youth – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Organizing against violence http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/organizing-against-violence/ Sat, 21 Sep 2013 23:00:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7705 As Chicago reeled under a new spate of street violence, community organizers including scores of teens working to prevent violence met Saturday in Little Village — and participants said the problem will require a far more comprehensive approach than just locking up “bad guys.”

“The ‘harsh on crime’ approach simply hasn’t worked,”  said Luis Carrizales, coordinator of the Violence Prevention Collaborative, a collective of community organizations run out of Enlace Chicago.

“We’ve had that attitude for 15 years, and we’ve created a prison population larger than ever in history.  And we have more young people who are disconnected, either not in school or out of work, and we’re surprised that they turn to violence.”

The collaborative works on the principle that the problem of violence is complex and there is no single approach to dealing with it, Carrizales said.  For example, a panel at Saturday’s gathering addressed the links between street violence and domestic violence — young people who have witnessed or been direct victims of abuse and haven’t gotten treatment.

Peace circles

The event marked the UN’s Day of Peace and focused on nonviolence education.  Peace circle training was offered for teachers and school counselors, part of an effort to promote restorative justice in Chicago schools, Carrizales said.

It’s one of several key proactive strategies to reduce violence that political leaders and school officials should take more seriously, he said.

The “school-to-prison pipeline” — with school disciplinary policies that criminalize misbehavior that would have been dealt with within school in earlier days — has certainly contributed to the culture of violence, he said.

“You’re convicting and labelling people as violent and unredeemable at age 14, 15, 16, and saying lock them up and get rid of them,” he said.  “The problem is they’re going to be coming back to our neighborhoods, and they’ll come back bitter and more angry and with even less options.”

“Teachers know that just kicking a kid out of class and suspending him doesn’t work, and they’ll just end up on the street,” he said.  “But the people working in schools don’t have any options, and unfortunately CPS isn’t providing them with options.”

For years community organizations working with youth have been pushing CPS to institute restorative justice on a district-wide basis.  (More here.)

Politicians

“The politicians are contributing to the problem,” keynote speaker Luis Rodriguez told Newstips.  “All they want to do is repress and supress, they want to bring in more police, and the fact of the matter is the violence has gotten worse with more prisons.  It doesn’t work.”

Rodriguez, a one-time gang member and now acclaimed author, poet and activist, worked with gang-involved and non-gang youth in Chicago from 1985 to 2000, founding the organization Youth Struggling for Survival.  He’s now based in Los Angeles and travels widely, speaking in jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities, among other locations.  He was the vice-presidential candidate of the Justice Party in 2012 and is now running for the Green Party nomination for governor of California.

His program is to turn young people on to creative expression and to healing through native spiritual traditions.

“What are the alternatives?  That’s where people have got to think about imagination, cultural spaces in every neighborhood for expression, healing — if it’s educational, if it’s spiritual, if all the churches would open up, if all the schools would open up, you would stop a lot of this violence.  And it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as it’s costing us to put people away….

“We do need an economy that can take care of everybody, but I think if we’re waiting for that first, we’re going to be waiting a long time.  There’s things that can be done — how can everybody be productive?  I don’t mean productive like, I’m going to work at McDonalds, I mean somebody who’s productive, creative, and autonomous.  We need to really develop independent, interdependent human beings.”

His work in Chicago was difficult — three youth leaders were killed and several participants ended up in prison, including his son — “but the majority of those kids are doing well today.  So it’s worth it.”

I asked Carrizales what he thought the city should be doing.

“The city is so focused on reacting, and we really need to be thinking proactively,” he said.  There always seems to be some “big lofty initiative” but “never any long-term strategic vision” involving “empowering neighborhoods to strategically address the issues they’re facing.”

“What the city really needs to do is invest in the neighborhoods and build them up,” he said.

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Navigators USA offer ‘inclusive scouting’ http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/navigators-usa-offer-inclusive-scouting/ Fri, 24 May 2013 22:03:36 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7250 With the Boy Scouts maintaining its policy of excluding gays from leadership, interest is growing in Navigators USA, an “intentionally inclusive scouting alternative,” according to a leader of a new chapter in  Palatine.

Navigators Chapter 30 was founded last October, sponsored by Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist, and is growing steadily, said Elizabeth Vesto.  Nationally the group has doubled in size over the past year.

Though it’s sponsored by a church, it’s open to anyone, even non-believers (unlike the Scouts), Vesto said.  “We have a lot of people participating who would not be eligible for the Boy Scouts,” she said.

