Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicago Parents Hold Sit-In to Protest Privatization of Public Schools

New Orleans Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas, as well as US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, used to run the Chicago Public School system, and Chicago remains a battleground on the issue of school reform.

Last week, a new battle was joined, as parents from one Chicago school - Whittier Elementary - in the mostly-Latino neighborhood of Pilsen, learned that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had plans to sell off a building owned by their school to nearby private school. Parents took action, organizing a 24-hour-a-day sit-in, that is now in day 10. The parents are demanding that CPS turn the building into a much-needed library for Whittier students, rather than selling it off.

Yesterday, LJI visited the sit-in. We spoke with one of the parents who organized the protest, Araceli Gonzalez, and asked her what they are fighting for:

We’re fighting for a library. It’s as simple as that. A library. And we reached this point that we need to do a sit-in to get it.

CPS is not really doing a lot because they think they’re stronger than us, and we’re going to show that regular people are stronger. Today’s our 8th day and we will continue sitting here until they give us what we want, because a library is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

I've been trying to understand how (Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman) thinks, and why he wont listen. I’m trying to see: is it my nationality or is it because of where I live, or is it because he just wants to demonstrate, “This is what I said and this is what I’m going to do.” Is it because he thinks, "This is a bunch of Hispanic ladies," so why would he give in to us?

I’m very proud. I know I’m speaking for all the moms who are here, we had discussed that we needed to do this, it was our only choice left. And we did it. We just started this not knowing how hard it was going to be, but it’s making us stronger.

We’ve been learning so much, so much. The support there is in the city that I never knew. I don’t even have this support in my family, with my regular life, so it’s an amazing thing for me.

I hope that my kids, as they grow older, they get involved in struggles like this. If they hear that there’s something going on, and their support is needed to just to sit there, or go sign a paper, or whatever is needed, they will do it.

They will learn from what were going through here, because they’ve been part of the sit-in too. Theyr’re struggling here, they come here some nights and stay for a while. They go home to go to sleep late, because if it’s the night that I’m going to stay here, they want to stay as late as they can because I’m going to stay the night.

Little things like that are making them stronger. The nights that I’m there are making them stronger.

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