Closing Schools, Increasing Policing -The Chicago Way

Closing Schools, Increasing Policing -The Chicago Way
Courtesy of The News-Gazette

Chicago spends 40% of its entire operating budget on policing. In addition the city has paid out over $500 million on police brutality cases. On top of that Rahm thinks it a wise choice to spend $95 million more on a new cop academy.

Meanwhile those that run Chicago Public Schools (don’t forget Rahm appoints them) voted to close 5 predominantly Black public schools. Add that in with the 50 plus Black schools closed in 2013.

It is not conspiracy to say that Chicago wants to incarcerate, not educate, its Black youth.

It is policy.

Many in the city see the connection. If you underfund and then close schools, while continually increasing funding to police it becomes apparent what the goals are.

A budget is a political document, not just a financial one. It shows what the city prioritizes.

Chicago prioritizes criminalizing our youth, NOT educating them.

Rahm says he cares about kids, but he does NOT send his own kids to CPS. So he can say whatever he wants, BUT unless his own kids are in the CPS system his words mean jack.

Never forget that Rahm said, “25% of CPS students won’t amount to anything.”

Chicago is filled with harmful policies past and present such as redliningblockbusting, and gentrification. Actual policies created and implemented by the city that targeted and harmed Black communities in our city.

School closings, school turnarounds, and school phase-outs, is just the new or continued version of these policies that target and harm Black communities.

While these policies continue to destroy education for the children in our city, Rahm and his crew make sure to always fund policing.

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is responsible for torturing and killing Black Chicagoans. CPD has been proven to cover up its own crimes and illegally detain people in secret sites.

In Rahm’s Chicago, if a school is deemed unsuccessful, under his bogus school rating system, then that school is punished. Charters will be built in the area and then the school will be closed or phased out after having it’s funding systematically cut.

The police do not receive this same treatment. In fact it seems as if the police are rewarded for the more flawed that they are. Students and schools punished, police rewarded.

The Chicago Police Department is getting a brand new $95 Million Cop Academy on the Westside. More for incarceration and less for education.

Our children in CPS are treated like they are in a police state. Metal detectors, police with guns in the school. Limited resources. Terrible Food.

Yet, students are told, if you work really hard you can overcome all of this. You can make it.

No doubt the amazing kids in Chicago do overcome. BUT kids should not have to overcome. Kids should just have what they need.

So instead of building a new cop academy invest that money into the schools.

Instead of policing and incarceration we could try fully funding education.

But Rahm says no.

Rahm closes schools.

Closing over 50 elementary schools in 2013 was not enough. He wants more closures. Now it is TEAM Englewood, Roberson, Hope, and Harper high schools. Eliminating all of the public neighborhood high schools in Englewood.

But even that is not enough, so he takes out a high performing elementary school in the South Loop, National Teachers Academy. This closure is done to appease white parents afraid of sending their children to school with a majority of Black students

Rahm says screw the Black community. Because surely if Rahm truly cared about the Black residents of Chicago he would be upset by the fact that over 200,000 Black families have left the city.

But not Rahm.

He would rather close a school than fix a neighborhood.

Put policing over education.

Blame the victims.

Put Incarceration over improving communities.

This is policy. These are calculated choices. This is Chicago.

Courtesy of In These Times

Where Do I Send My Kids?

I was interviewed in the South Side Weekly about why I send my kids to CPS.

Here is the link to the article on SouthSideWeekly.

Three CPS educators on why they want their kids to attend public schools

Kamari Robertson

When students’ education is on the line, having more options isn’t always better if it means that parents and their children are being forced to choose between non-negotiable fundamental values like community, academic rigor, and safety. Yet, many parents and their children face this predicament when selecting between public neighborhood, public selective enrollment, or private schools in Chicago.

To some, the fact that such a decision must be made is evidence of the unacceptable inequities in Chicago’s education system; but others frame the decision as one of personal choice and shrouded in privacy and individual agency. Parents are especially likely to put it in those terms when the parents in question have a stake in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In a 2011 interview with NBC Chicago, when newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked about his decision to send his kids to a private school, he responded with his notorious temper:

“The decision I’m going to make as it relates to my kids is one I’m going to make as a father, and not as a mayor…They’re not public tools,” he said. “Let me break the news to you, my children are not in a public position. The mayor is.”

Emanuel then unclipped his microphone and left after ten minutes of a twenty-minute interview.

He’s not the only government official to send his children to schools outside of the CPS system. Certain high-ranking CPS officials have done so too. Recently-ousted CEO of CPS Forrest Claypool, former CPS Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, and former CPS CEO Arne Duncan sent their kids to private schools in Chicago. A 2004 Fordham Institute study found that thirty-nine percent of CPS teachers did the same.

