CPS protest to disrupt rush hour, public hearings begin in April - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

CPS protest to disrupt Wednesday rush hour, public hearings begin in April

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The battle over closing 54 Chicago Public Schools is stirring up emotion throughout the city. Angry parents, students and staff members plan to protest outside school board headquarters Wednesday.

CPS officials have indicated that they're expecting big crowds on Clark Street, after they march from Daley Plaza. Barricades have been put up outside of the building, to contain the rush hour rally.

Leaders of the teachers union claim the proposed school closings "could be the spark of a 21st Century Civil Rights Movement in Chicago," quoting union president Karen Lewis in a press release claiming the schools are being targeted because of the race of their students.

"I've heard Karen give a lot of speeches. I'm not familiar with that speech," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. "Let me say this, that the, there's a pretty stunning incidence here. Which is that 90% of the students affected by this policy, were eligible for closing, were black."

That racial argument is the centerpiece of the union's effort to block the proposed closing of 61 school buildings, likely to cost about 300 teachers their jobs.

With union President Karen Lewis having already called Mayor Emanuel a murderer of schools, a union member on Facebook declared, "School Homicide=Political Suicide."

Referring to Wednesday's planned protest march through the Loop during the evening commuter rush, others wrote: "They threaten to close our schools...let's shut down this city!" And "Our opposition must be MASSIVE...ONGOING...MILITANT!"

A teacher's union march last year briefly shut sections of South Michigan Avenue and of Congress. The union said Wednesday's protest will be similarly non-violent, but may cause commuters a lot more trouble.

"How much it shuts down depends on how many people show up," Sharkey says.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the union would have its own marshals on hand to assure the protest remained nonviolent.

Public hearings will begin in April, for the community to voice their opinions on the consolidation plan. Speakers will be given two minutes each to raise concerns or ask questions at these hearings.

The first is scheduled for April 9 at Dunbar High School, from 5-7 p.m. That school will have another on April 13, from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. A public hearing will be held at CPS' downtown headquarters on April 19 from 8-10 p.m.

The consolidation plan is the school district's effort to close the $1 billion budget deficit, and give more students access to better resources.

The students who currently attend failing schools will be moved to under-utilized schools - the welcoming schools - and shared those facilities with the kids who already go there. Those who oppose the plan point out that a great number of the closing schools are in neighborhoods where African American and Hispanic families live.

Some parents are concerned for their kids' safety, because in order to get to some of their new schools, their children would have to cross gang territory lines. Another large group of parents are concerned because they have children with special needs attending some of the closing schools, and they believe the major change would have a negative impact of their kids' lives.

Another protest took place outside the Chicago Board of Education's headquarters Monday, headed by the group Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools. They marched from Clark Street to City Hall, where they planned to deliver an over-sized letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel delineating their opposition to the closings. An aide received them.

Closing 54 elementary schools in a single bout would be the largest of its kind in U.S. history. The consolidation plan would affect around 30,000 students and parents.

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