'Chicago is at the epicenter of the education justice fight in America, and today the nation is watching… CPS policies are the status quo, and because of these force fed reforms, the majority of our students, most of whom are black and brown are experiencing a form of educational apartheid…'

"Chicago is at the epicenter of the education justice fight in America," Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis began her remarks to the Chicago Board of Education at the beginning of public participation during the February 22, 2012 meeting of the Board. The complete video of Lewis's remarks is now available on line. The URL for those who cannot get a hotlink is

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaking to the Board of Education on February 22, 2012. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Video of Lewis's speech by Al Ramirez.Substance will be publishing more in print and in video during the next week. Those who participated in the February 22, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education and who would like to share a copy of their remarks in print should email a digital copy to

Lewis began her remarks with the following words.

“Chicago is at the epicenter of the education justice fight in America, and today the nation is watching…”

"CPS policies are the status quo, and because of these force fed reforms, the majority of our students, most of whom are black and brown are experiencing a form of educational apartheid…"

Below is the complete text of Ms. Lewis's remarks, courtesy of the Chicago Teachers Union website (

President Karen GJ Lewis Board of Education Remarks 02/22/2012

Chicago is at the epicenter of the education justice fight in America--and today the nation is watching. We believe 17 years of CPS’s failed, unjust policies have led to the current crisis we have in our neighborhood schools. CPS’s polices ARE THE status quo; and because of these force-fed reforms the majority of our students –most of whom are black, brown and poor --are experiencing a form of “education apartheid.” This is not the type of world-class education our students deserve.

Children who need the most resources get the least. Parents who cry out the loudest have had their voices drowned. Schools that deserve the most support purposely get little, and according to CPS, this fiscal starvation could last for up to a decade. Instead, these neighborhood schools are labeled as failing; teachers and school workers are labeled as failures; students are labeled as having been failed; and minority caregivers are labeled as failed and uncaring parents.

This labeling is done in order to justify the current process of destabilizing black, brown and poor neighborhoods; it is done to trick the public into believing ‘what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right.’ It is done to push a political agenda that seeks to destroy public education and render even more generations of youth into the achievement gap.

Four of the members of the Chicago Board of Education (above, top) during Karen Lewis's speech. Whenever Lewis speaks to the Board, Penny Pritzker devotes herself to reading something rather than listening, at times glaring at the union president. Left to right, above, Board President David Vitale (under the seal), Penny Pritzker, Rodrigo Sierra, and Andrea Zopp. Al four, along with the other three members of the Board, later voted unanimously and without debate to approve the school closing and reconstitution recommendations of Jean-Claude Brizard. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Teachers, paraprofessionals, students/parents and community members DO NOT control the policies, purse strings or curriculum of the Chicago Public Schools. We have no say/no vote in whether or not today the Board will award AUSL nearly $30 million in public resources that could have gone to neighborhood schools in the first place.

Other than “ritual participation,” we believe the authentic voices of CPS parents, Local School Council leaders, legislators and independent members of Chicago’s faith community have been excluded from the decision-making process. On the other hand, we remain disappointed that people affiliated with (and who support) CPS’ agenda have admitted to paying people $25 to $50 to provide false testimony at legal, state-mandated school hearings in an orchestrated effort to silence the real, authentic voices of Chicago’s parents. We are appalled that CPS vendors, some of who’ve reaped millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, have engaged in this immoral conduct in order to produce an affirmative vote on school actions that will directly benefit their organizations.

We are upset that well-researched, school revitalization plans and other measures proposed by parents, educators and community leaders have been virtually ignored by CPS. This is why over the past several weeks proponents for quality schools, student achievement and successful graduation, as well as professional teachers, have taken to the streets—hoping the Board would hear us.

As stated in our groundbreaking report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve, we believe that every student deserves a coherent curriculum, high standards, good discipline, parental support, a professional teaching force and well-run schools. Parents, students, educators, and community leaders must be equal participants in determining how goals and policies are set; how resources are allocated; how curriculum is developed; and how our neighborhood schools operate.

