‘Teach-in’ Shows Opposition to Chicago School Closures

A “Teach-in” at King College Prep High School in Kenwood this weekend attracted more than 400 parents, community organizers and union members, wanting to build grassroots opposition to plans for shutting down or overhauling 14 Chicago public schools, writes Andy Grimm at the Chicago Tribune.

“We need to be here. If it’s not my school on the list (to be closed) today, it could be tomorrow,” said Jeanette Taylor-Smith, vice chairwoman of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

Chicago Teachers Union hosted the day of community organizing workshops. Officials from the event said plans by Chicago Public Schools to shut down four schools and overhaul the staff at 10 others are bringing parents and union members together in concern.

During her opening remarks, teachers union President Karen Davis attacked plans to turn struggling schools over to private managers. This drew “raucous” applause from the audience, which included parents wearing T-shirts bearing their neighborhood schools’ logos and a handful of younger Occupy Chicago organizers.

The school board is set to vote on the restructuring plan in February, but the teachers union and parent groups plan to rally support and publicity for the threatened schools with demonstrations at school board meetings and other sites, Davis said.

Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey claims that the union’s strategy of grassroots training has garnered success in the past.

Another district restructuring effort in 2004 sparked similar controversy when it was announced, but a dozen schools were spared from being closed under the CPS’ Renaissance 2010 plan, thanks in part for the several community protests that sprang from similar sessions.

Many parents were said to have left the event geared up for a fight against the CPS school board and other powerful voices in the district’s restructuring debate.

“I’m glad we’ve got a lot of people involved,” one parent said said. “We’re going up against some big competition.”