CORE community forum on public education in Chicago
The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) sponsored a community forum on August 13, 2008, at the Rudy Lozano Library in Pilsen. The forum entitled “A Panel Discussion to Develop a Progressive, Grassroots Agenda for Education in Chicago”, provided an opportunity for educators and community organizations to start a dialogue to create a mutually beneficial platform on education in Chicago.
The panel included educators and community activists from across the city. The participants included Cecile Carroll, Blocks Together, Wanda Hopkins, Parents United for Responsible Education, Alejandra Ibanez, The Pilsen Alliance, Laura Ramirez, South West Youth Collaborative, Rodney Estvan, Access Living, Karen Lewis, CORE, Reverend Robin Hood, Clergy Committed to Community, and Jitu Brown, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization. The event was attended by members of CORE and other Chicago residents.
Each panel member shared their organization’s mission for education and current issues they are working on. Afterward, there was a discussion session with the audience. This invoked a thoughtful conversation of the problems we all face in improving education in Chicago. An overall thought that came out of the forum was that teachers and community organizations need to collaborate more and form a strong grassroots coalition to fight Mayor Daley and his corporate takeover of our schools. All the speakers agreed that teachers and our union must meet them as equals, based on mutual respect and that the CTU has been silent in outreach and mobilizing/educating teachers to join hands across the city with community groups like these.
The Reverend Robin Hood reminded everyone how powerful The Chicago teachers Union should be. “The CTU is 32,000 members!” the Reverend exclaimed, “Mayor Daley should be calling Marilyn Stewart and asking her what she and the union need.” He went on to point out the impact a movement in this city could have if just a percentage of those union members along with parents and community groups worked together to improve the city schools. Reverend Hood also stated that he believes we need to work together to enhance our public schools not create more charter schools. Hood says, “I have seen no evidence that charters are giving our kids a better education.” Our kids need to be in public schools with teachers that are certified to teach.”
“Teachers need to be allied with community groups” Alejandra Ibanez said. She would like to see teachers sit down with The Pilsen Alliance and other grassroots organizations like hers so that teachers can educate the communities about issues the community struggles with such as No Child Left Behind. “We would like to hear the teachers’ perspective on what they see as the challenges facing our schools.” Ibanez was also very critical of politicians from her own neighborhood who she feels have been “missing in action” in the dialogue and battle for school improvement.
Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization stated that “we are in a fight for democracy when we talk about school reform.” He called for “equity in education and housing in Chicago.” He brought attention to Mayor Daley’s plan to bring the Olympics to the south side in 2016 and called it out for what it truly is, “the opportunity to expand the Loop and displace the lifelong residents of those communities.” He reminded us how the gentrification issue ties in with education because as we all know if those communities do gentrify they will surely bring another wave of schools that could possibly be charters. Brown said he would like to see more forums set up where teachers and activists can brainstorm ideas. He also asked for CORE’s help in reaching out to teachers in his community’s schools who he feels are frustrated and are seeking an alternative to the current means that teachers have for trying to make improvements.
This forum, the first of hopefully many sponsored by CORE, was a great start to a dialogue that is direly needed in Chicago. As teachers we do need to be more of a presence in the communities we teach in. We can educate the community and the community can educate us. I know after this forum I felt I did become more aware of many things. We need to join together to improve our schools. Who knows more about what our kids need, the politicians in city hall and Springfield or the parents and teachers of those kids? Let’s work together and make this a movement we can all share in.