The chapter has about 25 members, mainly Junior Navigators (ages 5 through 12), with twice-monthly meetings that Vesto charaterized as “family activity nights.” The chapter is focused on community service projects and learning the Navigator Traits, she said. (A Navigator is “truthful, respectful, inclusive, generous, dependable, resourceful, and cooperative.”)

Service projects range from helping to clear invasive species at the Deer Grove Forest Preserve to making “support backbacks” containing a change of clothes and toiletries for ICE detainees, who may have been moved from other parts of the country and released in Chicago “with absolutely nothing,” Vesto said.

They’ve also participated in the Unitarian Universalists’ Ribbons Not Walls project, protesting Arizona’s banning of ethnic studies.  Chapter 30 has sent display panels they created depicting aspect of immigrant history.

The chapter will hold an awards ceremony and pot-luck brunch on June 2 and a two-day camp at Deer Grove East and Countryside Church on June 14 and 15.

On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts national council voted to lift its ban on membership by gay youth but maintained it for adults.   “I was disappointed,” said Vesto, who supported her children’s involvement in the Boy Scouts for years.  “I hope they do the right thing in the long run both for kids and adults.”

Navigators USA was founded in 2003 by leaders of Boy Scout Troop 103 in East Harlem, based at All Souls Unitarian Church. “Navigators USA is committed to providing a quality scouting experience that is inclusive and available to all children and families regardless of gender, race, religion, economic status, sexual orientation and social background,” according to the group’s website.

Today there are 47 chapters in states stretching from New York to Louisiana to California.

Through games, crafts, nature outings and civic projects, participants learn first aid and survival skills along with nature and ecology, community service, and leadership.

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On Friday, May 31, at 7 p.m., Countryside Church will host a showing of Scout’s Honor, a 2001 film about the ousting of two gay Eagle Scouts and the efforts of Boy Scout members to overturn the organization’s anti-gay policies.

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Violence prevention: Corporate charity or citizenship? http://www.newstips.org/2013/02/violence-prevention-corporate-charity-or-citizenship/ Thu, 21 Feb 2013 22:41:21 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6978 Last year, community groups called on Mayor Emanuel and the business community to match the fundraising they did for the NATO Summit to fund youth programs in the neighborhoods.

Now, under the glare of national publicity for Chicago’s ongoing epidemic of violence, Emanuel has decided to deploy his famous fundraising skills to gather $50 million in corporate donations for violence prevention programs over the next five years.

Certainly, every effort to bring resources to desperate communities is welcome.  (And it’s churlish to point out that these folks raised nearly $50 million for NATO in a few weeks.) But is charity a substitute for good citizenship?

The Grassroots Collaborative is pointing out that Emanuel’s choice to co-chair the campaign heads a company that is profiting from controversial interest rate swaps that cost the city and the schools tens of millions of dollars a year.

Jim Reynolds is CEO of Loop Capital, which according to GC, has made $100 million in five interest rate swap deals with the city and CPS since 2005.

Interest rate swaps — also called “toxic rate swaps” by critics — are one of the wonderfully innovative financial products developed in the run-up to the financial crash a few years ago.  They provide set interest rates to cover variable returns on public bond deals.

Cost Chicago $72 million a year

But since the crash, the Fed has kept interest rates near zero, while local governments are locked into interest rates of 3 to 6 percent.  That costs Chicago $72 million a year; CPS loses $35 million a year on the deals, according to GC. (CTU has protested this arrangement.)

While applauding their “charity work,” GC notes, “Chicago business leader must address their role in creating the lack of resources for youth and communities in the first place.  They must stop gouging taxpayers and renegotiate these toxic deals.”

“The solution doesn’t end with short-term donations,” notes GC.  It requires “renegotiating our local governments’ relationship with Wall Street, and getting our economy back on track.”

The toxic rate swaps are just the tip of the iceberg.  The millions of dollars of TIF subsidies going to the corporations that will be donating to the mayor’s fund should be considered too.

If Emanuel wants the business community to step up, he could reverse his phaseout of the head tax, which brought the city $40 million a year.  (It was called a “job killler,” but there’s no evidence for that — the $4 per employee per month amounted to about 25 cents an hour.  And it was one of the only revenue measures that captured a smidgeon of the estimated $30 billion earned in Chicago by residents of the suburbs each year.)