Understandably, critics have pointed out that the decisions of the mayor, CPS officials, and even teachers to send their kids to private schools don’t bode well for CPS’ future. Others have reiterated that, in reality, the things that make CPS schools attractive—a sense of community, funding from the city, and diversity—are being systematically removed by the policy decisions made by CPS officials themselves. These policy decisions include school closings, disinvestment, and funding issues.

Meanwhile, CPS educators who support public schools through their work and advocacy often have an impossible choice to make between committing to that support and choosing what they feel is best for their kids. Moreover, CPS educators who are also parents have certain privileges in knowledge and experience that allow them to be better equipped at tackling selective enrollment processes or more discerning in finding ideal educational environments for their children.

To some degree, the future of CPS will be impacted by individual decisions—and how they can be used to either uphold a system of segregation and disinvestment or push for more resources and increased confidence in CPS’ schools, teachers, and students. As employees of CPS, do educators have a professional or ethical obligation to stand by their schools and send their kids to them too? Doing so would be a vote of confidence in CPS, but would also turn a blind eye to the widening gaps between CPS schools and alternative educational options—the private and public selective enrollment schools that are less harried by dwindling resources, lack of transparency, and unstable politics of the CPS.

The Weekly spoke separately with three CPS educators who sent their children to CPS schools about their respective experiences with CPS as both educators and parents. Their responses have been compiled below. The names of several individuals and schools were left out of this article to protect the privacy of the teachers who were interviewed in this piece and their families.

Tamela Chambers, a CPS librarian for almost eight years, cites her personal experience as a student in CPS schools as a large influence in her decision making process as a parent. She currently has three school-aged children—two in middle school and one in high school.

David Stieber is in his eleventh year as a social studies teacher with CPS. He has two children in CPS: one in kindergarten, and one that will enter pre-school next year. Stieber declined to name the schools his children attended for the sake of privacy.

Sashai Jasper, who worked in the district as a high school teacher in both a selective enrollment and neighborhood high school in South Shore, also worked in CPS’ central office for several years before resigning in March of 2017. Last year, she penned an Education Post blog post about how she pulled her daughter out of a private Catholic elementary school in order to enroll her into National Teachers Academy (NTA) in the South Loop. Jasper is now currently involved in efforts to save NTA from being closed and reopened as a high school.

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Jasper: The reason I’m sharing about my background and intimate relationship with CPS is that if it’s difficult for me, I can’t imagine how difficult it is for people who aren’t knowledgeable who don’t know the ins and outs of the system. It’s difficult to navigate and that’s by design.

I’m interested in learning your thought process as an educator and a parent. How did you make the decision to send your children to CPS schools instead of private schools?

Chambers: I am a lifelong Chicagoan born and raised on the South Side, and I attended my neighborhood elementary school and CPS high school. I lived in a neighborhood where my teachers and even my cafeteria ladies were my neighbors, which created a sense of a strong community. We had a relationship. It wasn’t just a teacher, you were also my neighbor. It also made teaching a desirable profession—an honorable profession or something that I could aspire to. So when I had children of my own, it wasn’t even a second thought. It was great for me; I didn’t expect anything different for my children.

Stieber: Teaching at CPS can be a challenge because of all of the politics about how CPS is run. My wife is also a CPS teacher so we both try to make our schools better for our students. It can be really depressing because of what I want my students to get that they don’t have. Before I had kids, I loved my students more than anything. But now that my kids attend CPS, it puts more pressure on me to work continuously to improve the schools for both my students and my kids who attend. It puts me under stress personally and professionally.

My wife is against the selective enrollment process. She teaches at the neighborhood high school we live in and our son goes to the elementary school that will feed into that high school. I personally envision [that] our son will go to the school he’s at up till sixth grade and go to the neighborhood public school as a freshman. Our kids will be in public school and CPS as long as we live in Chicago. We want to make our neighborhood schools good as well and that’s a whole other struggle.

Jasper: The only reason [my daughter] was in a Catholic school is because St. Philip Neri was convenient, down the street, and had a strong community-like family feel. I felt like their pre-K and kindergarten programs were strong and better [than the other schools in the neighborhood], but not necessarily with their upper levels.

But it was very clear in my head that [St. Philip Neri] was a temporary place for her. She was going to be there to experience the socialization but I knew she was going to need to be challenged. As a parent, you know your kid and you know what they need and you think you know what they need. Once she was in kindergarten, I could see that she wasn’t being challenged academically. She also wasn’t being fed or receiving the messages to adapt socially and emotionally. She started coming home and not wanting to go to school. She asked me “Am I white? People are telling me that I’m white.” By being in a 98-99% Black school, she was confused and kids were othering her. Of course, I want to protect her, but I wanted her to be exposed to other cultures.

I was born and raised in Humboldt Park, and I went to Richard Yates Elementary which was in a predominantly Black and Puerto Rican neighborhood. We had Polish students, white students, so there was more of a mix back then. Chicago is hyper-segregated; in many ways, I feel like it’s gotten worse over the years. It wasn’t until I went to CPS high school that I truly felt diversity that I felt was unreal. I definitely wanted [my daughter] to have what I experienced in elementary school and she wasn’t getting that.

