Teachers march to protest proposed school closings

May 18, 2013 3:52:27 PM PDT
Hundreds of teachers and their supporters marched across the city Saturday in the first of three days of protests.

School officials vote early next week on a plan to close 54 Chicago public schools. The Chicago Teachers Union does not want to see any of those schools closed, so on Saturday they took their message to the streets in a vocal and visual way.

The outrage was audible on Chicago's neighborhood streets Saturday.

"It's political, and it shouldn't be done," said marcher Ramona Thomas.

Teachers are once again protesting the city's plan to close 54 public schools.

"They're not concerned -- they're saying 'oh, kids first,' but 'kids first' comes behind the almighty dollar," said special education teacher Barbara Smith.

The closings would be the biggest one-time shutdown ever by a U.S. city. Chicago is just one of many urban school districts around the nation grappling with declining enrollment.

"We're no stranger to this fight. It is going on in cities throughout America, dismantling our public schools," said David Hecker of the American Federation of Teachers.

The schools primarily are in Latino and black neighborhoods, like Owens Elementary, where Dominique Grant's son goes.

"We have to fight back," said Grant. "When you don't fight back, you don't get results."

Saturday's rally kicked off the first of three days of marches organized by the Chicago Teachers Union.

According to published reports, at least 13 of the 54 Chicago public schools targeted could be dropped from the list because of pressure from black aldermen to follow hearing officers' recommendations.

"I think it's a start... clearly, there have been mistakes made, so we need to move forward from that," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spokeswoman Becky Carroll would neither confirm nor deny the predictions, but issued a statement which reads in part: "We've received feedback from over 34,000 members of our school communities at more than 200 meetings and public hearings. We are taking that input... Every voice is being heard."

Chicago has promised a five-year moratorium on school closings after the planned shutdowns this year.

"We're supposed to be the lawyers, we're supposed to be the doctors," said CPS student Brandon Williams during a teachers' protest.

Teachers will begin day two with marches on the South and West Sides of the city. The school board is expected to vote on the school closings plan on Wednesday.

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