Corporate tax avoidance

Emanuel is expanding summer youth employment, though the number of jobs available will still be a fraction of what it was in previous decades.  He points out that federal funding has dropped precipitously, and the state has been unable to fund a summer youth jobs program established by the legislature.  Maybe the fact that half the state’s corporations don’t pay any income tax — and that Illinois leads the nation in a number of economically pointless business deductions — needs to be looked at.

Instead of paying the taxes they should, Emanuel’s corporate donors will most likely get a tax deduction.

There’s a steady shifting of public functions to the private sector taking place under Emanuel. Economic development is being outsourced to World Business Chicago, public finance to the Infrastructure Trust, public education to charter operators. Now the corporate sector has to step up to provide funding for youth services because the city can’t.

Behind the austerity agenda that Emanuel has enthusiastically embraced lies the contention that the city is broke, the state is broke.  But of course, the money is out there.  We’re in the middle of an economic recovery with soaring corporate profits and intractable unemployment. But with our regressive revenue system, we’re taxing the people at the bottom — the people who are losing ground — twice as heavily as those at the top.

It’s perfectly encapsulated in the story Ben Joravsky tells of the fireman who responds to Emanuel’s teasing about pension cuts by asking the mayor why he doesn’t support a financial transaction tax.   (In response, Emanuel sputters.)

Money for friends

The shift from the public sector, of course, involves a shift away from transparency and accountability.  When Emanuel was disbursing leftover NATO funds to neighborhood programs, trotting from press conference to press conference, “there wasn’t much transparency in how the programs were chosen,” said Eric Tellez of GC.  And it looked like a lot of the money was spent in ways that helped the mayor’s allies, including charter schools, he said.

The communities where Chicago’s young people are being shot down have been devastated by the loss of manufacturing jobs, devastated by foreclosures, devastated by “lock-em-up” policies that offer few avenues of hope for ex-offenders.  They’ve been devastated by racism and inequality.

As Salim Muwakkil says, what they need is nothing short of a Marshall Plan, the kind of massive investment program with which the U.S. revived Europe after World War II.

That’s hard to imagine in this day and age.  Politicians like Emanuel are products of the era of the “taxpayer revolt” and reflect all of its assumptions.

But there are signs that era is drawing to a close.  In California — which launched the era in 1978 with Proposition 13, capping sales taxes and requiring two-thirds legislative majorities to raise taxes — voters in November approved a measure hiking the sales tax and raising income taxes on the wealthy.  The alternative, quite simply, was fiscal disaster.  Tea Party-backed anti-tax measures went down to defeat in Florida and Michigan.

What Chicago and Illinois desperately need — what Chicago’s young people desperately need — is a turn back in the direction of fairness and broad-based, inclusive prosperity.

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Bronzeville youth, community leaders to speak on violence http://www.newstips.org/2013/02/bronzeville-youth-community-leaders-to-speak-on-violence/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/02/bronzeville-youth-community-leaders-to-speak-on-violence/#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2013 23:47:30 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6968 While politicians push tougher law enforcement to address youth violence, community leaders and youth in Bronzeville are demanding that the root causes of violence — including unemployment, disinvestment, and school closings — be put at the top of the agenda.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 12 14, youth leaders from five high schools — including King College Prep, where Hadiya Pendleton was a student, and where one of the suspects in her murder graduated – will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. at Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st Street.  They’re part of Leaders Investing For Equality (LIFE), which for several years has pushed for restoration of funding cut from youth employment programs.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, the Bronzeville Alliance and Centers for New Horizons will hold a press conference at the Ellis Childcare Center, 4301 S. Cottage, to launch a community initiative to coordinate social services for community youth and families and to advocate for a reversal of cutbacks they say have destabilized the community.

In media coverage of youth violence, “there doesn’t seem to be much discussion of the root causes of these problems and the responsiblity of government and the private sector for years of disinvestment in minority communities,” said John Owens of CNH.

“We’ve had many years of jobs being lost and cutbacks in a whole range of social services – and the whole idea of closing schools is just another form of cutbacks,” he said.

“There’s been no discussion of youth employment, no discussion of the destabilization of families when jobs are lost and parents are working odd hours, no discussion of afterschool programs that are relevant,” Owens said.  “The bottom line is that we need to understand what it means to build community and we need to start building it – with the kind of resources that are needed for a community in crisis.”

Owen said CNH and other Bronzeville agencies are trying to provide developmental social services, “but everybody is barely keeping their doors open. There are not enough of us and we are not funded anywhere near what would be adequate to reach the number of youth and families out there who are in need.”

The new coalition, dubbed SAVE (Stop Armed Violence Everywhere), is calling on the city and state to work with residents to restore employment, educational, mental health and recreational resources in Bronzeville.  They are demanding meetings with Governor Quinn and Mayor Emanuel.