[My daughter] is not at Bouchet [Elementary Math & Science Academy] because it’s not diverse. I want her to be around other cultures, other classes. I want her to be open and cultured and she’s not going to get that at Bouchet. What NTA offers in terms of their programs and community involvement is so key to me.

Parents at NTA are so organized and have been very active. It’s a flat out lie to say that a select group of parents—or white parents—are the ones making the noise. Everybody is involved and everybody is making noise. I am not one of the most involved parents—I am just doing my part, whatever that is, whether that’s writing an article or going to a board meeting. It’s really a concerted effort by the community. There are people who are in this fight who don’t even have kids that go to NTA. It’s about equity—people are fed up.

Would you do anything differently? Do you have any plans to change as they get older?

Chambers: I’m pretty much satisfied with the experience. I didn’t bring them to the places I worked only because I wanted them to develop as their own individual person. I think if your child attends the school you work at it makes it difficult to establish their own identity. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything about it.

Stieber: I believe in public education; it should be with great schools with teachers who care about their kids. And the vast majority of CPS teachers care about their kids a lot. But my kids are now experiencing having schools that aren’t being funded the way that they should be and not having enough staff. With the violence in our city, the odds are my kids are going to know people that have been impacted by violence. All that stuff is in your head and is scary, and I have various levels of privilege that shield me more than others because of my income and race, but sending your kids to CPS is scary on many levels because of the way it’s being run at the top.

What do you think it says when CPS teachers won’t send their kids to CPS schools?

Stieber: I understand the reasons why they might do that. Working in CPS for eleven years and seeing people who worked longer—how have people worked with the chaos of CPS? We’ve had eight CEOs in my eleven years of teaching. It’s one of the biggest reasons why CPS teachers send their kids to non-public schools—they don’t want their kids to deal with what their students deal with or what they don’t have in schools. I get it.

Jasper: I’m not surprised by that [thirty-nine percent] statistic. I would have never sent my daughter to [a neighborhood high school] when I was teaching there given what was happening in the area. The academic rigor wasn’t there because we were fighting other battles. There were many times when I would go to work and just focus on classroom management. It was very different when I went to South Shore International College Prep, which is a selective enrollment IB and AP school. The student profile there was different, parents were involved, there was a different culture, a different feel. There were teachers, assistant principals, and office staff that sent their kids there. I knew I wanted to work there because that spoke volumes to me that the assistant principal’s daughter was in my AP class. Or that the security guard and cheerleading coach also sent their kids there.

We invest in the school by sending our kids there. But I know for a fact that’s not often the case. Is that only the case for Walter Payton, Whitney Young? If that’s true, that’s sad. That’s sad that if you work at a neighborhood high school, you don’t feel that way.

From the eyes of both a parent and an educator, what could or should CPS do to incentivize CPS teachers to send their kids to CPS schools?

Stieber: Parents don’t want to look for schools—they want to send their kids to the schools right near them, they don’t want to deal with the selective enrollment because it’s stressful and time consuming. Improve the neighborhood schools. And I think a major first step is to have an elected school board—that shows that people care what parents think, along with no longer closing public schools, or cutting librarians and social workers.

Jasper: I think the biggest disconnect right now between our education and our community is that there is no real conversation. I think what we need to do is get to know our communities.

There is inevitably a disconnect when you have someone who lives in Beverly and works in Englewood. They go there as a job, not because it’s their community. When I went to Roseland every day from South Shore, it was different from me teaching in South Shore when I lived right down the street. When I go to Walgreens, I see my students. When I go to the gas station, I see my kids. They were my neighbors. Me staying for a basketball game or cheerleading practice was not a big deal.

Principals and staff need to do a better job of getting to know their community. Going to community events, bringing in neighborhood clubs for local school council meetings or open houses. There has to be more communication and openness, and it needs to be a partnership. I think that will change that mentality.

There needs to be a shift in the places where we go to every day. Your work should become an extension of you and your family. In the service of educating students, it is a service. You shouldn’t have the attitude that this is just a job. It’s about your willingness to invest in that community, regardless of whether you live there or not.

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An Ode to the CPS Librarian

An ode to the dope librarian
Gatekeeper to tranquility
Checker of passes
Keeper of calmness

Provider of
safety
a place to
research
write
read
nap
chill
unwind

Recommender of books
Counselor for kids

Now tech coordinator
Changing with times
Collaborator with teachers

Will do any job that is asked
Most out of love
But also fear of being cut
Needs to feel needed

Is needed

But teachers aren’t used to you
There are so few of you

Self described unicorn

CPS librarians once flourished
Now all combined
Barely fill a room

Like all things good for kids
CPS cuts you
Attempting to eliminate you
Almost extinct
Just to save a mismanaged buck
Value ignored
Enrichment for students lost

By nature librarians aren’t loud
CPS knows this
So it attacks

75% of schools
no librarian
Librarian a luxury
Luxury too good
for CPS kids

Rahm’s Lab School
kids
1 librarian per 285
kids
CPS
kids
1 librarian per 2671
kids

Someone once confronted you
“why librarians
when we have Google searches
and a computer?”

