Teachers in Chicago, USA, are joining with parents to defend schools against education 'reforms' such as school closures, school 'turnarounds' - where all the staff are sacked - and charter schools. These were instigated by Obama's education supremo Arne Duncan while he was Chicago schools chief, and are now being rolled out by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
At the beginning of December, Mayor Emanuel proposed the closure of 7 schools, 10 turnarounds and opening up 6 schools to private providers. According to Howard Ryan, writing on the website www.labornotes.com
, All 23 targeted schools are in Chicago’s predominantly Black and Latino South and West sides. The transition from open-access neighborhood schools to selective-enrollment charters is tied to the goals of real estate developers, who seek to displace low-income communities of color to sell condos to more affluent, predominantly white buyers.
On December 14th, parents and teachers shouted down an education board meeting to protest the closure, 'turnaround' and charter programmes. According to the Chicago Tribune,
one of the protestors said: “Nearly 40 percent of new schools that have replaced ones that closed are performing at the lowest levels.We see through the sound bites. You have betrayed the public trust. You have failed Chicago’s children.”
Eventually the meeting had to be closed in the face of the vociferous protests.
CTU spokesperson, Jackson Potter said: “They have ignored parent concerns in this process, they’ve neglected teacher voice and undermined student progress.Today we stand before you to demand that the Board of Education immediately end all of its moves to push school actions upon the community. We also are asking them to stop charter expansion and to stop handing over these schools to politically connected, under-performing charter networks.”
Another teacher, Claudia Moreon, told the Tribune: "We need to stop targeting those in the community that are of color and are of cultural diversity. We need to support our schools, not close them. We can function if the board and the legislature gives us the funding we need to make our schools great."
Chicago Teachers Union is turning out to parents and local communities to defend the schools and held a teach-in earlier this month to raise awareness
and plan tactics, including street mobilisations and possibly occupying schools. To read Ryan's article in full go to: http://labornotes.org/2011/12/chicago-teachers-battle-mayor-1