We have resilient students and teachers which I have seen first hand how they will adjust to any condition faced.  Whether it is class size, budget, buildings, principals, testing, or another factor people in our schools do their very best.  They do this out of the desire to get an education and to give the highest quality education.  They will do what they must, but they should not have to overcome as much as they do.  I know that no matter what our future holds, teachers, staff and communities will come together to do their best at giving our kids the best education they can.

Our mayor says he wants to reduce violence and give our students opportunities for success, but those must not include getting an education in their neighborhood. Our efforts should be to build quality schools in EVERY neighborhood.   We have students who attend our schools despite major adversity now, to add stress by closing schools is not going to help us prepare our students for the future, in fact stress is a huge obstacle to learning, why aren’t we working to remove road blocks for our kids? Imagine the stress of having to get to school, outside of your neighborhood and have that route feel unsafe.  The message it sends to me is that our kids education is not a priority for our city.  It says we don’t believe you deserve the best, even though every person working with our young people believes they do deserve just that.

We heard the commision recommend not closing high schools because of gangs and violence issues, yet our K-8 students will be left to face it.  How many more kids’ lives must be sacrificed?  Should the gangs be held accountable for violence? Of course. But should our schools be the ones putting our students in unsafe spaces? No.  The amount of money the city will have to spend on bussing (if they do at all) and security will be more than they save in utilization.  The loss of community centers in schools and safe zones in neighborhoods is beyond measure.  It is definitely beyond the math or seats, classrooms and number of students in a building. Why can’t we utilize the space in schools to offer after-school community programs, lease out the space to park districts, heath and fitness programs, nonprofits that want to come in and help in our communities?  Why can’t the mayor “sell” that? Chicago Public Schools is advertising on public transit a way for people to vote for community programs, can’t we do both: keep schools open and use the space in schools for community programs?

The recommendations for schools should come from a commission of community members, parents, teachers and city workers who live in and work in our communities. I imagine a parent, police office, religious and community leader would bring better insight to the decision. The solution to keeping schools open and utilized can be solved with the members of each community invested in the schools themselves.  How invested can a CEO be by living here for less than 6 months?  How much does the mayor care when he has only been back for a few years and will likely be gone in a few more and doesn’t send his kids to our schools?  Yet our children, families and teachers remain here to learn and work in our community schools.

I hope CTU has a plan to stand for children and keeping schools open as they did for a fair contract.  The message sent when thousands of people stand together in our downtown displaying the need for something better for our kids and schools was powerful. The mayor says he wants our students to dream of a possibility of what our downtown has to offer them in their own futures.  I hope our young people, teachers, families and concern community members listen to the mayor and take our children downtown very soon to send a message about their education and their future.