Mass protests hit Chicago over school closures

The Chicago Teachers Union is rallying support against closures that will disproportionately affect black, Latino kids

By Natasha Lennard
Published March 27, 2013 8:52PM (EDT)

On Wednesday Chicago will see a mass rally, led by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), to protest the planned shuttering of 54 elementary and middle schools before the next school year. Critics of the closures have pointed out that the vast majority of schools targeted (50 are on the West and South Sides of Chicago) provide for black and Latino children. While only around 40 percent of children in Chicago are black are Latino, 90 percent of children whose schools will be shuttered are black or Latino.

“The only thing that’s like it is Hurricane Katrina,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey of the potential devastation, “except this is being done on purpose.” The closures will affect 30,000 students and around 1,000 teachers. Labor Notes' Samantha Winslow explained that "the union opposes what leaders call a 'manufactured crisis': a series of intentional policy decisions to underfund public schools while boosting charter schools. Once public school enrollment drops, the board can close public schools and justify charters." Winslow reported on the mass rally planned for Wednesday afternoon:

The Chicago Teachers Union is trying to make the closings a citywide fight rather than a school-by-school battle. The bonds with parents forged before and during the teachers’ strike in September 2012 have carried over into protests around the city, at hearings set up by the school district.

[CTU's Brandon] Johnson and other organizers have been working with rank-and-file teacher leaders and with parents, holding school meetings and neighborhood meetings and working with existing community groups to educate parents about the crisis for neighborhood schools.

Today, protesters—including leaders from the teachers, hotel and restaurant workers, and service workers unions—will gather at individual schools and neighborhoods, then link up in downtown Chicago, where they will march on City Hall and the Board of Education. Community organizations are providing their members with transportation to the rally.



Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Charter Schools Chicago Chicago Schools Cps Ctu Public Schools Rahm Emanuel