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Students hold education summit, organize city-wide action for Friday, January 15...

Time and time again, the over 200,000 students in the Chicago Public School system are reminded that their voices will be suppressed if their opinions are not aligned with decisions made at 42 W. Madison. Despite some efforts made by CPS to be more inclusive, the students in the schools are silenced.

From a one-minute video on the "City-Wide Student March for Educational Equality" Facebook page.CPS created the Honorary Board Member, who is a student serving one term and must attend the monthly meetings. The student must be accompanied by a chaperone while attending the board meeting. Furthermore, the students rank and position is evidently lesser than her fellow adult board members, for their seat is not of equal height as other board members, nor facing the attendees. But instead positioned next to the recording secretary. The name Honorary Board Member insinuates that the privilege is an honor and not a right.

In 2013 CPS created the Student Advisory Council that is meant to be a direct communication and recommendation between CPS students and the CPS CEO, however students involved in the council (who wish to remain anonymous) say otherwise. A second term student said, They had us create a survey, but then CPS refuses to help distribute the survey to all CPS students. Another member characterized the council as their excuse to say but we have student voice. Now students involved in the council said they may no longer have funds to continue afloat, nor leaders for sessions. If this councils budget were to be cut, the hope students had or have will quickly vanish.

The outcry of student voice to be prevalent has forced students with no other choice but to stage study-ins, walkouts, lunch boycotts, read-ins, and a march, planned for Jan. 15. The increase in student-led actions since early October is in part due to the increased awareness of the continual divestment in traditional district-run schools. However, many students are still unaware and do not have a proper resource to information. A coalition of student organizers from eight schools held the first Student Informational Summit on Jan. 9. Student organizers of the event spent numerous days during winter break collaborating to create the first event of its kind. With the help of the Chicago Teachers Union, students were reserved a room at SEIU at 2229 S. Halsted.

The event started off with presentations by grassroots organizations Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) and Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). Marcos Ceniceros of BPNC spoke on efforts to combat charter expansion and efforts so that CPS can have a democratically elected school board. Jitu Brown of KOCO spoke to students about the power of organizing and how we should not organize around what is comfortable to us. After the presentation, students had the option to attend two of five student-led breakout sessions, relating to TIF money, toxic swaps, understanding the teacher contract, charter expansion, and the Illinois State Budget in reference to education. As organizers do, they presented next steps to the crowd of 40 students.

This marks the first of many summits as well as student actions this school year. Friday, Jan. 15 will mark the first student-led action since break. Students, parents and allies will march for educational equality starting from the Thompson Center at 9 a.m. to Benito Juarez HS. See the Facebook page "City-Wide Student March for Educational Equality."



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