The coalition includes local schools, social service agencies, community groups, and business and veterans groups, Owens said.

The Bronzeville Alliance issued a call to the media “to avoid body-count journalism and drive-by reporting that criminalizes our community and tends to look at this very complex problem in narrow, counter-productive terms.”

It calls for an approach that is “pro-active, holistic, and sustainable.”

Youth leaders from LIFE will highlight public school closings, reduced funding for summer youth employment and limited recreational opportunities as”catalysts of community destabilization,” according to a statement from Shannon Bennett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which backs LIFE.

“Policy decisions made without consultation with the people directly impacted have led to destabilization of communities and increased violence in neighborhoods, particularly communities of color,” according to the statement.

“Summer youth employment was decimated over the last 20 years, and only one-third of the youth who apply each year for summer jobs find work. There is very little teen-specific programming in communities around Chicago serving out-of-school and severely at-risk youth.

“School actions implemented by the Chicago Board of Education have led to the creation of new youth gangs and the 300 percent increase in homicides in north Kenwood-Oakland.”

[See previous Newstips on LIFE from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011]

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Brighton Park: vigil for gun victims – and call to action http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/brighton-park-vigil-for-gun-victims-and-call-for-action/ Mon, 21 Jan 2013 22:05:46 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6942 Brighton Park residents will gather at Kelly Park on Tuesday for a candlelight vigil memoralizing 26 deaths in Newtown, Connecticut and 27 people shot in Brighton Park last year – and call for gun control legislation and restoration of funding for youth services there.

Joined by local elected officials, they’ll gather at Kelly Park, 2725 W. 41st, at 3 p.m., Tuesday; in case of inclement weather they’ll hold a brief press conference there and gather inside Kelly High School across the street.

Last year funding for two state anti-violence programs was cut in half; in Brighton Park that meant the loss of five full-time school-based counselors serving Kelly High and seven elementary schools, said Sara Reschly of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

Along with individual counseling, the counselors ran anger management and life skills workshops, and when BPNC surveyed teachers on the results, the vast majority reported a significiant decrease in classroom behavior issues and increased class participation and homework completion, Reschly said.

At a community rally last summer, several young people testified about how youth programming had helped them turn their lives around.

State funding was maintained for parent engagement and youth employment programs, but they operate only in the summer, leaving no state resource for anti-violence work in the neighborhood through the school year, she said.  “With 27 people shot last year, that’s a problem,” she said.

“The focus right now is on gun legislation and that’s important, but we need youth services too,” Reschly said.  “Seriously addressing violence has to be a community effort and it has to involve positive opportunities for young people.”

Community members continue to press the park district for renovation of Kelly Park, Reschly said.  “We were very disappointed that Kelly Park didn’t get any of the NATO legacy funding” handed out by Mayor Emanuel in recent months, she said.

Brighton Park is the most “park-poor” area in the city, she said.  “Given the fact that we don’t have a lot of green space, it’s even more important to maintain existing facilities, so youth and familes can benefit from them.”

 

Related: Facing anti-violence cuts, Brighton Park proposes community plan

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Facing anti-violence cuts, Brighton Park proposes a community plan http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/facing-anti-violence-cuts-brighton-park-proposes-community-plan/ Thu, 26 Jul 2012 23:02:36 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6484 Kelly High School’s auditorium was packed Wednesday night by residents of Brighton Park – the neighborhood where a 13-year-old boy was shot on his front porch while shielding a friend earlier this month – supporting a community anti-violence plan in the face of drastic cuts to programs they say have been working.

“Violence is up in Brighton Park, but it’s not up as much as elsewhere,” said Patrick Brosnan of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.  In nearby Chicago Lawn, killings are up 150 percent, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The gang issue has gotten more complicated this year,” Brosnan said.  “There are a lot of fights, a lot of shootings.”  This spring there was an average of a shooting each week, according to The Gate.  But BPNC’s youth programs have a lot of success stories, Brosnan said.

State Representative Dan Burke and other officials pledged to help BPNC secure funding from the state for youth leadership and mentoring programs, parent patrols, school-based counseling, and gang intervention programs.

Budget cut in half

Most of those programs are currently funded through two state programs.  The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative provides jobs for 80 young people as peer mentors and 50 parents mentors in each of 20 Chicago communities, and the Safety Net Works program supports existing youth services, including school-based counseling and crisis intervention, to collaborate on broad anti-violence efforts.

