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Rally to Restore Chicago’s Education System

School buses unloaded parents, students and community organizers last Monday afternoon outside CPS headquarters holding signs and megaphones demanding CPS to stop the reform of 17 schools that will be turned around, closed, or phased-out.

Kenwood-Oakland community activist, Jitu Brown, organized 30-to-40 people in front of the building where his message was clearly heard by two CPS media officials. While the officials refused to comment, they said  they would release a written statement later to discuss the protesters’ demands and concerns.

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Brown and other local school council members claimed the schools targeted for closure or turnaround were disproportionately in poor African-American neighborhoods and would lead to the layoffs of mostly minority teachers.

There was talk earlier that morning that the rally would not be held due to a setback with the parents’ investigation into the reformation; however, the attorneys intend to re-file the complaint on March 23. Brown, too, filed a lawsuit, which was denied Friday, March 9.

Judge Michael Hyman denied the lawsuit saying the school councils had no standing to file the suit, because they were not the subject of the alleged discrimination and the plaintiff did not give evidence the closings disproportionately harmed minorities.

“We will now exercise every sensible option available to us. We will use local and federal lawsuits. We will use the legislative remedy and direct action as parents, as community members and as students,” said Brown outside the building on Monday.

That morning, Steven Guy, who has a grandchild attending future turnaround Melvin W. Fuller Elementary, requested a legal action to stop the closure or turnaround of not only his grandson’s school, but the other schools “targeted” by the Chicago Board of Education.

Like Brown, Guy said he believes the board is using criteria and policies that discriminate against African-American and Latino children in Chicago. Guy’s attorney, Tom Geoghegan, presented a map that showed where the schools will be closed or turned around.

“Approximately 42 percent of the children in the Chicago public schools are African-American, but over 82 percent of the children affected by these fourteen closings, phase-outs and turnarounds are African-American,” said Geoghegan.

He said the board had no “justification” for their decisions to close, phase-out or turnaround these schools without being transparent about the academic and non-academic criteria used to make the decisions.

“Enough is enough. It is time to leave these children alone and let them have the education they deserve,” said Geoghegan.

Parents, community activists and students spoke after Geoghegan, expressing their frustration with CPS.

“CPS will not take away our community schools from us and further destabilize our children’s education,” said Brown.

Protesters said they demand a representative elected school board, community control of schools and a moratorium on all school actions.

“We want to make sure whatever means we have to use to reach that goal, we will do so. Whether it is the local courts, whether it is in the federal courts, whether it is in legislature or whether it is on the street,” said Brown. “Mayor Emanuel, your policies are the status quo.”

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