Lewis to Lead Chicago Union Protests as School Closure Vote Looms

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago Teachers Union will protest a proposal to close fifty-four schools by marching over three days beginning Saturday, May 18.

Kim Geiger and Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah write that the Chicago Board of Education will vote on a plan to close fifty-three elementary school and one high school on May 22, with the CTU’s protests timed to lead up to the vote.

The district’s school closure plan is unpopular with not only teachers, but also with residents:

“A Tribune/WGN-TV poll found that 59 percent of Chicago voters don’t approve of the school closings proposal.”

School officials hired hearing officers who reviewed the proposal and declared that thirteen of the fifty-four schools should stay open. Details of the proposal were also criticized, as a retired judge serving as a hearing officer reported that the transition plan laid out for Mayo Elementary School’s students did not properly address special needs students.

CTU President Karen Lewis, who is expected to be reelected with her ‘CORE’ slate — which stands for “Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators” — for a second term of leadership this Friday, wants to shed light on what she calls ‘misguided corporate reforms’. Lewis’s slate is opposed by Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, who faces long odds to take control of the Union.

CTU has been in conflict with Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel constantly since Emanuel assumed office, which culminated in a September, 2012 strike that lasted weeks and even became an issue in the 2012 Presidential election. The battle also claimed schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard, who resigned just 3 weeks after the strike concluded, and has continued to the present including a lawsuit against closures and charges by CTU that Chicago Public Schools is engaging in ‘racist’ behavior with the plan.

But Chicago Public Schools isn’t giving up the fight, and they’re standing firm against the Union’s protest:

“Responding to CTU’s announcement, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in a statement that the district “is determined to upend the status quo that threatens to keep another generation of our children trapped in under-resourced, underutilized schools where they are not getting the quality education they deserve.””

The union also plans to protest the Walton Family Foundation’s donations, which funded some community meetings reagrding school closings, by busing protestors to Springfield where they will picket Walmart. Lewis famously quipped in November, 2012 that corporate donors for education reform were nothing but “dilittantes.”

In a long-term effort, the Union plans to have a voter registration campaign and political recruitment in hopes of pushing officials such as Mayor Emanuel out of office.