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Year in review

Fenger High School. The numbers of Chicago students killed, often just after school, have risen steadily since 2006.  But Derrion Albert’s beating death in September was videotaped by a fellow student, and the brutal images captured the nation’s attention.  The attorney general and secretary of education were even sent to Chicago, heavily armed with promises and platitudes.

In many ways Fenger High School epitomizes the issues of school closings under Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010 program, with students forced into volatile mixes at distant high schools.   Carver High School in the Altgeld Gardens area became a selective enrollment academy in 2006, and Fenger’s staff was entirely replaced this year in a school “turnaround.”  That record put Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the defensive when he visited in October.

Community organizers at Altgeld Gardens, saying their kids face continuing violence at Fenger, are tenacious in their demand for restoration of a local option.  And they are backed by a growing movement against Renaissance 2010 led by the Grassroots Education Movement and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators.

Backed by GEM, Altgeld parents and students were at City Hall this week to press their demands.  GEM holds a citywide education summit January 9 at Malcolm X College.  CORE, which swept a recent union election for pension trustees, will announce the results from a poll of its members for its slate in the upcoming election of Chicago Teachers Union officers.

Growing community opposition forced CPS to cancel six school closings in February, and while CPS chief Ron Huberman has said no high schools will be closed next year, GEM is aiming at no closings, period.  Meanwhile, over opposition from Mayor Daley and Governor Quinn, State Representative Cynthia Soto’s school closings bill was enacted in November.  That could mean legislative hearings in coming months – potentially a meaningful alternative to the last-minute, pro-forma hearings held by CPS every winter.

In the February primary, it’s likely that Altgeld and Roseland residents will get to vote on a referendum to reestablish a general admission high school in Altgeld.  The larger issue is how much say community members have in the decisions that are made about their schools.

AT&T and Public Access. While brigades of bucket trucks ply Chicago alleys laying infrastructure for AT&T’s U-verse video service, there’s no word on an investigation into the company’s treeatment of public access channels launched a year ago by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Also pending are petitions before the FCC charging that AT&T discriminates against public, educational and governmental channels by segregating them on a separate menu, including a petition by members of Congress filed in October of 2008.  Rep. Jan Schakowsky urged action on the petitions last summer.

In October, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) introduced legislation to protect PEG channels, which has been co-sponsored by Schakowski along with Reps. Danny Davis, Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley.  (For updates see

Honduras. The human rights situation has worsened since the November 29 election, with the return of death squad-style violence against community leaders which hasn’t been seen since the 1980s, according to a recent report in In These Times.

The post-coup regime “is in serious violations of all protocals” under international human rights standards, says an Amnesty International observer.  “Almost all basic rights have been cancelled” – including the rights of free expression, a free press, freedom of movement and association, and freedom from torture, said Javier Zuniga.

Mark Weisbrot of CEPR lists the top ten ways you can tell the U.S. government supports the coup – and number one is that the Obama administration has never condemned “massive human rights violations committed by the coup regime” and documented by AI, Human Rights Watch, the OAS, and others.

Locally the solidarity group La Voz de los de Abajo continues to organize support for resistance to the coup in Honduras, posting news at the blog Honduras Resists.  The group is planning another human rights delegation to Honduras from January 23 to 30, said Vicki Cervantes, and plans to host representatives of the resistance in Chicago in February.   They’re keeping up pressure on the Obama administration to denounce the violence.

Hennepin Steel Jobs. Steelworkers in Hennepin, Illinois, continue to push for a sale of their plant, which is being closed by ArcelorMittal, with 300 jobs on the line.

Equipment is being removed, but nothing essential has been taken yet, said Joe Pakula of USWA Local 7367 last week.

Workers and supporters are still manning a picket line daily, keeping an eye on things, and with a couple entrepreneurs still expressing interest, workers continue to pressure the giant multinational to accept a reasonable price for the modern mill, he said.

Newspapers. Some 140 daily and weekly newspapers ceased publishing this year, with the loss of perhaps 15,000 journalists’ jobs, according to Newsosaur.  Most newspaper remain profitable (unlike internet news outlets) but not at the historic levels required to pay off huge debt-laden deals many owners assumed in recent years.

Meanwhile, responding to the decision by the Detroit News and Free Press to cut back home deliveries – and picking up journalists laid off by the city’s two dailies – entrepreneurs launched a third daily paper in Detroit in November, the Detroit Daily Press.

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Category: Altgeld Gardens, CPS, human rights, international, jobs, labor, media, school closings, violence


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