Clearly this person never knew
You
Never knew what librarians
Can do

But we see you dope librarian
We appreciate you
We need to do a better job of fighting for you
Building w/ you
Working w/ you
Getting to know
you
Listening
to you
Appreciating
you

If you are interested in learning more/ wanting to advocate for librarians for our schools and our children then click here to get involved.

 

To view this piece on ChicagoNow.com click here.

Never Enough Money For Education, But Chicago Always Finds Money For Incarceration

Every year, for the past 11 years that I have taught in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Chicago claims it doesn’t have enough money to properly fund its public schools. And every year there is some “justification” for not giving our students equitable funding.

 

In 2010, CPS didn’t have enough money and threatened to cut extracurricular programs and non-varsity sports.

 

In 2013, it was “necessary” to close more than 50 public schools, the most schools ever shut down at one time in our country’s history.

 

Now, every year our students watch as librarians, counselors, social workers, support staff, security and teachers are cut. They see how special education has been criminally mismanaged. They wonder why the technology in their school does not work, why paint is peeling off their classroom walls, why their track is unusable, why their heating and cooling vents spew out white clumps of powder, or why there are broken asbestos tiles in their classrooms.

 

Yet through all of this, Chicago always finds money for policing.

 

Throughout my time teaching in CPS, I have heard stories of the abusive nature of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) from my students. At first, due to my whiteness, I had a hard time believing my students, because what they were telling was so different from my own experiences. For me as a white person, the police are at worst a minor annoyance. But for my black students, the police can mean danger, abuse, harassment, brutality and death.

 

It has been well documented that CPD has been terrorizing Chicago’s black and brown communities for generations, going back to the 1960s, with the murder of Fred Hamptonwhile he slept, to the 1970s, with acts of torture led by Commander Jon Burge.

This year, Chicago Public Schools students will be learning through the Reparations WON curriculum of the standard torture practices during the Jon Burge era. For about a 20-year period, Commander Jon Burge and his officers would pick up innocent black men and force them into confessing to crimes that they did not commit. His standard methods of getting forced confessions was torture, which included suffocation, putting loaded weapons into mouths and electric shocks to the genital area.

 

Although the Burge torture era has ended, the corruption within the Chicago Police Department has not.

 

CPD has and continues to operate using a code of silence, with secret detention sites like Homan Square, the planting of evidence, falsifying reports and killing people of color in our city. All of these standard operating procedures are well documented.

Through all of this, the “union” representing the CPD ― the Fraternal Order of Police(FOP) ― proudly continues to justify these practices. This is the same FOP who is upset about the Reparations WON curriculum, because they want the curriculum to tell both sides. Both sides of torture?

 

Instead of working to improve policing to make sure acts of police torture, abuse and murder come to a stop, the FOP is working to make sure the mandates in the FOP contract protect cops who kill. Over the years, the FOP has negotiated items in the police contract that allows the police to make up stories and intimidate people who might file complaints against them, to name a just a few.

 

Now, Mayor Emanuel thinks the police are deserving of a new $95 million training facility. Just another example of Rahm using taxpayer money for anything and everything besides our students. Rahm will fund River Walks, Navy Pier, basketball stadiums and hotels while stealing TIF funds from the neighborhoods and schools that need them. His policies lead to the cutting of librarians, social workers, counselors, teachers, and support staff. School budgets continue to be cut. Parents go on hunger strikes to keep schools open. Still more schools are proposed to be closed, in Englewood.

You must survive on less.

 

At the same time schools and our students are having to operate with less, in conditions the mayor would never tolerate for his own children, Chicago is increasing funding to systems, like the police, that harshly punish black and brown children and families.

The Chicago Police Department costs taxpayers $4 million a day in operating costs, which makes up 40 percent of our city’s entire budget and totals up to $1.5 billion dollars per year. Police brutality cases in Chicago have cost our city more than $500 million dollars. To put this spending on policing in perspective, the daily cost of CPD is:

“… more than the city spends on the Departments of Public Health, Family and Support Services, Transportation, and Planning and Development combined. Mental-health spending receives $10 million per year, and only $2 million per year is allocated to violence-prevention services.”

Just recently, a case involving a Chicago police shooting and killing of Ronald “Ronnieman” Johnson shows once again CPD planted evidence, showcasing continued corruption. Ronald was shot while running in 2014. It was claimed that he had a gun and, according to an image put out by CPD, it showed he had a gun. This was a claim his family has disputed. The officers weren’t charged. But now, after a forensic scientist reviewed the image, it has become evident that it is a false image.

 

Meaning Ronald didn’t have a gun. Meaning there is no justification for his death.

