Fight over CPS school closings heats up

March 15, 2013 4:12:24 AM PDT
The fight over the future of Chicago Public Schools may come to a head soon.

A rally to express their opposition is scheduled in a couple of weeks.

The Chicago School Board is expected to name about 80 schools they intend to close, probably by the end of the month and protesters say they plan to be ready.

It is a group experienced in protests. Most of those here have walked picket lines. Many say they have been arrested for civil disobedience before. All say they are willing to go to jail to try to prevent school closings.

"It would be a catastrophe if these schools were closed. It wouldn't only hurt the students," said Christel Williams.

Hundreds have already voiced their opposition over the school board's proposal to close about 80 schools. The board has yet to announce the specific schools, but those here plan to oppose any closings.

"Our goal is to have peaceful civil disobedience to put our bodies on the line, to stand up for a cause we believe in, which is keeping our schools open," said CTU vice-president Jesse Sharkey.

School board administrators remain committed to closing schools. They say the district has 145,000 fewer students over the last decade.

"It's their right to protest," CPS spokesperson Robyn Ziegler said in a statement. "We feel like what we're doing is in the best interests of children. We are redirecting limited resources to help make better quality schools where the students will attend."

School board safety administrators are already formulating plans to try to ensure students from closed schools will be able to get to their new schools safely.

"What we're doing school by school is analyzing what the circumstances are, what the community needs are, what the culture is of each school," said Jadine Chau, CPS security director. "We're taking all of those factors into account and incorporating them into a school by school safety plan."

Protesters are planning a huge rally on March 27 at Daley Plaza.