Teachers, students, parents and friends of public education confront teacher-bashing 'Stand for Children' event

At least four buses arrived to drop off parents and students at the Stands for Children meeting on April 14, 2012 at Roosevelt University in Chicago. They were greeted by a dozen protesters, most of them teachers, who had already figured out that Stand for Children is the opposite of its name. Instead of a group that promotes the interests of children, "Stand" (as it calls itself) has been pushing an agenda of teacher-bashing, union busting, and the privatization of public schools for several years now, funded by some of the wealthiest people in the USA.

Protesters — including teachers, parents, and other activists —greeted Stand for Children supporters outside Roosevelt University in Chicago on April 14, 2012. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.The April 14 turnout showed that for all its money, Stand for Children didn't have a base worth listening to in Chicago. None of the buses were full, and one of the buses was virtually empty.

Two of the buses were half full and one, from Spencer School, had only four people on it. Two of the buses came from the Southside. They came to hear what Stands for Children had to say about improving education. The buses and other participants were greeted with chants from about 25 activists, teachers, parents, CORE members and students who handed out informational literature on the truth behind Stand for Children.

Karen Zaccor, from Uplift Community High School came to offer her support to the city's real public schools and her opposition to the policies of the Daley and Emanuel administrations. “In 2010 they were going to close Arai," she said. "So we wrote our own proposal and the community chose ours over the others. We had no choice but to go along. It became a middle school instead of a high school.”

She also said “I came because I believe Rahm succeeding Daley is all about privatization of schools and they’ve been working on this or many years. Privatization means no parent involvement, no accountability, and no obligation to make the best educational plan for every child. Stands for Children’s money, comes from wealthy contributors including the Gates Foundation. They are destroying communities by gentrification which then destroys the schools. It’s all part of a plan to redesign the city so the families of low and middle income parents are relegated to a marginal existence. It’s all part of a bigger effort to destroy families. Stand for Children is money for billionaires who try to dodge their tax responsibility. If you get money for education from them, you are funding an outside group. Most of them are not from Chicago yet started to dictate our policy. It’s absurd”.

Jim Paris from the 19th Ward said, “Rahm Emanuel called one of my friends 'Ghetto Irish'.” This happened at a Chicago Blackhawks Game. “We are altering his (Rahm’s) agenda because he has gotten under our skin,” Paris told Substance.

Mr. Paris is a parent who is running for the LSC at Keller Regional Gifted Center. “I live three houses away but my child couldn’t attend despite her test scores,” he said. His child attends Mt. Greenwood Elementary. Jim’s wife is on the LSC at Greenwood and is fighting to get the LSCs more involved in what’s happening with the schools.

Lawyer Jesse Ruiz (above left) defended the Board of Education (on which he serves as vice president following his appointment by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on year ago) when questioned sharply by teachers and students outside Roosevelt University on April 14. Ruiz even defended Board member Penny Pritzker, who raised a million dollars for Stand for Children with a series of phone calls in late December 2010, saying there was no conflict of interest with Pritzker's membership on the school board and her public hostility to real public schools. (The Pritzker family, which once supported public education, is now backing charter schools and funding groups like "Stand" that are attacking unions and the real public schools). Substance photo by Kati Gilson. Jesse Ruiz, Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education showed up at the event. When asked “Do you believe good teaching conditions are good learning conditions?” he replied, “Yes, I generally believe that."

He also said he doesn’t think that Penny Ritzier giving money to Stand for Children is a conflict of interest. Like Ruiz, Pritzker is a member of the seven-member Chicago Board of Education appointed by Rahm Emanuel in May 2011.

“She’s giving her time and is supportive of a lot of charitable endeavors,” Ruiz, a lawyer, told Substance. He also stated that Stand for Children is a charity under IRS laws. He also said Charter Schools are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and have to be more transparent, and more part of the system. They are public schools.

When asked about the hours special Ed teachers were spending revamping IEPs he had no comment.

A number of college students showed up to attend the Stand for Children event and were questioned by the activists protesting.

A large group of college students showed up for the Stand for Children event. Most of the students were surprised to learn that Stand for Children stands for the replacement of real public schools with charter schools and also stands for busting teacher unions. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Connie Johnson, a graduate student at Loyola said “I came here today because I am an education advocate although I‘m not from Chicago and I understand that there are a lot of Chicago politics involved and I do not care to get in those politics but I do want what’s best for children and I’m really not sure that Stand for Children is exactly that however I do honor their efforts in their attempts."

I got a little bit more clarity. When asked why she thinks Stand for Children might not be best for the children, she responded, “I understand when it comes to understand when it comes to education policy you have to follow the dollars I’m not sure where their dollars come from and who their dollars benefit so I would like to do a little more research to find out where their dollars come from and where they are going to end up.”

Some parents leaving the event were hostile when asked what they’d learned inside and others described an experience which left them with more questions than answers. There were conflicting responses to questions including discussions about class size, libraries, and source of funding. Some of the college students, who were communication majors, stopped to have a discussion with protesters and other students just walked away. 


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