Before Rahm gives any money to the CPD, he should follow all of the recommendations of the Department of Justice report. In case you missed it, the DOJ investigation was the largest civil rights investigation into a police department in history. The DOJ findings included that CPD was responsible for the use of excessive and deadly force against people who pose no threat, use of force in health crises, exhibit racially discriminatory behavior, having officers with no accountability and who are poorly trained.

 

On top of addressing the DOJ concerns, Rahm should also have a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), as many community organizations have been advocating for years. (While he is at it, he should have an elected school board, too.)

 

Until the Chicago Police Department cleans up its act, it should not receive additional funding to build a new cop academy. Police can improve their training methods in their current training facilities. You don’t need a new building to teach police how not to be racist or why they should not kill innocent people.

 

If Rahm can’t find money for the education of our students, then there is no way he should find money for the incarceration of them#NoCopAcademy

 

Here is more information about the proposed cop academy, and here are ways to help pressure our elected officials to not support the cop academy.

 

Also consider donating and supporting the Chicago Torture Justice Center which, “seeks to address the traumas of police violence and institutionalized racism through access to healing and wellness services, trauma-informed resources, and community connection. The Center is a part of and supports a movement to end all forms of police violence.”

See this piece on Huff Post and Alternet

A Teacher’s Response To Criticisms On The Torture Curriculum In Chicago Public Schools

Part 1: A Brief Background of How and Why the Curriculum on Torture Came To Be

Over nearly a 20-year period, Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his officers tortured 110 Black men by beating them, suffocating them, and using electric shocks to force confessions to crimes these men did not commit. As part of a lawsuit that was won by survivors of the Jon Burge police torture era, Chicago Public Schools is mandated to implement a 3-5 week unit in the 8th and 10th grades that teaches students about these horrific events that happened within the Chicago Police Department. The men who survived the acts of torture did not win substantial amounts of money from the city, what they wanted and won was their stories taught in schools in hopes of preventing more instances like this. For more information about what Burge and his men did click here.

 

Part 2: For Concerned CPS Parents and the Public

I am a high school social studies teacher in CPS. My oldest child attended pre-school in CPS and will now be starting kindergarten in CPS on Tuesday. I have heard some parents say, “Well I don’t want my kid learning about that!” or “I will pull them out of school when they learn about that.” A reminder that this curriculum is taught to 8th and 10th graders. If at this age your children are still sheltered from the everyday systemic racism and horrible events of our past, it is long overdue that they learn.

 

Do you think Jewish parents don’t teach their kids about the Holocaust? That Black parents don’t teach their kids about Slavery, Jim Crow, and the on going struggle for equality? That Mexican parents don’t teach their children about colonization, loss of culture, and current examples of racism?

 

Whether you talk to your kids or not they know there is injustice in the world. Here are resources for parents to help their kids understand injustice and then ways to address it.

No one likes learning about Slavery, the Holocaust, or any types of discrimination/horrific abuse, but does that mean that it should not be taught?

 

This curriculum does not bash police. It educates students on what can happen if systems go unchecked. We don’t like bullies, right? Well, let your children learn what can happen if a bully is allowed to bully well into adulthood.

 

I would encourage parents to read the curriculum, by clicking here for the 8th grade curriculum and here for the 10th grade curriculum.

 

Social Studies teachers love teaching multiple viewpoints, but there are certain topics, such as this one, when the other side’s viewpoint isn’t valid. We don’t teach that Hitler or the Nazi’s were really a bunch of misunderstood good guys. We don’t teach that Slave owners were really good people just interested in “helping” slaves. We don’t teach that Columbus was a good guy…well unfortunately some still teach that, but he was a terrible human too.

 

The Jon Burge side of this curriculum is the side that picked up 110 random Black men, forced them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit by beating and torturing them. There is no “good side”.

Part 3: Responding to the Fraternal Order of Police

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) sent a letter to the leadership of Chicago Public Schools (you can view page 1 of the letter here and page 2 here). Basically asking that both sides of the story be presented while attempting to deflect from the horrific things Chicago Police did under Burge.

 

The courts decided that Chicago Police Department under Burge did horrible things. The courts heard ‘the other side’. The curriculum was then made collaboratively by many organizations.

 

FOP, you had your ‘other side of the story’ chance in court and lost.

Instead of working to improve policing to make sure acts of police torture, abuse, and murder come to a stop, the FOP is working to make sure the mandates in the FOP contract protect cops who kill and issue a code of silence for any officer who might be wiling to speak up.

 

The Chicago Police Department has a long and tragic history of police abuse that includes the recent deaths of Rekia Boyd, Johsua Beal, Laquan McDonald, Paul O’Neal, Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier, Jose Nieves, Pierre Loury, and Kajuan Raye among others. The Chicago Police Department has been exposed for having a secret holding site at Homan Square, they have been reprimanded by the Department of Justice, cost Chicago taxpayers over $500 million in police abuses cases, have a Code of Silence that tries to prevent officers from speaking up, and has articles in their contract that actually allow for abuse of citizens and cover ups by police.

