School boycott set for Tuesday

September 1, 2008 9:05:32 PM PDT
Classes are scheduled to begin Tuesday for Chicago Public School students. However, an organized student boycott will also be under way to protest inequalities in school funding. Boycott organizers are preparing to make their case not only in Winnetka but also in the halls of some leading Chicago businesses.

Boycott organizers were busy Monday preparing instructional materials for as many as 3,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students and lesson plans for nearly six dozen teachers they've recruited, most of them retried teachers and former administrators.

"The intent is that if they're going to be out of school that they have a full day of academics - not just having children sitting around and playing games and wasting time. If they're going to be out of their school, we want them to come to the sites and learn," said former school administrator Mogda Walker.

"I don't do this with any reluctance or hesitation because it's the right thing to do," said Rev. James Meeks, the boycott's main organizer.

Meeks says the protest is the last option to drive home the need to change inequitable school funding in the state. Students who have opted for the boycott will be bussed to Winnetka where there will be a largely symbolic effort to enroll them at New Trier high school. Then, the boycott will change locations.

Wednesday morning, boycott organizers will not be going back to Winnetka. They plan, instead, to bus students to 20 locations downtown to hold classes in places like The Chicago Board of Trade and the Mercantile Exchange, as well as corporate giants like Boeing, Bank of America and government buildings.

"We're going to have buses with teachers on each bus and we're going to educate the children for four hours at each one of those downtown locations," said boycott organizer Dr. Kenya Jackson.

The argument organizers make is: you can't have a world class city trying to land an Olympics if you don't have a world class public education system.

"This is an issue. It's a fight that should take place in the halls of Springfield, not in the halls of businesses and not in the halls of New Trier. That's not the right place," Chicago School Board President Rufus Williams said.

Chicago Public Schools officials say keeping children out of school sends the absolute wrong message and will cost the district.

Meeks says he hopes the boycott will not go beyond this week, but he is prepared to continue it.


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