But the $30 million funding for the two programs was eliminated in the new state budget.  It was replaced by a $15 million allocation to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Agency for community-based violence prevention efforts.

Organizations participating in the two programs are pressing to keep existing programs operating, said Chris Patterson, NRI coordinator at Organization of the Northeast in Uptown.  “How do you cover 20 communities with half the funding?” he said.

BPNC proposed a plan which would step up programs, including new money to bring CeaseFire to the community.

A better path

The group’s youth programming is “very effective,” said Esteban Salazar, who will be a senior at Kelly this fall.  Before getting involved, “I was on a bad path,” he said.  “I was hanging around with gangs, hanging around with crews, involved with drugs and alcohol, doing violence.”

He’s left all those things behind, and he now plans to study auto mechanics for a year after graduating high school, then go to college for mechanical engineering.

“They teach us to be a better person, and they do it by having fun,” he said of the program.  They’ve volunteered at food pantries and other community sites, visited colleges, met with elected officials.  Salazar was surprised to find himself in a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden recently, he said.

The group also organizes an annual violence prevention youth summit.

Back in school

Others have benefited just as much, Salazar said.  “There are kids who are in school who wouldn’t be without the program,” he said.

Wednesday night, Jacqueline Cruz testified about the impact of the youth mentoring program.  “I was a troubled youth,” she said.  “I would cut school and only want to be in the streets.  But I’ve been attending school every day and my grades are A’s and B’s.  And I even have a job.”

She added:  “We don’t want to see a program that has benefited many of us in a positive way to be taken away from us.”

Mark Bachleda, part of the Parent Leadership Action Network, spoke of going door-to-door to reach out to parents struggling to raise adolescents, and called on elected officials who were present to “help us make a difference.”

Hundreds of at-risk students at Kelly High and seven elementary schools have been helped through school-based counseling, said Janeth Herrera.

Annual gaps

Constant shifts and annual gaps in program funding create huge difficulties, Brosnan said.  “Last year we had to lay off the whole counseling staff [when funding ran out] at the end of June,” he said.  “We found out at the end of August that funding was restored and we had to hire a whole batch of new people.”

Such gaps can have serious effects, said Patterson, a former CeaseFire coordinator.  “We created a ceasefire between two groups of guys who were doing most of the killings” in Uptown several years ago, he said.  “Now since CeaseFire is no longer on the street, they’ve started shooting each other again.”

ICJIA is aware of the work being done by community groups and sensitive to their concerns, said spokesperson Cristin Evans.  “We’re still working with the governor’s office to determine the most effective use of funds, given the reduction in the funding level,” she said.

An unsafe park

The biggest demonstration of support Wednesday – the audience erupted in chants — was for BPNC’s campaign to restore Kelly Park, across the street from the high school.  “Where are our representatives?” asked Silvia Torres, contrasting the $3 million project to the $30 million TIF subsidy for a plaza at a downtown riverfront development.

(It may be worth noting that the city funding for a wealthy Loop developer is twice the amount of state funding now budgeted for scores of community organizations fighting to keep young people alive.)

Kelly Park’s playing field is studded with rocks and concrete and a portion of it with poor drainage “becomes a swamp in the spring,” said Sara Reschly, BPNC’s Safety Net Works coordinator.  And it’s laid out in a baseball diamond, while the high school needs it for football and soccer.

Kellly High has a championship soccer team, but has had to travel a mile away to McKinley Park to play.  But that’s “not safe for all the players,” because it crosses gang boundaries, she said.

Last year one team member was jumped and beaten while walking with his family in the parking lot before a game, she said, and at another game, a “masked person” threatened to kill the team members and the coach if they came back to the park.

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What about the neighborhoods? http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/what-about-the-neighborhoods/ Wed, 16 May 2012 20:38:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6201 The Grassroots Collaborative is offering visiting journalists bus tours of working-class neighborhoods struggling with violence, foreclosures, and clinic closings — and they’re questioning the millions of dollars being spent on entertainment at the NATO summit.

Buses leave from the Hyatt Regency at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18, and return by 11 a.m.  Information is at thegrassrootscollaborative.org.

Thursday’s tour will cover Little Village, one of the city’s largest Latino neighborhoods, where community groups are working to address youth violence; and Back of the Yards, where one of six mental health centers recently closed by the city is located.

(The two clinics primarily serving Latino communities were closed, as were four of six South Side clinics, and half the bilingual staff was laid off, all to save $3 million.  Having been repeatedly rebuffed in attempts to hold meetings with city officials – including a City Council hearing blocked by the mayor– the Mental Health Movement is planning to march on Mayor Emanuel’s home on Saturday morning.)

