Students, Parents, Community Members, and Local Politicians Rally, Oppose Cuts to Programs and Staff at Kelvyn Park High School; Condemn Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Board of Education...

Kelvyn Park High School teacher Jerry Skinner speaks against the cuts at the school during the September 8, 2015 demonstration. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.Students returning to school on Tuesday, September 8, 2015, at Kelvyn Park High School (4343 W. Wrightwood) in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago were greeted by a spirited demonstration supporting their efforts to get a good education. Between 90 and 120 people were there to oppose the massive cuts at Kelvyn Park, a neighborhood high school, which is another part of Mayor Emanuels continuing attack on public education. And they also noted this was the 23rd day of the Dyett High School Hunger Strike.

The first speaker was KPHS graduate (2012) and LSC member, Jennifer Velazquez. She got right to the heart of things: We are here today to bring awareness of our neighborhood high school that is being starved for resources. Today, the students will enter KP without a college career counselor, without a clinical social worker, with their teacher who sponsored the National Honors Society, without beloved sports coaches, and yet they are expected to get by, and why does the Mayor and BOE make it almost impossible for low income black and brown students to get the support they deserve?

Speakers noted that KPHS suffered a $2.2 million budget cut, eliminating 19 staff positions. The schools clinical social worker that was lost had been leading a weekly support group for young women who had survived sexual support and abuse. The only college coach, supported by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, had started a legal clinic at the school to provide counsel to immigrant families and students.

Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi joined Alderman Millie Santiago, State Senator Iris Martinez, teachers, parents and students protesting the Board of Education's attacks on the quality of public education at Kelvyn Park High School. The protest took place on the opening day of school, September 8, 2015. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.Erin Mathews, the outgoing clinical social worker, said, At KPHS, I service students with major family discord, who have been raped in the community. I am furious that without someone to speak tosomeone with the clinical experience dealing with these deep issuesmany of my students may fall into deep depression and chronic absenteeism. I am at the point where I just believe that no one cares about poor kids unless they are at Whitney Young.

These cuts are not just the first to hit Kelvyn Park. In 2012-13, the KPHS budget had been slashed by $4.5 million. That was followed by a $1.7 million in cuts last year. And now, another $2.2 million cut. Supporters of the students claim that KPHS is experiencing some of the greatest cuts of any school in the district.

Whats going on? Kelvyn Park is losing students because the BOE is approving charter schools in the neighborhood. Three new charter schools have been opened in the last two years, bringing the total to eight charter and selective enrollment schools in the area. KPHS is down, accordingly from about 900 to 750 students. Supporters are clear: The Board of Education is destroying KPHS by design.

One of the students who spoke at the rally, Junior Derrick Ivy, argued that the Board should be charged with child neglect. You are cutting our education, but we demand equality! He also made an important point. He talked about looking at the history books they were provided with: Mine was published in 1995I wasnt even born yet! [High school history courses are generally the way students are taught not only about the history of our country but are keys to understanding current events; presenting them with books published in 1995and completed in 1992 or 1993is criminal. How can these students even have a chance to understand what is going on with textbooks published when Bill Clinton was president? Not only was that before George W. Bush and Barack Obamas presidencies, but it was before 9-11, before Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. How can CPS argue that a student using a 1995 history book is prepared to understand, much less vote appropriately, when their materials are published in 1995?]

Jerry Skinner, a current English teacher spoke. He talked about how they had to abolish a restorative justice program to deal with conflict among hundreds of the neediest students. Shame on powerful people for doing this.

Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union, also spoke. He said this rally was sending a message to CPS and the Board: This is another sign that there is an emerging high school/neighborhood movement in this city! He acknowledged and supported teachers, students and community members who were becoming active.

Another alum of KPHS, Carlos Miraclecurrently studying at UICsaid he was present to defend my high school one more time. He said it was clear in Chicago that it was survival of the richest.

Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson added his voice to those calling for fair funding for Kelvyn Park High Schools. Brunson is one of the four elected officers who lead the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by Kim Scipes.These students, teachers and community members were followed by local politicians. Illinois State Senator Iris Martinez, Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi, and 31st Ward Alderman Millie Santiago all spoke. Martinez said she stands with students, parents and teachers, and demands greater resources be allocated to the neighborhood schools and that teachers pensions be fully funded. She stated, Education is the most important thing we can offer students.

Guzzardi said last year was a good year, not because of CPS, but despite CPS. He further argued, Equitable education must be provided in every school in Chicago. He also condemned the Mayors politics of draining resources from public schools and giving them to privately owned ones: Its the dumbest policy to drain resources from neighborhood schools. He also called for CPS to be governed by an elected school board.

Santiago followed, echoing her colleagues. Schools are struggling, but all these get is more cuts. This is not right. Where are CPS priorities? she asked. She argued that the impact of these cuts on students must be explained not only to local elected officials, but also the governor.

Jennifer Velazquez, who opened the rally, left students a strong message: We want to remind you, addressing students entering the building, that you are everything. You are amazing and brilliant and we will fight for you. Your dreams are valid. You will be great no matter what. We just dont want you to fight along anymore.


September 11, 2015 at 3:43 PM

By: Debra Adams

Encouraegment to teachers to seek private funding for school projects

I am a former CPS teacher. You know your district leaders have no mind to support your tireless efforts and time spent in behalf of the young people in the community. There is no point in sitting and waiting for help which is not on the way. Under-served schools need to seek funding from private donors, corporations and benefactors. Look for sports figures and others who are able to adopt your school and support viable programs. It is sad that our taxes are no longer supporting schools that were designated to receive the benefit. Fund raising and writing proposals are the key to survival. At least that is my opinion.

September 12, 2015 at 9:32 PM

By: John Kugler

organized citizens.....

.....scare the ruling class. that is why you can only find these stories here at Substance News. Corporate media will never report the organizing or building of class movements against the ruling class for the simple reason that people will then see that the ruling class are actually weak and out numbered.


History is the only true teacher, the revolution the best school for the proletariat.(Rosa Luxemburg)

September 13, 2015 at 7:20 AM

By: Bob Busch


If you get too good at securing funds

an administrator will tell you to cut it out

because it is making people look bad.

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