The Fight Against School Closings

By: Carlos Acevedo

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationMany downtown commuters couldn’t avoid noticing the crowds of parents, teachers, students and community supporters who gathered from across the city to protest against the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) plan to close fifty-four schools.

Leaders and supporters from SEIU Local 1, Grassroots Education Movement, Chicago Teachers Union and other community organizations believe that closing the listed schools will only help expand charter schools and eliminate middle class jobs.

Among the many concerns are the student’s ability to acclimate to a new school, affected academic performance, safety due to traveling a longer commute and the possibility of violence due to students attending schools in different communities and territories.

“Chicago kids deserve strong schools in safe neighborhoods,” said Unite Here Local 1 President Henry Tamarin. According to CPS, there are more than 500,000 seats for a student population that is closer to 400,000.
“I’m here to show support to the Chicago Teacher’s Union and our fight against school closures because that decision will devastate neighborhoods. This proposal still needs to be voted on by the Chicago Board of Education and we hope that they don’t close as many schools,” said Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd Ward).

CPS believes that consolidating underutilized or “half-empty” schools will allow them to invest in additional resources for students.

Dora Garza, works with the Head Start program in Lafayette School in Humboldt Park.

“We are here to show support for our children and to protest the scheduled closing of our school. Some student’s will have to attend Chopin High School, which is on the opposite side of Western Avenue. Most of students will come from the opposite side of California Avenue. The commute from California to Western is a long walk and student safety will definitely be at risk,” said Garza.

Garza said, “We have a very large special education program at our school, which is ranked second in Chicago, we also have a phenomenal orchestra that has over 100 students, which is also the second largest in Chicago. Where are those children going to go? Our school already has the resources that CPS is talking about, we have a library, we have a science lab, computer rooms, and all they need to do is update them. We also have plenty of space to accept new students to our school. Lafayette is not in bad shape, it’s actually been renovated and students love coming to our school. We are a big family.”

As protesters marched, they loudly chanted, “Save our schools-don’t close our schools” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho-school closings gotta go”. Others carried signs that read, “Respect our schools and kids”, “Education is a human right”, “CPS stop playing with my school”, “Protect our children” and many others.

One Chicago resident, who wished to remain anonymous, and proponent of the school closings was present at the rally and asked, “Where were all these supporters when the schools were under performing? Where were they when the kids were dropping out? Why didn’t they march then? If you think about it and analyze this situation in detail, it’s not even about the kids, these so called ‘leaders’ are worried about losing their jobs or union members.”

“I am against school closings because it is not fair for our kids and our communities. So we are here to show support. It’s not fair because they are taking the future away from our kids. A different solution should be figure out but closing schools should be the last resort. Don’t mess with our kids and their future,” said Leticia Reola, a resident of Albany Park.

Dana Cruz, a sophomore at Foreman High School said that she came to protest against the school closings because her niece attends Belmont-Cragin, which is one of the many schools that are scheduled to close.
“I think this is a bad situation because some student’s don’t get along, so why put them in different schools? Students should be allowed to attend their neighborhood school because that’s the school that they belong in,” said Cruz.

Cruz believes that once students are transferred to new schools, classes will become too crowded and some student’s will not be able to handle that change. She also believes that this change will cause some student’s to drop out, join gangs and will result in an increase of violence.

“CPS comes up with a new excuse every year about why they need to close more of our neighborhood schools and open new charters. With the amount of violence in our communities taking the lives of our children, school closings are not only irresponsible, they are morally wrong,” said Michelle Young, President of Action Now.
Although the rally was peaceful, over 100 people were cited for civil disobedience. According to Ald. Muñoz, the final vote regarding school closings will take place in mid May.

To view a list of the schools that are scheduled to close, visit

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