Hundreds of demonstrators, along with the Chicago Teachers Union, marched through the city today demanding that City Hall walk back its plan to close 53 elementary schools and one high school in response to a $1 billion budget deficit.
" 'People have a right to the neighborhoods in which they live,' [Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis] said. 'Children have the right to a safe, nurturing, loving environment.'
"During the sit-in, crowds of people on the sidewalk and on northbound LaSalle continued to wave signs and chant 'save our schools' as some of the crowd sat down. The sit-in, including the plan for potential arrests, was part of an itinerary put out by CTU before the rally began.
"Police soon began making arrests, leading more than 50 people away one by one to a holding area outside a building just south of Washington Street. Those in the holding area stood with their hands behind their backs chanting, 'Hey, hey, ho, ho, Rahm Emanuel's got to go.' "
Emanuel is mayor of Chicago and a former chief of staff for President Obama.
As NPR's Claudio Sanchez reported over the weekend, school closures across the country, which used to be a local issue, have "morphed into a politically charged" national campaign. As Claudio explained, the closures have pitted race and poverty against budgets.
The rise of public charter schools has led to empty public schools and that in turn has led to closures, which inevitably affects communities.
That was on display in Chicago today. The Sun Times reports:
"Elementary education expert and professor Bill Ayers — who has sparked controversy on the national political scene with his ties to President Obama — was in the crowd in support of teachers.
" 'The assault on public education and abandonment of these communities has to be resisted,' Ayers said."
The Washington Post reports the under-enrolled schools are scheduled to be closed by this fall.
"It is the largest mass district closing of schools ever in the United States, and it is fiercely opposed by many teachers, parents and education activists," the Post reports. "The vast majority of students affected are African American and Hispanic ..."