 

Let me be clear though, the torture curriculum only focuses on what Burge did. It does not address any instance of police abuse, murder before or after him.

 

I know police who have said things to me like, “I’m not a bad guy.” I know some police are right when they say that. It is true that even within a corrupt system like the Chicago Police or policing as a whole, there can be legitimately good police officers. However, until I hear police willing to call out the FOP, take it over, or create a new and legitimate police union then I’ll just say that within every corrupt system there may be a few good apples.

 

Anytime I write a piece critical of police I ask myself a lot of questions. Is there a risk to me in writing this piece? My spouse? My kids? Do I need to try and make sure there aren’t recent public pictures of my kids on social media? Do I need to prevent people from knowing where my kids go to school? Am I damaging my career? Am I in danger? Or are these just irrational fears that I don’t need to worry about? I think these thoughts every time my partner gives me the look that means, “Dave be careful.” I try to be, but then I think about teaching.

 

In college, I was told by a great teacher, that no matter where you teach, if you are going to be successful in this career you need to advocate for your students and then teach them how to advocate for themselves. Since I began teaching in CPS in 2007 I have heard stories from my students of police harassment and abuse. I think about students who have been killed by police. I realize that I must use my various forms of privilege to speak out. I hope soon enough police officers will do the same.

 

There can’t be healing until there is acknowledgement of systemic issues with policing and from there reconciliation can begin. However, as long as the FOP is around, healing isn’t even possible.

 

Jon Burge and his men did horrible things. The reason we teach about these things is to prevent them from happening again. If you are an educator who wants to learn more about this curriculum, I am fortunate to be a part of a group of educators putting together a professional development (PD) that will be offered at the Chicago Teachers Union in the near future on what this curriculum really is and how to teach it. Click here for more information about PD’s offered from the CTU, the dates for this PD are not yet finalized.

 

If you are interested in working to improve policing in Chicago than check out the Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression (AARPR) as they and the Chicago Torture Justice Center have and continue to work to get all the victims of the Jon Burge era freed from jail. The AARPR also are and have been working towards getting an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council, which would make the police accountable to someone besides themselves or the mayor’s cronies.

 

Click here to view this piece on Huff Post.

Presenter Reparations WON Curriculum

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Photo: CPS Teachers from right to left Will Weaver, Mayra Almaraz-De Santiago, and Dave Stieber

We are leading professional development around the Reparations WON curriclum.

https://www.ctuf.org/won/

“Starting this school year, middle and high school teachers must teach about the history of torture committed under the direction of disgraced Police Commander Jon Burge and the fight waged by survivors and their allies for justice. In 2015, organizers won the passage of a Chicago city ordinance which awarded a full reparations package to survivors and included the creation of this curriculum which CPS finally launched last spring. This curriculum will be a challenge to teach and teachers will need strong preparation, as well as time to collaborate and plan. The CTU and CTUF Quest Center supported the development of the curriculum and worked with rank and file educators to develop this professional development series.The PD modules are divided into 1) before teaching the curriculum, 2) teaching the curriculum, and 3) after teaching the curriculum. The modules will include workshop time for participants to think and plan.”

Both An NFL Player and Chicago Public Schools Teacher Punished for Fighting for Justice

How could an NFL player and a Chicago Public Schools Special Education teacher have anything in common? When they both are being punished for advocating for justice for others.

We are all familiar with the story of Colin Kaepernick who decided to peacefully protest the inequalities facing Black Americans, specifically in terms of police brutality. If you aren’t from Chicago then you may not be familiar with the story of Sarah Chambers. Sarah is an elementary special education teacher in Chicago who vocally advocates for the special education students she teaches at her school, as well as across the entire city. Chambers is now entering her 10th week of suspension. She is forbidden to teach her students and they have been forced to have a substitute teacher all of this time. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has not said why she is suspended. However, just as Colin Kaepernick is still unsigned because of his advocacy for justice, Sarah is suspended because of her willingness to vocally advocate for her students.

Colin Kaepernick and Sarah Chambers are both highly effective at their chosen professions. Colin Kaepernick has the 5th best touchdown to interception ratio of all time and last year he had 16 touchdowns as compared to only 4 interceptions. Sarah Chambers has consistently received distinguished ratings by her principals, the highest rating achievable in the current teacher evaluation system.

In addition to being highly effective at his profession, Colin Kaepernick is an active citizen who is committed to making our country better. As a social studies teacher myself, it is empowering to be able to show my students a celebrity who is aware of issues, makes others aware, donates to organizations trying to improve those issues and finally is willing to work to create change. Colin Kaepernick has pledged to donate $1 million of his own money to organizations working to improve our country. He also created an organization called Know Your Rights Camp, which he is intricately a part of.

