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Protesters sleep outside CPS HQ to oppose charter school expansion

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Updated: February 23, 2014 6:45AM

Near subzero temperatures tested the mettle of about 20 protesters who slept on a Loop sidewalk Tuesday night before attending Wednesday’s school board meeting to oppose the expansion of charter schools.

“We wanted to represent for the voiceless,” Jackson Potter, a Chicago Teachers Union member, said Wednesday morning.

Potter, 35, of Brighton Park, said protesters stayed warm with blankets, sleeping bags and wool socks until they were asked to leave at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

“Those folks [who couldn’t be present] needed people to stand up for them,” he said. “We took a hit for the team.”

On Tuesday night, Susan Garza waved a cardboard sign that read “Stop Privatizing Chicago.” She later planned to curl up and sleep on it alongside her fellow protesters, many of whom were comrades from the Chicago Teachers Union.

Police kept a close watch as the group laid claim to several square feet of concrete outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters, 125 S. Clark. The die-hards planned to attend a meeting at which the Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on proposals from eight charter school groups seeking to open 17 different campuses.

“We’re prepared to spend the night in protest . . . to tell the Board of Ed we’re serious,” said Garza, a counselor at Jane Addams Elementary School on the city’s Southeast Side,

Christel Williams, a CTU organizer, called any new charter schools on the heels last year’s mass school closings “a slap in the face of the community.”

Temperatures were expected to drop to about 1 degree overnight, but that did not faze protesters.

“We’ll be here all night . . . We’re going to show the board we’re not leaving this alone. We don’t care how cold it is. It’s worth it,” Williams said.

In a statement released Tuesday, CPS said it was “committed to providing and expanding high-quality school options across the City . . . to ensure that 100 percent of our students are college-ready and 100 percent college-bound. CPS’ final recommendations on this year’s charter applications will reflect this commitment to our students and the families that we serve.”

Contributing: Hannah Lutz


Twitter: @mitchdudek

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