An announcement from Chicago this week reveals that teachers are preparing to ramp up their fight to save the shuttering of as many as 129 schools across the city, putting their bodies on the line in order to fight back on behalf of their students and the communities where they teach.
Parents, educators and concerned city residents—led by the Chicago Teachers Union and the Grassroots Education Movement—will continue their resistance to Mayor Rahm Emanuels' plans to close the school by participating in 'civil disobedience trainings' where they will prepare for new "non-violent protest techniques" designed to "arouse the conscience of the community."
Such tactics, according to the groups, could include public disruptions, demonstrations, and even civil resistance actions—like sit-ins or blockades—that could result in arrest.
"While the District contemplates how many neighborhood schools they will shutter this year, taxpayers who have had enough of these top-down, draconian measures are strategizing on how to elevate their voices in the school closing fight," the CTU said in a statement.
An official announcement of the school closings by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is expected by the end of the month. As the Chicago Tribune reports:
CPS officials, who say they need to close schools to address next year's projected deficit of $1 billion [...]
A commission on school closings said in its final report that the district could safely close or overhaul up to 80 schools, even though it has never previously closed more than a dozen in a single year.
The CPS' claims that closing schools will save taxpayer money, however, has not been proven by similar closings in other cities.
As education blogger at the Washington Post Valerie Strauss reports, "Research suggests that school closings may hinder, and rarely help, students’ academic progress, even when so-called failing schools are closed, and cost savings are often not as great as expected. In fact, when Michelle Rhee closed 23 public schools in 2008, she said the school system would save money but a city audit concluded it actually cost $40 million."
And putting the ongoing fight in Chicago in a national context, Strauss adds:
Over the last decade some 70 cities have closed public schools, some because they are under-enrolled and others because they are said to be academically failing and more mass closings are on the way. Washington, D.C. officials are planning to close 15 schools, and New York City, which closed more than 140 schools since 2002, recently announced plans to shut 17 more beginning next year.
Last week, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to close down 23 — down from an original list of nearly 40 — and protesters, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, got arrested at the meeting where the decision was made.