While not a celebrity, Sarah Chambers is also an active citizen and an open LGBTQ teacher who created an LGBTQ club at her school to provide all of her students a safe space. She teaches her students about the gross underfunding of Special Education programs in Chicago, which directly impact their lives. She then educates the public about these issues and speaks to those in power in Chicago to bring about the change that will impact all students in CPS.

An unfortunate similarity is that Colin Kaepernick and Sarah Chambers both work for organizations run with nearly absolute control. To the head of the NFL Roger Goodell and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, being a civically engaged citizen like Chambers and Kaepernick is dangerous to their power structure. Many fans clearly like and support Kaepernick as evidenced by the fact of his top selling jersey last season and by the fact even though he is unsigned, his jersey is currently still one of the highest selling jerseys. His jersey (currently 17th most popular of any position) is outselling the starting quarterbacks of 24 teams. Sarah Chambers is also clearly respected as evidenced by the massive amount of support she has received from her students, parents, and teachers.

In Chicago, Rahm Emanuel forbids Democracy in our school system. Rahm appoints everyone involved in making decisions about education, from the CEO to the school board. Roger Goodell also wields similar power. He often suspends players and punishes teams without just cause. The NFL and Roger Goodell try to hide information from the players, like the league attempting to cover up the issues with concussions. Rahm Emanuel also engages in cover-ups. He tried to cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald by the Chicago Police for over a year.

The actions of Goodell and Emanuel may be supported by other power hungry elites, but their actions are clearly not liked by the masses they are supposed to represent. When either of them go out in public they consistently face booing fans/constituents. Rahm Emanuel got booed after a Chicago Blackhawks rally, at a street naming ceremony, at a basketball game, and most recently by school children.  Roger Goodell gets booed at every NFL Draft.

While there are many similarities between the Kaepernick and Chambers situations there are some major differences. One of the differences that I want to focus on is the vastly different levels of support from people within their profession, as well as the unions that are supposed to represent them. Sarah has support from her union, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). While Kaepernick does not have the same level of support of the National Football League Players Association.

There have been many rallies and protests to support Sarah, organized by the Chicago Teachers Union. But what help has the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) provided for Kaepernick? Certain NFL players like Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, and Brandon Marshall have come out to question why Kaepernick has yet to be signed. Last season Kaepernick also had the support of his teammate Eric Reid as well as multiple NFL players and U.S. Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who joined his protest.

But through all that, why is the National League Football Players Association staying quiet? The NFLPA should be visibly fighting against the obvious banishment of Kaepernick. It should be helping to organize rallies, release statements, and build a movement of NFL players who are willing to speak up. Other players should also speak up and push the NFLPA to act.

As of now only one white male athlete has supported Kapernick in any sport. Current Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long has been the only white male athlete to support Kaepernick. Many Military Veterans, the people who he was supposedly disrespecting, have come out to support Kaepernick, yet crickets from nearly all white male athletes.

The Chicago Teachers Union has encouraged its members to speak up in support of Sarah. The teachers who are willing to speak up for her, know that it is a risk to speak up, because Rahm Emanuel wants teachers to stay silent.

Silence is exactly what the NFL and other sports organizations want. Being outspoken got former Chicago Bulls sharp shooter Craig Hodges blacklisted from the NBA, as chronicled in his book “Long Shot”.

Power likes silence whether in sports or teaching. Power adores systems like blackballing. Colin Kaepernick is not the first athlete punished for being an active citizen. John Carlos and Tommie Smith were punished for raising their fists at the ’68 Olympics. Toni Smith a college basketball player faced severe repercussions for her protest in 2003.

Sarah Chambers is not the first teacher punished for being vocal. In fact, Chicago Public Schools is currently punishing many other teachers for being outspoken, here are the stories of 5 of them.

In the cases of Sarah Chambers and Colin Kaepernick my final question is, why would the powers in place be more upset about an actively engaged citizen then what is causing them to take a stand in the first place?

The NFL should be proud of someone like Kaepernick, who can play well and be socially aware and active, just like Chicago should be proud of someone like Sarah Chambers, who is a great teacher and an advocate to make our schools better for all our students.

Power thrives by fear. To improve our country, athletes, teachers, and citizens need to support the truth tellers who are willing to risk it all. These truth tellers are not in the spotlight for themselves, but for the betterment of everyone in society.

If you are interested in helping Sarah Chambers and other teachers who have been punished get their jobs back, whether you live in Chicago or not you can click here for information on whom to contact to help.

If you are interested in helping Kaepernick get signed, start pressuring your favorite NFL team’s front office and the NFLPA. As a Bear’s fan, I know Kaepernick could beat out all of our backups and most likely our starters. I imagine that the fans of many teams around the league are not happy with their quarterback situation either.

As Dave Zirin in writes in The Nation, “The NFL is denying Colin Kaepernick employment not because he isn’t “good enough” but because he is being shut out for the crime of using his platform to protest the killing of black kids by police.”

