The president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced she will join a coalition of organizations and activists who are fed up with the status quo and want to change the face of City Hall and the General Assembly –literally. Karen Lewis said because the mayor, some members of the City Council and some members of the Illinois General Assembly have failed to listen to the voices of thousands of parents, educators, students, school employees and activists on school closings a “comprehensive voter registration and education campaign is now underway.”
The labor leader made her comments during a news conference on the release of a new CTU report, “A Tale of Two Schools: The Human Impact Behind Destructive School Actions in Chicago.” The study provides an autopsy of Simon Guggenheim Elementary School, closed by the district last year, and highlights a case study of Jacob Beidler Elementary School which is slated for closure this year.
Lewis said, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has declared that negotiations are over and he intends to make history by closing the most elementary schools in a single school district in the U.S. His efforts will put almost 50,000 students at academic and physical risk, put the jobs of thousands of teachers and other school employees in jeopardy, and will lead to massive destabilization in predominantly African American neighborhoods. Despite vigorous protest by thousands of taxpayers, parents, youth, teachers and others, it is expected that the mayor’s handpicked school board will carry out his wishes at the May 22nd Board of Education meeting.
Press conference announcing the campaign
“When the Board rubber stamps this destructive program on Wednesday, that following Thursday we are going back into the streets with an aggressive comprehensive voter registration and education campaign,” Lewis said. “We will go door-to-door in neighborhoods where people’s schools have been shut down and their jobs have been lost.
Lewis said CTU and others will:
·Launch a citywide voter registration campaign, targeting 100,000 new voters
·Continue its political advocacy at City Hall and in Springfield
·Host political education forums, as well as trainings for candidates for mayor, City Council and statewide offices
·Increase donations to our Political Action Committee in order to provide financial support to potential candidates.
·Canvass neighborhoods to get disaffected voters to the polls.
Alderman who attacked CTU during last September's strike publicly jeered for his close ties to Mayor Emanuel.
“We know that we may not win every seat we intend to target but with research, polling, money and people power we can win some of them,” she said. “In the meantime, we are calling on the mayor to meet with the people impacted by his decision to shut down 54 schools and disrupt seven others.”
The CTU has asked for a full moratorium on school closures and other CPS actions this year. A bill is under consideration by the Illinois General Assembly.