On Dec. 13, 400 teachers, parents, students and union members demonstrated outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters in downtown Chicago. The protest was called by community organizations in response to the CPS proposal to close down, consolidate or “turnaround” nearly 20 Chicago public high schools and elementary schools.
The plan would displace countless students and would result in hundreds of layoffs. The targeted neighborhood schools are in the city’s poorest and most oppressed communities.
The demonstrators crowded the sidewalk in front of CPS headquarters banging drums and chanting “Save our schools!” and holding signs reading “Stop the Madness! No Turn Arounds!” Many participants of the Occupy movement came in support of the children, parents and teachers. Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation held signs demanding jobs and education and a stop to the CPS board’s racist, pro-business policies.
The next morning, the board held a meeting in which CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was scheduled to present the plan, but protesters entered the meeting and shouted down Brizard and the board. After continuous interruptions, CPS board president David Vitale was forced to end the meeting, telling the crowd that he hoped they had “gotten it out of their system.”
One protester yelled, “We need you out of our system!” as the board quickly exited the meeting. (Chicago Tribune, Dec. 14)
Chicago millionaire Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his cronies on the CPS board are attacking public education and programs for children of working families, as well as the teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union. Many of the targeted schools have recently improved student academic performance and offer many programs and services that would normally not be available to those families who cannot afford to send their children to private schools.
What the mayor wants is to gut the public education system in Chicago, crush the unions and hand over the schools to private interests at the expense of Black, Latino and working-class families.
The creation of a public education system under capitalism was only possible through tremendous struggle, and as long as people live under capitalism workers must continue to struggle in order to hold onto gains won by our class. The teachers, parents and students of Chicago need and deserve the support of all working-class and progressive people against this assault from City Hall and its pro-corporate agenda. We must continue to fight until we have a system in which access to free quality public education is a right and jobs and a living wage are guaranteed for all.