 

*Important things to note and question about this piece. I focused on Sarah Chambers because she is and has been very vocal about her punishment. I believe publicizing her struggle will continue to help shine a light on all the terrible policies that harm all teachers, special education students and students in general in Chicago. By focusing on Sarah Chambers, a white teacher, it does not shine a spotlight on the gross injustices that teachers of color and specifically Black teachers face(d) in CPS. Chicago Public Schools has a history of firing Black and Latino teachers in large numbers and of not hiring Black teachers as well.

 

To view this piece on Huff Post click here.

Suspended For Standing Up For Students: Only In The Mayor Controlled Chicago Public Schools

My oldest son will be starting kindergarten in the fall. He is a introverted kid. He loves to learn, takes a while to warm up to new people, and is a loyal friend. He is however at times too passive, which could make him vulnerable to bullying or more prone withdraw from activities that he would otherwise be interested in. When I envision the type of teacher that I want for my son next year and going forward in CPS, I picture a teacher that will make him feel safe, inspire him to learn, bring him joy and push his learning. I want a teacher who will teach him to take a stand, will advocate for him if needed and also will teach him how to advocate for himself.

 

My wife and I are both CPS teachers and we know that the system of CPS is a mess, but also know that the educators who work in the buildings are amazing. As an educator in CPS for the past ten years, I have met many educators that I would love my son to have as teachers. One such educator is Sarah Chambers.

 

Sarah, if you haven’t heard, is now in her 7th week of being suspended by CPS. She is an elementary special education teacher who has always received great ratings from her principals. She also vocally advocates for her students and special education students across the city. In addition, she also runs her schools LGBTQ club at her school.

 

Her “crime” is holding accountable a school system in which the mayor controls schools, appoints school board members, and picks CEOs to “run” the schools without educational experience. People such as these are intimidated by vocal and outstanding educators, who call them out on their inexperience or short-comings.

 

Sarah has been an outstanding teacher and vocal advocate for her students for many years now. I wrote about her back in 2014 as she led her elementary school to protest the ridiculous amount of testing being forced onto our students. Her school and another school boycotted an unneeded standardized Illinois test. CPS threatened to revoke the teachers’ teaching licenses if they didn’t give the test. The teachers met with parents and explained why they were against giving the tests and gained parental support for the boycott. These teachers so loved their students and were committed to doing what was right for their students that they literally put their careers on the line for their students. Her work on this protest was featured in the book More Than A Score.

 

The actions by CPS to suspended a committed and vocal teacher are bigger than Sarah Chambers. This is how CPS has been operating for years. Once again, when you have mayoral control and people with no educational experience running schools they get scared when outstanding and vocal teachers speak up. Teachers like Xian Franzinger Barrett, Tim Meegan and other CPS teachers who have spoken up in years past quickly find their position cut. In many districts, educators would be lauded for their commitment to their students and schools, but CPS prefers its teachers quiet and complacent. The minute you are confident and vocal CPS comes for you or at least puts you on a troublemaker list.

Now this year, in addition to Sarah Chambers there are 5 other teachers currently suspended for being vocal advocates for their schools and students. Teachers like Kevin Triplett, Joseph Dunlap, Laura Sierra,  and Jose Contreras. Their stories and “justification” for being suspended can be found here.

Now I know there may be someone somewhere thinking, “surely those teachers must have done something illegal or they wouldn’t be suspended”. If you have taught in CPS long enough you know that being vocal is a crime enough. To survive in the chaos of CPS system leadership teachers usually adopt 1 of 2 strategies. Either, 1) go along with the mess and just lay low or 2) act like you are going along with the mess and then close your classroom door and do what is best for our students. There is another option. It is the option that has the potential of incredible highs and devastating lows. This 3rd option is to teach effectively, develop critical-thinkers who question why things are they way they are and speak out against injustice. The possible high is that with a concerted and collaborated effort, over time real change will happen in CPS and the school system will improve. Mayoral control will end and school board members will be elected and no longer appointed. The low of this plan is exactly what is happening to the CTU Six, they are targeted and suspended for being too vocal.

 

As a parent I want a teacher who not only can teach my child, but is also willing to defend my child and teach society ways to improve our schools. By suspending these 6 teachers, CPS is robbing these teachers’ students of quality instruction. The students of these teachers are and have been taught by substitutes for weeks. That is not what is best for kids.

 

There are ways you can help. 1) Contact CPS and CEO Claypool and ask them to reinstate all of the CTU Six. 2) Contact your Alderman and ask them to support the CTU Six. 11 Alderman have already publicly stated their support, shout out to Alderman Garza, Pawar, Waugespack, Cardenas, Rosa, Arena, Munoz, Mell, Lopez, Cappleman, and Reilley. 3) Get involved in your neighborhood schools, teachers need support.

 

To view this piece on Huff Post click here.

To view this piece on Alternet click here.