CPS Approves Budget As Hundreds Protest Outside Headquarters

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 29, 2013 1:30PM

Hundreds of people rallied outside the Board of Education's downtown headquarters Wednesday as the Chicago School Board approved a $6.6 billion budget which includes $88.6 million in cuts to close what the school district claims is a $1 billion deficit.

Education activists, students, parents and others called for a one-day boycott during the vote to protest the cuts and demand an elected school board. “Rahm and CPS are giving us the runaround on education. If we, the students don’t stand up for our education nobody one else will,” said said Jamie Adams, a sophomore at Roosevelt High School. “My school alone lost $1.6 million, because of this, my school lost six teachers and counselors. We’re literally fighting over desks.”

The boycott was organized to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by a coalition of groups under the umbrella Journey 4 Justice, a national organization which organized similar boycotts in 25 cities. The group says school closings disproportionately target communities of color, create school deserts and fail to improve learning conditions or academic performance. Data shows that while CPS student enrollment is 43 percent African American, around 80 percent of those affected by school closings are black.

“Massive budget cuts and school closures are a personal attack on our children and our entire city,” said Rousemary Vega, a parent of three CPS children. Vega, her husband and children occupied Lafayette Elementary on its last day of school in an attempt to stop its closure. “We as a city should have an elected board. They closed our schools, destroy our communities and they call it reform. It is time we stop letting CPS and Rahm Emanuel write our story.”

Diamond McCullough, a senior at Dyett High School, made a similar call. “I am here today to strongly encourage all of us of voting age to call our state representatives every Wednesday and demand they support HB2793 for an elected school board,” said McCullough. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Elgie R. Sims Jr. was referred to the House Rules Committee in February.

The protest later headed to City Hall, where some 50 boycott participants headed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. After chants of “where you at?” died down on the fifth floor, Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization said:

“We have a mayor that governs through press conferences. People have to do sit-ins. People have to take over school board meetings. We jump through every hoop and we can never get a sit down with the man who makes policy that turns our life upside down.”

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett criticized the boycott. According to NBC5, Byrd-Bennett said in a statement “Removing children from the classroom for even one day is unacceptable. Our students belong in the classroom with their teachers getting the instruction they need to be on a path to a successful and bright future.” Diamond McCullough however, disagreed. After an ABC7 reporter asked Jitu Brown about critics who say “why take kids out of school if you’re concerned about education,” McCullough said:

“This is a school lesson right now. It’s like a history class for us. Education is not going to get any better right now. Everything’s being privatized, so it’s going to get worse. I have a little sister and other kids that’s going to come after me and have to make it better for them.”