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Protesters On Hunger Strike For 17 Days Ask Education Department To Help

by Rebecca Klein - Huffington Post  |  September 02, 2015

Two Chicago protesters who have been fasting for 17 days over the future of a local high school traveled to Washington D.C. this week to take their fight to the national stage.

The protesters, joined by civil rights leaders and the presidents of the nation's two largest teachers unions, held a press conference on Wednesday and delivered a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, asking him to take action so city officials will make a decision about Chicago's Dyett High School, which closed in June due to low enrollment rates and test scores.

Twelve protesters have been participating in a hunger strike since Aug. 17 in an attempt to convince the Chicago Board of Education to reopen the school as an open-enrollment public school with a focus on science, which they say will best serve the needs of the community. The board is weighing various plans to reopen the school, but protesters say this process has been slow and inconsistent, and worry that the board will ultimately allow the school to remain closed. 

Since the start of the hunger strike, four protesters have had to receive medical attention, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Last week, a group of medical professionals asked Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to intervene, calling the situation "a health emergency."

Please click here to continue reading at huffingtonpost.com

Rahm Gets An Earful at City Budget Hearing

by CTU Communications  |  September 01, 2015

On August 31 at the City Budget Hearing at Malcolm X the crowd demanded he do something about Dyett HS and the cuts to education and other city services. Below is a quick roundup of coverage. Supporters of public education in Chicago are urged to attend the other two upcoming hearings.

Sign at Budget Hearing: City and CPS Money paid to Bank of America for Toxic Interest Rates and Fees? $154 million. Could re-open 10 public schools.

Sign Up to Attend a Budget Hearing

Wednesday, September 2
South Shore Cultural Center
71st & South Shore Drive

Thursday, September 3
Wright College
4300 N. Narragansett Ave.

 

Phantoms Playing Double-Dutch: Why the Fight for Dyett is Bigger than One Chicago School Closing

by Eve L. Ewing  |  August 30, 2015

“Cause everybody dies in the summer / Wanna say your goodbyes, tell ‘em while it’s spring / I heard everybody’s dying in the summer So pray to God for a little more spring.”

—Chance the Rapper tweet

The first thing that struck me when I walked up King Drive to 35th Street, where the throng of people sat in front of the fourth ward alderman’s office, was the heat. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve been a Chicagoan since the day I was born, which means I was born for bad weather. I lived through the heat wave of 1995, when over 700 people died, and through the blizzard in 2011, when the cars sat stacked on Lake Shore Drive, still, like terracotta warriors. So it wasn’t the fact of the weather that got me; it was the old folks there in it. And the babies. And then, when my eyes lingered a bit longer, it was the mothers, and the teenagers, and—well, everybody. They sat in folding chairs under the scant, moving shade of skinny trees, or leaned against the wrought iron fence, or sat on the steps of the alderman’s office. They were gathered in the name of Dyett, the high school that the leaders of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced in 2012 would be shuttered at the end of 2015. This group of parents, community members, and students—many of them affiliated with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), one of the oldest black organizing groups in the country—sat in the 95-degree heat to demand a meeting with the alderman, Will Burns. They wanted him to consider their proposal to re-open Dyett as an open-enrollment, community-based school.

I shared some bottles of water and sat for a while. It was hot. We moved the chairs periodically as the sun shifted across the sky. A city worker drove by in a pickup truck, hauling a trailer laden with park maintenance equipment. He raised his fist out the window and gave a cheer, and the folks gathered cheered back. I listened to Mrs. McCall1 talk about how her grandfather owned a store in Mississippi, how she moved north when she was 12 years old and spent her summers traveling back to visit him. She told me how to make the best of my time in graduate school. “What is your passion?” she asked me. “What do you love the most?” My gaze traveled across the street, to the King Branch library where I had once hosted afterschool research sessions so that my students could have help finding reference books, where many of them stayed in the afternoons because it was a safe, free place to do homework until their parents got off work, where if I stopped to just borrow or return a novel they would grin broadly, excited to see me outside of school. I pretended I had x-ray vision, and squinted my eyes to look through the library, to peer west one block and north three blocks, to where that school was, the school where I taught. What do you love the most?

This is an excerpt from the author’s piece first published at Seven Scribes.