This is why the Chicago Teachers Union stands in solidarity with these parents, activists and others today, in calling on Members of the Board of Education to do what is just. Support our schools, do not close them. Do not turn them around. Honor the moratorium. Take a bold step in the right direction. Reject the status quo. Prove your independence. Show your moral courage.

And to the thousands of parents, students, community leaders, activists, educators, and clergy who have united in this education justice fight, I leave with you these words:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of the deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena: whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; and who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows the triumph of the high achievement; and who, at the worst; if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

Thank you.


February 23, 2012 at 11:27 PM

By: John Kugler

Chicago Workers Occupy Goose Island Factory

“We are not leaving until we are satisfied,” Melvin Maclin, a worker at Serious Materials and vice president of UE Local 1110, told the Occupied Chicago Tribune.

Arise Chicago issued an action alert announcing the action:

UE [United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America] union is occupying Serious Materials factory, the former Republic Windows, right now.

They need your help and support!

Please come as soon as you can!

Join UE and Arise Chicago:

1333 N. Hickory Chicago (Division & 3 blocks west of Halsted)

According to organizer and journalist Micah Uetricht, who is updating from a press conference at the scene via Twitter: “[W]orkers were told today it was to be last day of production. Workers demanded chance to find buyer, save jobs… or start worker-owned cooperative. Company said no, so they occupied.”

Pizza was delivered to the occupying workers, but met with some resistance from Chicago police present. According to Uetricht, the pizza was let in after chants of “let the workers eat,” and after one supporter told the police: “Sir, you don’t want to be on camera denying workers pizza.” But according to Chicagoist reporter Aaron Cynic, the CPD “refused to let more food into” the building.

When the factory was Republic Windows and Doors, it was the recipient of millions of dollars of TIF money from Chicago taxpayers. In 2008, the factory drew national attention when around 200 workers participated in a six-day sit-down strike to demand severance pay and back wages.

Occupy Chicago’s labor committee has announced that they support the workers’ occupation of Serious Materials.

We’ll have more updates as we get them.

February 24, 2012 at 12:02 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Schools are not meant to be "flipped"

President Lewis's speech is beautiful in its eloquent distilling of the truth. Clearly, unlike those who would "destroy schools in order to 'save' them, Karen has spent many years of her life actually working with children inside a CPS classroom.

The bottom line is that schools should not be "flipped" like so much real estate. Parents and teachers who are in it for the long haul (which is to say all of the formative years of a child's life and then some) understand what the lawyers and the businessmen and the politicians refuse to acknowledge: children are not served by upheaval.

Although the immense value of stable adult figures in children's lives does not fit neatly into any quantifiable data, upon a moment's reflection, it is easily understood as foundational to the emotional health of our most valuable national resource: the next generation.

Those of us who believe in Public Education, who have committed our lives to it, understand that destroying school communities comes at a catastrophic cost to our children and our collective national interest. As sad as today is for those of us who believe in Public Schools and the need to provide a sense of security to our children, we recognize the need to redouble our collective efforts to help the powers that be understand the implications of their actions on our communities.

Finally, as President Lewis notes, I take great comfort in the fact that together we continue to spend ourselves fighting for a worthy cause.

February 24, 2012 at 7:11 AM

By: Bob Busch


The Pepper Shaker.... As we continue our own modern day trail of tears the past is just a memory and the future looks bleak. Yesterday many teachers and students awake to realize their lives are going to be changed forever. Students are about to be poured into a vast pepper shaker then sprinkled around the South and West sides of this city. Just to garnish the latest flavor of the year scam. Teachers will be honorably terminated ending vocations that in some cases have spanned over thirty years. Heartless scoundrels seeking wealth will celebrate their victory while telling parents to take an old cold tatter and wait all of this for nothing because in five years everything will be worse than it is now.

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