As Chicago plans to close more public schools, parents' hunger strike enters second week.
A group of parents and community members from the South Side of Chicago have gone on a hunger strike until the Chicago Board of Education agrees to a proposal to revitalize a their local school. The strike has entered its second week and one of the strikers is now in the hospital. Dyett High School will close its doors by the time the 2015-16 school year begins, unless officials decide to move forward with a proposal to convert it into a charter school. The Global Leadership and Green Technology High School are the two current choices available.
To understand what is happening in Chicago, and why the story has gained national attention in the news and on social media, you have to look at the long, heated fight between the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D). In 2012, there was a massive teachers strike over maintaining the schedule for career advancement, putting less emphasis on standardized testing in teacher evaluations and providing compensation for longer school years.
In 2013, Emanuel announced that he would close 49 schools, which were mostly in the African American neighborhoods. Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis has accused the Mayor of being racist. she believes that the choice of the schools was not done by circumstance but out of a dismissive attitude towards minorities. ” Lewis led protests outside of City Hall, with enraged protesters who also called the proposed closures racist.
However Mayor Emanuel claims that the school closures and other reforms would be beneficial in the long run for students and the city, The former Obama White House Chief of Staff said: “We used to have four out of 10 kids drop out of high school … In two years’ time, we’re going to have eight out of 10 graduate high school. And more kids now are going to high school than ever before in the city of Chicago.” The data he used to come up with those projections have come under great scrutiny and is said to be overly optimistic.
Members of the Bronzeville section of Chicago have banned together and started a hunger strike to fight the closure of the Dyette High School.. 11 hunger strikers, one of which; Jeanette Taylor-Ramman is in the hospital, continued their protest Wednesday.
Jeanette called into the "Ed Shultz Podcast" show this morning from he hospital bed to update Mr. Shultz on Rahm Emmanuel' war on public schools. During the broadcast Ms. Taylor-Ramann said: "I willing to die to show the kids that someone loves them" - "The problem she says in Chicago is that the city the community has decided that they do not love them"
Asean Johnson who at the time was only 9 years old brings the crowd to their feet at Chicago school closings rally in 2013
There is urgency to this issue because the Chicago Public School system is having a budget crisis, as it is still in negotiations with the teachers union and cuts may exceed $200 million or the district must borrow more money if more funding is not provided. They face a 1,500 staff layoffs and the city estimates a $1.1 billion budget deficit for next school year.
CPS now wants the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to loan $500 million to help offset the budget deficit and for teachers to take a 7% pay cut. CPS critics and union supporters say that the school board has spent millions building new buildings that will eventually be used for private/charter schools.
Civic Federation, a fiscal watchdog group based out of Chicago has issued a prediction stating that the entire school system could fail if a multi-year plan for Chicago Public Schools is not created soon. Over $6 billion of the school district’s debt falls into the junk bond category Reuters reports.
School closings in minorities neighborhoods was going on long before the Emmanuel administration. In addition Chicago schools are one of the most segregated school systems in America. Mollinson Elementary School in Bronzeville, the school Taylor-Raman’s children attend, is 90.8 percent how-income and 99.6 percent African American. Contrast that to white students who make up 9.2 percent of the district overall. White students tend to belong to magnet schools and selective enrollment charter schools in the district.
Chicago is but one example unfortunately. All over the nation the private-charter school lobby are buying politicians that are seemingly hell bent on destroying public schools in low income and minorities neighborhoods. The problem with public schools overall is lack of federal funding. In general funding for schools comes from property taxes and with the value of homes plummeting not to mention the high rate of unemployment there is less of a resource pool. Then of course the problem is magnified in urban cities because property taxes are generally lower then suburban areas and the population is greater. The issue is one of the greatest if not the greatest issue facing our nation today.