Activists Calling for One Day Boycott of Chicago Public Schools

Public school activists in Chicago are recruiting parents across the city for a one day boycott of Chicago Public Schools to protest policies that they say unfairly discriminate against low-income minority students. Community leaders are asking families to keep students from school on Wednesday of this week, and those supporting to boycott to skip the Chicago Board of Education meeting held that night to attend a rally at the board’s downtown office.

The plan also calls for a march to City Hall following the rally.

According to Naomi Nix of the Chicago Tribune, Sarah Simmons, a member of Parents 4 Teachers, one of the groups organizing the boycott, says that the political action can teach students a lot about channeling public discontent and forcing change. Simmons was one of the 50 supporters who appeared at the press conference announcing and publicizing the boycott.

The activists said the school district’s decision to close 49 elementary schools and a high school program has destabilized minority communities and put student lives in danger. Many mentioned the shootings that have occurred recently along Safe Passage routes. Others talked about budget cuts at Chicago Public Schools that have led to teacher layoffs.

CPS released a statement Thursday urging students to go to school Wednesday, and it reiterated the need for pension reform to solve the ongoing budget problems.

Classes in Chicago begin Monday. The group calling for the boycott is part of Journey for Justice, a national committee that is organizing events in other cities around the country to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which is Wednesday.

According to Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times, Parrish Brown, a Dyett High School senior whose school is scheduled to close after the lowest currently enrolled classes graduate, says that he will be participating in part to protest the closure and in part to offer his support for an elected rather than appointed Chicago school board. Brown called the boycott “a citywide expression of rage,” saying that voters and not politicians should have the power to determine the path of the city’s public education system.

The activists encouraged parents and students to show up at 125 S. Clark at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the same day the Board of Education is slated to vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget that cuts a total of $68 million from classrooms in an effort to close a budget gap. The board already voted in May to close a record 49 elementary schools, mostly on the South and West sides, and a high school program.