April Critical Mass against CPS school closures

CHICAGO, IL - Critical Mass, the monthly gathering of hundreds of cyclists weaving through Chicago’s neighborhoods will follow a trail highlighting locations of past and present importance in the resistance against school closings and privatization. In support of parents, students, teachers and staff fighting school closures, the Critical Mass route is themed around Chicago Public Schools’ announcement to close 54 public schools.   

The route will take cyclists from Daley Plaza to Promontory Point in Hyde Park.  Along the way cyclists will pass schools slated for closure this year as well as schools closed in similar actions previous years. Some of the 13-mile ride highlights include:

The CPS central offices and home of the unelected Chicago Board of Education, under mayoral control since 1995.

Dyett High School- in phase-out and targeted for closure. Dyett is the subject of a title 6 federal civil rights lawsuit brought by parents from the school and the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization; claiming the closing is racist and denies the right of education to African American students in the community.

Williams Elementary School and Middle School- targeted for closing. CPS wants the receiving school Drake Elementary to take over the building but also share it with Urban Prep Charter – Bronzeville, which ultimately would take over Drake.

“I look forward to raising awareness by riding through neighborhoods affected by school closings. We plan to have a safe, educational, yet powerful event,” Brian Stirgus, senior at Paul Robsen High School.

The school closings affect people of all ages across Chicago.

“We, the people of Lawndale are the ones who have everything to lose,” said Valerie F. Leonard, Co-Founder of the Lawndale Alliance.

“My students have assessed the school closure situation soundly, saying ‘CPS is closing our schools without considering what students think. They are putting money before our futures & destroying the emotional bonds we have formed over the years. CPS should be renamed CPSK: Chicago Public School Killers,’” said Gabriel Solis, seventh grade teacher’s assistant at Elizabeth Peabody Elementary School in Near North.

According to a press release from Critical Mass, CPS’ own statements were that school closings will impact over 45,000 students, of whom 88% are black, 10% Latino, 94% low-income and 6,479 have disabilities, forcing them to travel miles, often across rival gang territory. By closing the schools, CPS aims to save $50 million per year but spends over $36 million annually servicing debt to banks and are selling bonds to go hundreds of millions deeper in debt to pay for closing and transition costs not counted in their savings estimates. Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel controls over $1.4 billion in his TIF slush fund as he controls the unelected Board of Education he appoints. Parents, students, teachers, and the community should control schools, not billionaires and politicians who don’t live here or send their kids to public schools.