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School Closing Moratorium Backed

Humboldt Park parents will meet Tuesday, May 23, as part of a citywide drive to ask aldermen to support a proposed ordinance for a moratorium on school closings.

Local Aldermen Billy Ocasio (27) and Walter Burnett Jr. (28) both serve on the City Council’s education committee. Advocates hope to win the committee’s approval this week for an ordinance proposed by Ald. Michael Chandler (24) calling for a moratorium on school closings until the impact on affected students can be studied.

The May 23 meeting is sponsored by Blocks Together, a West Humboldt Park community group in an area where two schools have been closed in the past two years. According to Blocks Together, CPS’s school closings are “displacing students and families of color” and “taking away local control from parents.”

“A lot of receiving schools have the same issues” as the schools that are being closed, said Blocks Together organizer Jennifer Dillon, and shifting students add stresses, including more fights and larger class sizes.

Two-thirds of students displaced by school closings have ended up at schools on academic probation, according to a recent analysis by Catalyst; only a fifth landed at higher-performing or newly-opened schools.

About half of the neighborhood schools closed and reopened since 2002 are no longer required to accept neighborhood students, according to Catalyst.

Local parents will speak at the meeting along with students from Blocks Together’s youth council and representatives of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and Teachers for Social Justice. The meeting is part of a citywide effort led by the labor-community coalition Chicagoans United for Education.

KOCO has opposed school closings in the gentrifying Mid-South area, saying they shift resources away from local low-income students. The group has complained about students being repeatedly displaced by closings. This year CPS agreed not to close schools which have received students from other closed schools in the past two years.

KOCO has launched a study of the impact of school closings and is working with LSCs, parents and community leaders to develop a community education plan, said Shannon Bennett.

“The sad part is there is no input from communities or students who are being affected,” said Rev. Robin Hood, an organizer for ACORN, which is mobilizing thousands of members to call their aldermen to support Chandler’s ordinance this week. ACORN members in North Lawndale and Englewood have seen a number of school closings.

“The Englewood [High School] community has been going to them for 20 years, saying, ‘We need books,’” Hood said. “Now they say the school’s is no good and they’re closing it. There’s no accountability.”

Hood said part of the reason communities are excluded from planning is that the CPS is concerned with more than just improving schools. “They’re trying to cut the union and privatize the schools,” he said.

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