Board of Education Fails to Keep Schools Open

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationBy: Grassroots Collaborative

On the eve of the Board of Education’s vote to close 54 schools, parents and community leaders met with executives from the Bank of America to discuss the renegotiation of toxic interest rate agreements held between Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Bank of America.

The Board of Education claims that the school closings are necessary to address a budget deficit. According to CPS’ latest certified annual report, CPS pays approximately $36 million in interest to banks like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs every year.

Parents described to Bank of America Vice-Presidents the disruption and violence that will be caused by the unprecedented number of school closings, affecting 50,000 children. “This is adding to the gang problem, by throwing our kids across turf lines into a different school,” said Ms. Annie Stovall, a parent at Garrett Morgan Elementary.

During the meeting with parents and community leaders, Bank of America Vice-President Patricia Holden said, “CPS could renegotiate, but they haven’t approached us…This is between two parties and one of the parties is not at the table.”

To date, CPS has paid out more than $120 million in ten different toxic swap agreements. These deals are draining much needed funding from schools.

Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, also attended today’s meeting. “The Mayor and the Board of Education should be doing everything possible to find money to keep these schools open. Every year, $36 million go to big banks, like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, instead of going into our classrooms. Bank of America said today that they’re open to having a conversation. Aren’t our children worth the Board of Education picking up the phone and starting these talks?”

Community and labor groups present are organized by the Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition that forced Mayor Daley to use his first and only veto with the Big Box Ordinance which sought higher wages for workers employed by stores such as Wal-Mart and Target. In Chicago’s 2012 budget, the coalition advocated for the Responsible Budget Ordinance that requested surplus TIF funds be returned to local taxing bodies to meet budget deficits. Eventually $60 million in TIF funds were returned to taxpayers.

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