Walking against all Chicago Public School closings, marchers walk down South Union Street to Dewey Elementary School, Sunday May 19, 2013,Jessica Koscielniak/Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO—On what is the 59th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a report on the history of disruptive actions against communities of color by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), exemplified by school closings that intensify the harmful effects of segregated schools and neighborhoods. The study, titled Still Separate, Still Unequal, acknowledges the deep segregation that exists in Chicago, but states that segregation is exacerbated by flawed education reform policies and assaults on communities that have long borne the brunt of its harmful effects.
The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was one of the most successful victories of the modern Civil Rights Movement. The ruling declared segregation in U.S. public schools unconstitutional, saying it violated the “equal protection under the law” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Now, nearly six decades later, parents of Chicago’s African-American and special education needs students are also seeking court protection against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to shutter 53 elementary schools. On Wednesday they filed two federal lawsuits seeking a halt closures because these actions are discriminatory and will cause undue harm to their children.
“The mayor and his CPS administration are barreling through the largest round of school closings ever—actions that will once again disproportionately harm students and communities of color,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “What they’re proposing will set us back to the time before Brown v. Board of Education. This report shows that we are still living in an era of education apartheid and we must do all we can to resist the destruction of our schools and the harming of our vulnerable population.”
Over the past decade, one out of every four intensely segregated African-American schools—schools with a more than 90 percent African-American student population—has been closed, phased out or turned around. Yet segregation has increased and African-American students are now more segregated by race and class than in 1989. At the same time there are far more schools with virtually no Black teachers and no Black students. Schools with fewer than 10 percent African-American students and teachers now make up 28 percent of CPS schools, up from 10 percent in 2001. In CPS, integration has been abandoned as policy and segregation accepted as the norm, rather than as the deliberate and systematic construction that it is. The report addresses, specifically:
· Intense segregation in CPS
· Segregation across CPS and the city of Chicago
· What segregation means for CPS students of color
· The reproduction of segregation and inequity
· Segregated access to experienced teachers
· The increasing segregation of black teachers
· The segregated harm of school closings
· Integration and equity, not choice and competition
“CPS seems committed only to deepening the harms of segregation, rather than moving towards an integrated school system,” said Still Separate, Still Unequal author, Pavlyn Jankov. “Segregation has increased, and the associated policies of disinvestment and destabilization are more acute than ever.”
Still Separate, Still Unequal calls for an end to the segregated harm of failed school closings and turnarounds, and a halt to the rapid expansion of private charter operators and other aberrations of “choice” that increase segregation.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois.
Fiery Chicago Teachers Union President Reelected
By Valerie Strauss,
May 18, 2013
Karen Lewis, the fiery leader of the Chicago Teachers Union who led a strike last year and became a nationally known anti-school reform figure, has been elected to another three-year term as president. Today she will lead the first of three days of protests against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close 54 public schools.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that according to preliminary results, Lewis won about 80 percent of the votes, soundly defeating a candidate representing a coalition of groups that used to run the union until Lewis took office three years.
Last fall, Lewis’s combative governing style won near-unanimous support from rank-and-file members when they voted to strike to protest Emanuel’s reform plans, which included heavily linking teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores and extending the school day. After seven days of canceled classes, the strike ended with both sides claiming some success. Teachers won pay raises and were able to knock down the percentage that evaluations would be linked to scores, while Emanuel got his extended day.
The three-day protest against Emanuel’s school-closure plans kicks off today with what CBS 2 Chicago said was “being billed as the mother of all marches.” The march route will take demonstrators to each of the 54 schools on the closure list.
School district officials say a looming $1 billion deficit is forcing them to close the schools. The teachers union has gone to court to block the closings, arguing that they disproportionately affect African-American students in the district, which is not majority-black, and would harm special education students.Many parents are also concerned about safety issues, because their children will have to walk through violent neighborhoods to get to their newly assigned schools. The district says it is spending $8 million to beef up its Safe Passages Program, but parents remain worried.
Independent hearing officers hired by the school district to evaluate the closing plans concluded that 13 of the targeted schools should stay open for various reasons, including child safety and lack of evidence that the students were being assigned to better schools.
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