with "parents" while excluding most parents, all teachers, and anyone else who disagrees with his policies. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.[The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at] 


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