Photo: Action Now leader Zerlina Smith (left) rallying at CPS Headquarters with fellow parent leader Rousemary Vega (center) and education activist Chuy Campuzano (right)
On January 20th and 21st, 2014 Action Now members held two protests in the Austin community against proposed charter schools that may be approved at the Chicago Board of Education meeting on January 22nd. Members are angry that CPS would try to open new charter schools in Austin just months after they closed four neighborhood public schools in the area!
The first protest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was held at the site of a proposed Noble Street Charter School. Even though CPS hadn't approved the proposal, construction was already beginning on the new school. Action Now youth leader Mina Waight stated, "I attend a Chicago public school and I am a youth leader of Action Now. Today we have come forward to express our concerns for opening 22 more charter schools across the city. Charter schools that will cost our collective communities $250 million... Instead of giving the tax dollars to privately owned charter schools, give the money to the public schools because students perform better when the opportunity presented."
The proposed Noble Street charter school is opening right across the street from Prosser High School and within 1.5 miles of 5 other high schools. A new charter school is not needed and will only siphon funds from the existing schools that are already broke from the Mayor's budget cuts.
Our second protest was on January 21, at the "By The Hand Club", which is an organization affiliated with Moody Bible Institute and other private interests outside of the Austin community. The Director of By The Hand, Donnita Travis, is also the Chairperson of Chicago Education Partnership, which has submitted a proposal for a new charter school to be built at the current By The Hand location at 415 N. Laramie.
This new charter school is likely to be approved by the Board of Education only months after the board voted to close Francis Scott Key, Louis Armstrong, Horatio May and Robert Emmet elementary schools in the Austin community. CPS cited “underutilization” and “budget concerns” as reasons for mass closures, but now they are eager to open new charters that would cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Action Now parent leader Zerlina Smith stated, “We the people don’t need predatory educational institutes for our children in our communities. Charter schools don’t have to answer to no one; they do as they please with our kids. Charters schools are political and business run programs just to make money on the heads of the children and tax payers."
After our protest at By The Hand, we traveled to a vigil held by Chicago Teachers Union at CPS Headquarters. There was a march and press conference where Ms. Smith spoke out once again, saying "If charter schools are so great, why doesn't the mayor send his kids to one?" After the march there was an all-night vigil where some courageous fighters for public education stayed outside of CPS all night in sub zero temperatures to protest charter expansion!
- Austin Talks, "West Side residents protest charter school expansion"
- Chicago Tribune, "CPS to hear new charter school proposals"
- Substance News, "Protesters demand a no vote by the Board on January 22 on all charter proposals"