Chicago teachers union promises major fight over school closings: ‘We are not Detroit’

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

The Chicago Teachers Union will “put their bodies on the line” on Wednesday at a rally to protest the closing of 54 Chicago public schools, which they claim purposely targets the black community and betrays teachers.

“We intend to rally, united and strong… to send a signal that we are sick and tired of being bullied and betrayed. Some of us are going to put our bodies on the line—because a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” union president Karen Lewis said in a statement last week.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, announced last week that 54 “underutilized” elementary schools without necessary resources will be closed, and students will be relocated to “welcoming” schools with better facilities in the fall. Byrd-Bennett said those schools represent about 10 percent of Chicago’s public elementary schools.

The teachers union said school closings since 2001 have unfairly affected black students.

“Most of these campuses are in the Black community. Since 2001 88 percent of students impacted by [Chicago Public Schools] School Actions are African-American. And this is by design,” Lewis said.

The union also called Mayor Rahm Emanuel a “coward” for being out of town when the announcement was made and said the city has thrown the district into “utter chaos.”

“Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor,’” Lewis said. “He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit. We are the city of big shoulders and so we intend to put up a fight. We don’t know if we can win, but if you don’t fight, you will never win at all.”

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