Students pressure decision-makers at Board meetings

Demanding a democratically elected school board and an end to the racist closing of neighborhood schools affecting minorities, high school students from Lindblom, Walter Payton, Lane Tech and Whitney Young spoke out at the Chicago Board of Education meeting on Nov. 18.

Students at the Friday, Nov. 13 rally, demanding education reform.Although the students came from selective enrollment schools, they spoke about the neighborhood schools. The 50 school closures have affected 87 percent Black students, 11 percent Latino students, and 94 percent low-income students.

�Prioritize kids over the mayor�s wealthy friends,� Whitney Young senior Charles Kotrba said. �Oh, wait, your are his wealthy friends!� This was a part of a series of attacks on the board made by students. The students, including Lane Tech senior Vivian Tran who spoke about not cutting teachers and Kotrba, who called for money to be returned to CPS, identified problems, and also provided viable solutions that can be made both locally and downstate.

This reporter, editor of Walter Payton�s Paw Print, and Tran, editor of Lane Tech�s Warrior, asked that the Board, Mayor Emanuel, and Governor Rauner take the Athenian Civic Responsibility Oath, an oath that would demonstrate that the jobs and education of teachers and students are truly valued.

�We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the City's laws and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.� � Athenian Civic Responsibility Oath

The board meeting presentations were an effort by students to convey � to not only the school board but politicians both locally and down-state � that their education and educators should be valued. Both Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool have publicly praised student efforts that continue to bring attention to the CPS crisis over the last few weeks.

The November board meeting initiative was the fourth planned event in the previous four weeks by students across Chicago. The display of student power has been the strongest in recent years, with the hope that if necessary they will match the over 200,000 students that boycotted against segregated schools and inadequate resources for black students in 1963.

�It is important that students realize the effect any cuts could have on the families of teachers and that teachers are an instrumental part of Chicago�s education system,� Payton senior Felize Odisho said.

In an effort to garner student involvement, student leaders at numerous schools are encouraging students to attend the

Chicago Teacher Union�s mass rally on Monday, Nov. 23, at 5:30 p.m. in Grant Park


A recap of the previous three events since October 28, 2015:

Week One: On October 28, 2015, students organized a study-in at CPS headquarters during the board meeting. They wanted the mayor and Board to publicly pressure Springfield to pass reform that would not only avert the current crisis, but provide a some-what long term solution. While they were meet with a crowd of charter school proponents, the mass of over 100 students marching and screaming �save our teachers!� quickly dispersed pro-charter advocates.

Week Two: On November 6, 2015, students held a massive demonstration with over 350 students attending. Students from the far south side to near northside circulated the Thompson Center for two hours with a singular message; demanding reform to be made downstate. A student-favorite chant was � Hey hey, ho ho, Bruce Rauner has got to go,� for students believe the governor�s business mentality only furthers the progress of making education a for-profit system.

Week Three: On November 13, 2015, students organized a rally on Friday the 13th, a day of non-attendance for CPS students. They believed that by holding the event on this ominous day, it would allow them to portray the decisions made by lawmakers on their behalf as inadequate, while showcasing the �scary� power that students have. Over 300 students attended, despite the windchill being at 28 degrees. Speakers were state representative Ann Williams and Jennie Biggs from Illinois Raise Your Hand. Chicago Police blocked multiple intersections in the Loop allowing students to cross diagonally, essentially stopping traffic.


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