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CPS gets one new school proposal right - and most wrong, say teachers

NTA gradescoolers protest on December 1 against mayor Emanuel's plans to close their top-performing school.Emanuel's hand-picked school bosses operate with chronic lack of accountability, equity, democratic oversight -- undermining hundreds of school communities, say teachers.

CHICAGO, December 4, 2017—The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement today in response to CPS' announcement of proposals for new magnet and classical schools. The statement can be attributed to CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

CPS’ announcement of a new public school in the southwest side’s St. Turibius facility -- one with, reportedly, no testing requirements for admission -- is actually the product of a coalition effort by legislators, teachers, parents and community residents, who came together to support this approach rather than the charter school CPS had initially sought to create in that neighborhood. This new school proposal represents the kind of community accountability and democracy that every one of our neighborhoods deserve when it comes to school decisions.

CPS could take a cue from the process used to jumpstart this new southwest side school, by respecting the input and concerns of ALL of the people of this city who must contend with the consequences of CPS decisions. Yet CPS refuses to provide the public – particularly in Black and Latinx working class communities – with truly meaningful input into their facilities agenda. The Illinois General Assembly passed a law in 2010 saying that CPS must create a master plan outlining how they intend to deal with school facilities. CPS may have one, but they refuse to share it.

In the Third Ward’s Bronzeville neighborhood, CPS has thwarted the kind of grassroots participation we saw on the Southwest Side. Instead, CPS is gentrifying one school – top-performing NTA –out of existence over the passionate objections of parents and students. Another school, Mollison, is infested by rats and chronically underfunded by CPS executives. A third school now being created by CPS will likely serve virtually none of the low-income Black students who currently attend NTA. These are the conditions that our families confront when their school bosses deny them agency, input, democracy and respect.

Turibius is an example of how to do it right – with sustained, respectful, democratic input from all school stakeholders. NTA, Mollison and Bronzeville’s proposed new school are appalling examples of how to get it wrong.

Today, hundreds of public schools continue to confront a chronic lack of resources. Every neighborhood – rich or poor, gentrifying or disinvested -- deserves sustainable community schools with wraparound supports, rich curriculums and community programming. Yet this mayor continues to shortchange the vast majority of our students by prioritizing billions of dollars in public giveaways to a wealthy corporation like Amazon, or handing off TIF funds to privileged developers in wealthier neighborhoods.

This lack of democracy and the inequity it drives must end – and there is a solution: the elected representative school board that our residents have demanded, one that supports real accountability, true transparency and public control.

Chicago Teachers Union