Black Lives Matter Educates Chicago’s Teachers

Towards the end of a powerful day of striking across this city on April 1st, Page May, leader of Assata’s Daughters, a black women’s empowerment group, came on stage at the CTU led rally at the Thompson Center and proudly said, “F*ck the Police!

Her three words have caused a tidal wave of discussions in this city among all groups of people. Many of these discussions have been necessary and difficult. Sadly, some of these discussions have made her the target of terribly racist and violent threats.

Since the rally that Page spoke at, was in large part a CTU rally, we teachers have been forced to talk amongst ourselves, in person, on social media, and list serves about her three words, the meaning and the implications.

Many teachers have said things like, “That was not the place to make a statement like that. April 1st was about building unity to fight Rauner and Rahm and her comments created divisiveness, not unity, during what was an otherwise powerful day.” Or “We need to work with other public sector union employees, like the police in our struggle to get more funding, but now the police hate us.”

We blamed her essentially for putting a black cloud over what was “our” beautiful event.

The Black Lives Matter Movement has been successful at bringing issues of police brutality to the forefront of the American conversation over the past few years. Educators as a whole have been receptive and supportive of the movement.

But this comment has pushed us educators to discuss the movement in ways that many of us never have.

This is the apparent beauty of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

We teachers are on the front lines, advocating for our students, our schools, and communities. We consider ourselves forward thinking, social justice orientated, and anti-racist.

Studies show that the teaching profession has become more and more white, which means we (white educators) also do not know what it is like to deal with the police the way our students do, day in and day out.

I struggled with Page’s comment too at first. I thought to myself the timing wasn’t right, the event wasn’t right, maybe she wasn’t right, because surely there are many good police officers too. I have not had very many negative experiences with the police. When I call the police they come and they don’t bother me unless I am doing something that I shouldn’t be.

These three words, “F*ck the Police” have made me re-examine all of that.

I have current and former students who have shared story upon story of police abuses with me. I know that many of the situations that my students share with me, my students were not doing anything wrong and did not deserve the police encounter. But somewhere deep inside my brain, sometimes my privilege creeps. It whispers things like, “surely they must have done something or the police wouldn’t have bothered them”, but then my Chicago education (taught to me by students) overpowers that privileged thought and I hear my students saying to me, “Mr. Stieber all I did was walk down the street, while being black”.

If you live in Chicago are young and black you deal with the police or are tense because of the police daily. I only have to deal with this tension when I choose to listen to black youth.

In my mind I was trying to operate in a world where police and black youth could exist in the same space. Thanks to Page I am beginning to see differently. I know realize that if we teachers cared as much about why so many of our black students have a hatred towards the police to begin with, as we do to Page saying, “F*ck the police” at a rally, we would be much closer to stopping police brutality.

Many more discussions need to be had, but the Black Lives Matter movement (led in Chicago by BYP100, Assata’s Daughters and others) as a whole sees to it that all white people have to grapple with these issues, even when we don’t think it is appropriate or timed right.

Read this on Huffington Post:
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/black-lives-matter-educates-chicagos-teachers_b_9630328.html

The “Open Seats” of Chicago Public Schools

Since the teachers strike ended it is obvious that the Chicago Public Schools appointed Board of Education and Mayor Emmanuel are gearing up to close a large number of public schools.  Their rhetoric is that public schools have large numbers of under utilized buildings, meaning that there are not enough students for all the available seats in public schools across the city.

The claim by the Mayor and Board of Education is there are 600,000 seats and only 400,000 students. On December 1st CPS is legally required to announce any plans for closing schools. When CPS announces the expected school closing list a large number of schools will be closed (expect 80-120 schools) students will have new teachers, principals, and building staff. The community will lose institutions that are central parts of the neighborhood. CPS has been closing schools for the past ten years and the date shows no real improvement is made by closing schools, in fact the research shows that when a school is closed it further destabilizes a community. CPS’ primary justification for closing schools is based on standardized test scores (even though again research shows test scores not an accurate measure of intelligence)

In fact there is already an official hit list of 80 schools that UNO charter school leader Juan Rangel (who also served on Mayor Emanuel’s education team) wants to close. Rangel wants these 80 public schools to be turned over into privately run charter schools. Turning public schools into charter schools would benefit Mr. Rangel as well as the other charter school network heads, because they could get more public and private funds, which increases their already large salaries.

So even though CPS claims there are 200,000 “empty seats” CPS and the Mayor now want to reopen many of the closed public schools as new charter schools If there really was 200,000 empty seats wouldn’t the logic be that we do not need to open any more schools? Yet our Mayor in all his genius wants to open even more charter schools even though research shows charters do NOT perform better than public schools.

One other important point that the Mayor and Board of Education are failing to mention in this case is the projected $1 billion CPS budget deficit. The mayor was so quick to mention the budget deficit during the teachers strike, yet now when he wants to open possibly 100 charter schools the budget deficit is not mentioned.

On top of that the charter schools in CPS actually have open seats in their own buildings. Charter schools because they get public and private money are able to spend money on advertising and PR campaigns. So many of us are familiar with the rhetoric that charter schools have a lottery system and very long wait lists to get into them…well this is not actually true. The proof? The day before the CPS teachers strike happened the various charter school leaders got together and held a press conference where they announced their were open seats in their schools (remember it was about a month into their school calendar) in fact “that 1/3 of the city’s charter schools had open seats”.

So lets be clear one month into school 1/3 of all charter schools had open seats. Yet CPS wants to close under utilized public schools and open the exact same buildings with more under utilized not as effective charter schools?

As a teacher, a parent, and a citizen of Chicago this “plan” does not make sense.

Charters perform no better than public schools, 1/3 of all charter schools are under enrolled, there is a projected budget deficit…. so what is really going on? What is behind the Mayors plan to close public schools? Is he doing it for the kids like he claims? The overwhelming evidence says no.  Demand truth from the Mayor, Demand an elected school board, Demand that your alderman ask for transparency around the issue of school closings.

There is money in this city. The budget is a political document not a financial one. The budget is all about priorities and it is time we make the Mayor and the appointed Board of Education understand ours, because as a teachers and parents our priorities are about the kids.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/chicago-public-school-closings_b_2015603.html