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Protesters Call Out Mayor, Aldermen On Education By Delivering Coal To City Hall

By aaroncynic in News on Dec 10, 2013 5:00PM

Photo via ActionNow on Twitter.

Hundreds of protesters descended on City Hall and the Thompson Center Monday to call out which local politicians were “naughty” or “nice” on issues concerning Chicago Public Schools. Demonstrators from a loose coalition of community groups including Action Now, the Pilsen Alliance and others were joined by members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union to deliver coal to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen they say were lax in their support of CPS. A few aldermen also received candy canes from the demonstrators for supporting their causes in recent months.

“We want art, music, world language in every school,” CTU's Martin Ritter told DNAInfo Chicago. “We want equity in our schools. We need local control of Local School Councils and an elected, representative school board.”

An elected school board and the redistribution of Tax Increment Financing funds were two key factors in deciding which elected officials were “naughty” and which were “nice.” Many of the community groups involved have been calling for both since CPS shuttered more than 50 schools at the beginning of summer. “I think it's a creative approach toward raising the issue,” Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd) told DNAInfo before the protest. “I hope I won't be getting coal unless we squeeze it into diamonds and help the Board of Education out of the terrible mess they created.” FIoretti later received a candy cane from the demonstrators.

The demonstration was part of a national day of action organized in part by the Alliance for Educational Justice, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Organizers say some 90 events took place in cities across the country. Jonathan Stith, organizer for the AEJ told MSNBC:

“All students deserve quality education that prepares them for college, meaningful employment, and full participation in democracy regardless of race or economic status. Current school reform efforts by corporate education profiteers have bankrupted public education and have failed to deliver on its promise.”

After the rally at City Hall, demonstrators marched to the Thompson Center, where they called on Gov. Pat Quinn to support measures like an elected school board, which would require legislation approved by the state Legislature. While community leaders and some aldermen have called for the issue to appear on the March primary ballot to gauge support, the City Council’s Finance Committee, for the second time in two years, used their political muscle to keep off the ballot a referendum asking Chicago voters whether they favor a switch to an elected school board and instead used the allowed three referendum questions to poll the public on issues like gun control and taxi fare hikes.

The Chicago Tribune reports that while the ballot questions are merely advisory, citywide support for an elected school board could both show how deep dissatisfaction for CPS exists among voters and would weaken Emanuel’s case to keep the status quo.

Organizers say they have a long way to go before officials meet their demands for change. “Today is not going to change anything overnight,” said Jitu Brown from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “We’re not going to just do this and the school closings end tomorrow. This needs to be sustained.”