Austin Weekly News: In Bronzeville, a hunger strike for the ages

by Amara Enyia - Austin Weekly News  |  August 28, 2015

I was hoping I wouldn't have to write this column. I'd been hoping that, by today, we'd have seen some movement on the part of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to address the fate of Dyett High School and the proposal to transition the school to an open enrollment Global Leadership and Green Technology Academy.

I was hoping that after 11 days of a hunger strike, CPS would have made extra effort to address the concerns of the 12 parents who have put their lives on the line in the name of preserving the last open-enrollment high school in the Bronzeville community. These 12 represent not just Bronzeville, but the thousands of parents in communities across the city who are frustrated with an education system that continually ignores their input, claiming "school choice" with one hand, yet removing it with the other.

We are now on Day 12 and the lack of response on the part of the administration is bordering on the absurd.

Please click here to continue reading at austinweeklynews.com

ILLUSTRATION: The Dyett 12

The Dyett 12: (Row 1, L-R) Dr. Aisha Wade-Bey, Anna Jones, April Stogner, Cathy Dale; (Row 2, L-R) Irene Robinson, Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, Jitu Brown, Marc Kaplan; (Row 3, L-R) Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith, Nelson Soza, Prudence Browne, the Rev. Robert Jones. Photos by Phil Cantor.

CTU calls on mayor, CPS to hold Dyett hearing this Monday

by ctu communications  |  August 28, 2015

CHICAGO—Today, the Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement on the 12th day of the Dyett Hunger Strike:

“The fight for Dyett has been very real for people in Bronzeville for years, but now, it’s become a matter of life or death,” said CTU VP Jesse Sharkey. “The fact that the Dyett 12 has resorted to starving themselves for the future of public education in their community shows just how little their voice has been heard, and not just by the mayor, but by all of the so-called elected officials that should be representing them.”

“We know who runs education in this city and who controls the schools, and changing this arbitrary September hearing date could be one of the easiest decisions for city hall to make, and one that could be done with a wave of the mayor’s hand. The district needs to hold hearings on Dyett immediately and let the community’s voice make a difference, for a change. We are asking them to preserve lives and to hold their hearing as early as Monday. That’s an easy decision. What should be hard for the mayor, and for Frank Clark, and for the Board of Ed to do is to watch people starve in their fight for an open-enrollment school in their neighborhood.”

How Bank of America busted the schools budget and what we can do about it

by jackson potter - ctu staff coordinator  |  August 26, 2015

Despite the claimed financial expertise of the appointed Chicago Board of Education bankers, we are in the midst of a full-blown financial catastrophe. One major driver of the crisis is exotic financial instruments known as toxic swaps. In fact, the Board of Education just borrowed more money to pay off swap termination fees for up to $300 million, roughly the same amount that was recently cut from special education programs and school budgets.
 
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's banker friends, like Jim Reynolds of Loop Capital and Bank of America, misrepresented the danger of interest rate swaps even as they peddled their benefits. These deals were supposed to save the district money on its bonds, but when the banks crashed the economy in 2008, interest rates plummeted and these deals became a windfall for the banks. The district and the mayor had, and still have, a chance to recoup those funds but they refuse to take action.
 
Since 2011, the Chicago Teachers Union, Grassroots Collaborative and others have asked Emanuel to use legal and economic leverage to push the banks to renegotiate these deals. Cities like Houston have recouped millions by taking legal action against these predatory financial deals, whereas Chicago, which has the most swap exposure of any school district in the country, has bent over backwards to please the banks. 
 
That is why the CTU and our allies are taking matters into our own hands. We are asking all of Chicago to boycott Bank of America. Close your credit cards and switch your accounts to get BOA to renegotiate these dirty deals. Ask Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to protect Chicagoans against the malfeasance of the banks and hold public hearings to lay the groundwork for litigation.  
 
We hope that citizen action will inspire the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools to recoup up to $1.2 billion in swap payments that Bank of America and other Wall Street firms have taken from them. Even a fraction of the money could restore vital school programs, taxpayer confidence and fairness to a system that for too long has rewarded Bank of America to our collective disadvantage.
 

