Chicago Teachers Protest Closures, March for ‘Ed Justice’

In a show of solidarity against Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to close down or turn around failing schools, the Chicago Teachers Union and various community groups came together on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to march for ‘education justice’.

The event saw almost 400 teachers, parents and activists marching from Marquette Elementary School to Marquette Park.

Marquette Elementary is one of the schools targeted for a turn around, with the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership looking to take it over this year, writes Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah at the Chicago Tribune.

The measure would see the replacement of all school staff with new teachers and administrators.

Protesters held their march to fight for what CTU president Karen Lewis called “education justice”:

“What we’re seeing is our neighborhood schools being starved, and schools on an upward trend being snatched for a turnaround.

“There’s new political change in the city, but we’re going back to the old way of doing things.”

The CTU and community groups believe the district should be investing resources into underperforming neighborhood schools instead of closing them down and bringing in private managers.

“If they have the money, why don’t they just put that money into resources that we’re asking for, instead of bringing the turnaround?” asked Kim Hemphill, a parent and marcher.

There are 10 schools currently on CPS’s list for turnaround this year. This is the first time so many schools have been marked for overhaul at once.

Although proposals have yet to be approved by the Board of Education, contractors are visiting the school daily to assess repair needs for the turnaround, says Marquette teacher Marcy Hardaloupas.

“Some of our classrooms don’t have intercoms,” Hardaloupas said.

“Back in August, they made us a Track E (year-round) school, but we were only given fans. Now we have contractors coming in, taking measurement to install air conditioning.”

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district proposed the measures because only 57 percent of students graduating from high school, “we must take action now to provide them with access to higher performing schools.”