Parents were very vocal about their opposition to a proposal to close four South Side Chicago high schools at a recent Chicago Public Schools (CPS) community meeting.
This follows the protests that erupted last year after CPS announced its proposal to close four public schools in Englewood, Illinois. In June, CPS also introduced a new plan to build an $85 million high school in their place. The plan details the closures of Robeson, Hope, Harper and TEAM Englewood high schools by the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The new building, however, will not open until 2019 and will only house a freshman class. The other students will be forced to transfer elsewhere, according to Chicago Tonight.
"We're not leaving until we're heard!" #CPSboard #ChiPubSchools #FundOurSchools pic.twitter.com/8J8lMqwGiO— Michelle Velazquez #DreamActNOW (@michellevelazg) December 6, 2017
“How are you going to close down our school, but not have a place for our students to go to?” Gregory Jackson, a Hope High School teacher, told Chicago Tonight. “Not only that, I found out the teachers and administrators are not even guaranteed a spot in that school.”
The district claims to have set aside a fund of $8 million in order to aid in the transfer of students to Bogan, Phillips, Gage Park and Chicago Vocational Career Academy high schools, as well as create individual plans for transfer students. Students will also have the opportunity to enroll in summer courses to aid in their matriculation, Chicago Tonight reported.
Many have claimed the proposal to be a form of discrimination as the closing schools are all within majority black and hispanic communities.
“We have an education crisis. At the heart of this crisis are systems of inequality and injustice that disproportionally impact black and brown neighborhoods. This structural racism impacts everyday life in Chicago. It has an influence on jobs, housing, healthcare… it determines who gets to live and who gets to die. What’s happening with our schools is a symbol of dysfunction and a symbol of racism,” Ra Joy said on Dec. 6. The Democratic lieutenant governor candidate went on to add that there were 18 school closures in his own neighborhood over the course of nearly 20 years.
I lost my son, Xavier, to senseless gun violence six months ago. Today is his birthday. There's no better way to celebrate his life than to speak out alongside these courageous students saying no to racist school closings in Chicago. We need an Illinois where equity is paramount. pic.twitter.com/4MQSusFCLI— Ra Joy (@Ra_Joy) December 6, 2017
The Chicago Public School board rejects this notion of discrimination, and notes a decline in the four high schools' enrollment numbers. According to Chicago Tonight, all four closing schools have fewer than 500 students, and many within the Englewood community attend schools outside of it. The single school will ideally be able to provide a range of classes.
In the midst of these shutdowns, CPS voted in a new CEO, Janice Jackson, by a vote of 5-0 on Wednesday.
Jackson is welcomed after the fall of previous school leaders who both resigned after criminal and ethical complaints.
“This is a new administration, and that administration needs to draw a clear line to break with the unethical practices of the past…" Jesse Sharkey, Chicago teachers union vice president, told the Chicago Tribune. "It’s about the reliability and credibility of the institution of Chicago Public Schools in the eyes of the public after what’s frankly been a tough run. ”