Why a Bank of America Boycott Is Necessary

by Pavlyn Jankov  |  August 26, 2015

wpid-20150826_100745.jpg

Like other big banks, the history of Bank of America (BofA) has documented ties to slavery. Several of their predecessor banks had ties to slave-owners, even accepting slaves as loan collateral.[1] But what joins the history of big banks like BofA to the institution of slavery isn’t a matter of documented names, but the historical fact that American finance was built on foundational theft, of profits from slave labor.[2] Throughout this history, the banks have made sure to offload investor risk while still collecting interest. In the past the risk fell on the slaves who labored faster to ensure expected profit rates to their owners and interest rates to lenders, while for this era’s financial crisis, it has fallen on struggling homeowners through the destruction of their assets and middle-class security.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, as the financial security of our school system deteriorated, Bank of America profited from its toxic debt deals with the city and school district. The CPS budget for this upcoming school year has been slashed by over $200 million, much of it affecting services to our neediest students. Meanwhile, financial institutions like BofA are imposing over $200 million in penalty fees on CPS from toxic swap deals, deals from which the banks have already reaped hundreds of millions from the CPS budget over the years. However, it’s not only with these toxic swap contracts that BofA shoulders our society with all the risks as they earn profits.

From the Financial Crisis to Everyday Predation

Bank of America was the lead bank in originating subprime loans and home foreclosures. The mortgages that banks like BofA bundled into larger loans to sell to investors shielded the banks from risk, while creating the conditions for a toxic asset bubble that inevitably crashed down on the backs of homeowners and the wider economy. BofA also had the worst record in providing relief to customers through the government’s Home affordable Modification Program. Instead of…

Read the rest of Why a Bank of America Boycott is Necessary at A Just Chicago.

Letters for Dyett: Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico

by Mercedes Martínez - President, Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico  |  August 25, 2015

Dear Chicago Hunger Strikers,

Brothers and sisters, we write in behalf of the Teachers Federation in Puerto Rico to express our deepest solidarity and sympathies.  The struggle against the corporate reform on education is the same one across the globe.  The rich and wealthy want to deprive poor and marginalized communities of their constitutional right to public education.

Currently we have an organized community in Puerto Rico from the Elementary José Meléndez Ayala School in Manatí that has been occupying their school for the past 85 days in order to avoid its closure. Their speaker is a mother of three, cancer survivor and college student named Tania Ginés. She sends you all her support and solidarity as well.

Our government proposes to shut down 600 schools in response to their neoliberal scheme against public education. Teachers are been threatened to lose their jobs and labor rights—all part of a dominant class that plans to enrich themselves and fulfill their private interests.  The 1% that controls the wealth, wants to control our lives and lead us to precarious life conditions.  NO MORE! Communities are taking a stand against this.

These corporate moguls want to leave our children uneducated because they know that an educated population is a threat to those vicious corporate reformers with greed to fill their pockets at the cost of depriving students of their right to educate themselves.

Your heroic action to starve yourselves in defense of public education is admirable. It's sad that those that have leading positions on school boards and in administrative position the Department of Education do not take into count the necessities of the school communities. Count on our support! 

In solidarity,
Mercedes Martínez
President of the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico

Poll: Most Americans oppose key tenets of modern school reform

by valerie strauss - washington post  |  August 24, 2015

What do Americans think of key aspects of modern school reform? Not much, according to the findings of a respected annual poll.

Not only do most Americans think kids are subjected to too many standardized tests, but a majority reject holding teachers, students and schools accountable based in part on test scores, the survey found. And there’s this: The No. 1 problem Americans said their local schools are facing isn’t bad teachers or unions but insufficient funding, a finding that has remained consistent for the past 10 years.

Please click here to continue reading at washingtonpost.com

Letters for Dyett: Schools and Communities United

by schools and communities united  |  August 24, 2015

Schools and Communities United, a coalition of 22 community, labor, religious, student and civic organizations in Milwaukee stands in solidarity with the parents, students educators and community members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School in Chicago, Illinois.
 
The determined actions of the hunger strikers inspire all of us to continue to defend and improve our public institutions.
 
In Milwaukee we face similar attacks against our public schools and the families and children they serve. Most recently we are fighting an undemocratic take over of public schools promoted by Governor Scott Walker and suburban legislators.
 
We know that public schools are the only institutions that have the capacity, commitment, and legal obligation to educate all children and youth in our communities. Public schools need to be revitalized and supported, not abandoned and closed down.
 
We call on all justice-loving people to support the parents, students, educators and community members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School.
 
#FightForDyett #WeAreDyett!
Chicago Teachers Union