Lindblom students, teachers march against Bank of America's 'toxic swaps' costing CPS millions...

Nine students and eight teachers marched from Lindblom High School to Bank of Americas branch at 69th and Ashland. They were joined by a CTU organizer and a reporter intern from Catalyst Magazine. The student-created posters highlighted the expansion of charter schools, the SUPES contract, and the threatened mass layoffs.

Lindblom protesters at Bank of America may have begun the push for the Bank of America boycott. The Bank of America, along with other major banks, has profited from the variable rate bonds that Chicago Public Schools entered into on the advice of David Vitale and Arne Duncan between 2003 and 2005. At the time, such deals were illegal, since the Board was supposed to do only fixed rate borrowing. Substance photo.Students also created a giant Bank of America Withdrawal slip, to highlight the fact that Bank of America has benefited from an $80 million dollar from CPS, as a result of a Toxic Swap arrangement with the Board of Education. Bank of America stands to make around $60 million more from these swaps.

The Chicago Tribune has noted that other municipalities have renegotiated similar arrangements reducing their costs in the swaps, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education have refused to follow suit. Representatives of the Chicago Teachers Union, Substance, and the Roosevelt Institute spoke at more than a dozen Board of Education meetings urging the Board to try and arbitrate to reduce the impact of the "swaps," but the Board refused.

Once at the branch, the marchers got inside the Bank's vestibule, but did not manage to get into the lobby. We displayed the oversize withdrawal slip at the door. All along the march route, students and teachers passed out flyers, explaining how Bank of America is profiting at the same time students at public schools see programs and staff cuts. The response of those in the community was overwhelmingly positive (I do not recall a negative comment or response to us, until we got to the aldermans office).

CTU protesters are working to learn the locations of every Bank of America branch in Chicago. Substance photo.On the march back to the school, the ralliers stopped by the office of the 15th ward Regular Democratic Party. The ralliers knew alderman Ray Lopezs ward night was to take place in Brighton Park, and thus did not expect him to be present; we hoped to get an impromptu audience with a member of his staff. The march entered the office quietly; a constituent was receiving services via speakerphone.

Alderman Lopez was in the office, he refused to speak with us; he soon asked us to leave which we did, also quietly. Outside the door we waited, but neither the alderman nor any of his staff came out to say anything for 10 to 15 minutes. Presuming he was trying to blow us off, the students started chanting vote him out.

Staffer Frank Arroyo came out and spoke with this writer. He reminded us of Lopezs record on charter schools: Lopez indeed was one of 42 aldermen who signed onto the charter school moratorium. We said we had marched to Bank of America, and asked if he was familiar with the banks toxic swaps? He said he was not, but when we tried to explain he cut us off. Mr. Arroyo came back out, asked who the delegate was: he had someone from the union on the phone, apparently under the impression that this would get rid of us.

Arroyo noted that we were not constituents, we protested that as students and staff at a school in the 15th ward, we were clearly stakeholders. Eventually we left. Students saw that the alderman refused to even say a word to a group of high school students and teachers, and that his staffer would not engage either. He presumed us to be hostile, which we were not. Our intention was to find out the aldermans position regarding school funding, and whether the city should try to get money locally out of financial institutions like Bank of America. Everyone in attendance got a practical lesson in Chicago politics that day.

NB: Lopez also is on record as being opposed to the new Noble campus, and was opposed to the Concept Charter schools as well. He has stated on his facebook page that he will hold a community forum regarding the Noble Street Campus, and that hed like our group to attend. We will be there, and hope he is willing to speak to us then.

[Full disclosure: the author of this piece helped organize the rally described.]


November 3, 2015 at 5:08 AM

By: Jim McCoy

One down, 599 to go against Bank of America

Thanks for the report on the protest by Lindblom teachers and students. Now that the Chicago Teachers Union has called for a boycott of Bank of America, shouldn't other schools be doing the same thing, since there is a Bank of America branch in just about every Chicago community?

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