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March on Chicago Public Schools

Lee Edwards | 9/5/2013, 3:30 p.m.
On the 50th Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, several local community organizations staged a ...
Action Now march in downtown Chicago to have a democratically elected school board. Photo by Lee Edwards

On the 50th Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, several local community organizations staged a day long boycott of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) schools; held a rally in front of CPS’s downtown office at 125 S. Clark; and then led a march to Chicago’s city hall at 121 N LaSalle St. in coordination with 25 other U.S. cities holding similar public demonstrations.

Rally organizers hyped up an estimated 200-250 protestors including children and teens, by telling them that there were simultaneously nationwide rallies and demonstrations in Camden, NJ, Boston, MA, New Orleans, LA and Baltimore, MD.

The event was planned for the same day that CPS was scheduled to finalize its’ 2014 fiscal year budget (FY14). The operating draft of the budget, which was released on July 24

Organizations who participated in the rally included Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU), Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and Action Now all unified by a collective displeasure with the decisions and actions of both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed Chicago Board of Education.

“We want a new selected [Chicago Board of Education], we don’t want the one the mayor selected, we want to be able to select a new school board, we need a school board that has the interests of our children at heart about their education, we’re tax payers,” Action Now President, Michelle Young told the Chicago Citizen Newspaper. “We’re tired of these people in positions with power [that] think [that] every time they make a decision [we’re] supposed to accept that as the final answer; we didn’t start this fight with Chicago Public Schools [CPS] started this fight. If one child stayed out of school this march was not in vain, it was still a success.”

Young also stated that Mayor Emanuel has yet to respond to their numerous petitions to speak with him about school related issues.

The mayor’s office did not respond to the Chicago Citizen Newspaper’s inquiries by press time.

Action Now has joined with KOCO, Raise Your Hand and the CTU on this particular issue. Young added that Action Now has been in contact with local elected officials about completing the change they would like to see.

“I have always been a supporter of an elected school board. I think it’s necessary for accountability for CPS,” Chicago 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell told the Chicago Citizen Newspaper. “My constituents voted overwhelmingly for an elected school board in an advisory referendum in 2012.”

“The [Chicago Board of Education] does not represent the people, we did not want the schools closed, the board ignored the people’s wishes and followed the mayor’s orders and we are not going to have it and that is why we are here,” said Cathy Dale a local school council community representative for Madison elementary and Martin Luther King College Prep who was with Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). “We’re here demanding that we have a democratic process and have an elected school board so we’re going to put pressure on our state legislators to give the school board back to the people and have us elect our school board members for the Chicago Board of Education.”

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools responded to the matter by saying:

“Adults need to set the example for our children and advocate that nothing matters more than their education. Removing children from the classroom for even one day is unacceptable. Our students belong in the classroom with their teachers getting the instruction they need to be on a path to a successful and bright future."