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CTU plans ‘old-style civil rights march’ before vote on closing schools

Chicago Teachers UniPresident Karen Lewis joined by parents labor leaders community activists students announces plans for three-day march against school

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, joined by parents, labor leaders, community activists and students, announces plans for a three-day march against school closings planned for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. | Jessica Koscielniak~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 15, 2013 6:32AM

In its final push before the Board of Education votes on whether to shutter 54 schools and 61 school buildings, the Chicago Teachers Union will lead a weekend protest march in hardest-hit neighborhoods, the CTU announced Monday.

Joined by several dozen parents, teachers, members of other city unions and CPS students, CTU President Karen Lewis called on the public to join the “old-style civil rights march” against what she called “bad public policy.”

“The CEO, mayor and members of the board are determined to have the largest school closings in history and despite thousands of parents, educators, students, clergy and community leaders who have presented evidence, real evidence, that their school should be spared, the mayor has indicated he intends to push the school board to close our schools,” she said.

On Saturday, the march will cover five South Side and six West Side schools slated for closing. On Sunday, marchers will pass six South Side and six West Side schools on the closing list, and Monday’s march will cover two more South Side and three more West Side schools, culminating in a rally at 4:30 p.m. at Daley Center Plaza.

Chitunda Tillman Sr., a father from Garrett Morgan Elementary School on the South Side, wondered why CPS would close Morgan and send its students, including lots of kids with special needs, to a school with lower state standardized test scores and no elevator.

“With all respect to the receiving school, Ryder, our scores are better,” he said. “How will our children with special needs, crutches and wheelchairs, how are they going to get around to be included?”

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett recommended in March that 54 schools close for good in June, saying the district has many more seats than students. The district held a lengthy public hearing process, which resulted last week in several hearing officers advising the Board of Education to vote against 10 of those closings, for safety and academic reasons.

The district has not yet released its specific safety plans for each school set to receive displaced students. The board will vote on closings on May 22.

CPS is standing by Byrd-Bennett’s recommendations.

“Under the leadership of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS is determined to upend the status quo that threatens to keep another generation of our children trapped in under-resourced, underutilized schools where they are not getting the quality education they deserve,”CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an emailed statement.

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