Friday morning’s tour will cover Englewood, a poor African-American community hard hit by foreclosures and violence, and Brighton Park, where low-income Latino residents are developing community schools.

Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide coalition of labor and community organizations, is questioning the priorities of spending millions of dollars to host the NATO summit while the city shuts down clinics and schools, said Eric Tellez.

On another level, he said, NATO spends billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while poverty and unemployment “devastates communities across the country” and “the global poor fall deeper into poverty.”

Party fund

Last month the coalition called on World Business Chicago, which is raising money to host NATO, to donate comparable sums to establish a Neighborhood Jobs Trust.  In recent statements, the group is focusing on the $14 million being spent on parties for the summit.

“Spending $14 million on food and wine and music just seems evil and sinful when you have kids in this neighborhood who have no place to play, when you have parents keeping their children inside after school because they’re afraid of gun violence,” said Pastor Victor Rodriguez of La Villita Church in Little Village, a leader in Enlace Chicago.

To visiting journalists he says, “I would ask them to ask somebody if it’s fair to spend $14 million on parties when organizations are looking for $600 to buy new equipment so that 120 kids can stay off the streets for a year.”

Emanuel has “cut the head tax for the corporations and then the corporations turn back around in a deal and donate to support NATO coming here,” says Charles Brown, a 43-year resident of Englewood and a leader with Action Now.  “Well the people that are going to profit from NATO coming here…it’s going to be the corporations.

“Will you treat us the way that you’re treating NATO, spend $14 million on us and put forth a program to help the people that are struggling and suffering?  So that we won’t tear down any more homes, so that we’ll start preserving them, so that the banks will start paying their fair share and giving back to the 99 percent that made all of this possible?”

“Our elected officials time and time again take the podium and pound their fists and say it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids,” said Rodriguez.  “I think that about 10 percent of that $14 million would do so much good here in our community.”

 

 
Pastor Victor Rodriguez, Enlace Chicago, Little Village:

Charles Brown, Action Now, Englewood:

Sonovia Petty, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Austin:

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Students call on Emanuel to back discipline reform http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/students-call-on-emanuel-to-back-discipline-reform/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/students-call-on-emanuel-to-back-discipline-reform/#comments Sun, 04 Mar 2012 19:50:32 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5968 Student activists and elected officials will launch a petition drive Monday calling on Mayor Emanuel to reverse his support for extreme disciplinary policies that they say are ineffective and force kids out of school and onto the streets.

Students from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education will be joined by County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, State Senator Willie Delgado, and State Representative Kim Dubuclet for a press conference at the Cook County Junevile Center, 2245 W. Ogden, at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 5.

Students will share research and personal experiences showing that punitive disciplinary approaches – ranging from fines for misconduct at Noble Charter Schools to suspensions and expulsions at traditional schools – target black and Latino students disproportionately and increase their risk of failure.

New research by students in VOYCE, reviewing tens of thousands of disiplinary actions at CPS over the past year, shows the vast majority were for offenses that did not pose serioius and immediate safety threats, according to the group.

While Emanuel pushes for a longer school day, CPS policies cause hundreds of thousands of lost school days for kids most at risk, they point out.

VOYCE is a citywide multiracial youth organization focused on reducing dropouts. After a 2008 report on “Student-Led Solutions to the Dropout Crisis,” the goup piloted a program in which 300 members served as peer mentors to 700 freshmen in eight high schools. They found extended suspensions for minor misbehavior to be a major obstacle to getting kids on track (see Newstips from July 2011).

More recently the group highlighted the use of fines for misbehavior at Noble Charter Schools, which they say has pushed low-income students out. Emanuel defended Noble in the controversy.

“As the Noble Charter example shows us, without transparency schools can get away with discipline policies that force out students who need the most support,” said Victor Alquicira, a sophomore at Roosevelt High School. “All schools that get taxpayer dollars should be held accountable to educating all of us.”

Under pressure from community groups and youth advocates, CPS added language to its discipline code backing restorative justice — which “combines strict control and strong support,” according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Agency — but has failed to implement the change, critics say (see last month’s post).

Research has shown that restorative justice is effective where harsh discipline fails to make schools safer or improve students’ behavior and achievement. Studies have also consistently found that students of color receive harsher discipline than white students for similar misconduct.

Following the press conference, students will go door-to-door collecting signatures on the petition.

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