Chicago Public Schools’ perennial funding woes have occupied headlines since time immemorial, but recently, the bad news seems to be increasing in both quantity and severity. Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Forrest Claypool, his CPS CEO, were forced to walk back statements that CPS schools would close weeks early if the state did not provide more money after a judge threw out their last-ditch lawsuit claiming the state’s public school formula is racially discriminatory. CPS was forced to take out a $389 million high-interest loan to keep schools open, which some aldermen compared to a “payday loan” and does not even entirely fill the budget gap. On top of that, the district is attempting to wring another $467 million it says the state owes it to make its pension payment next month, facing yet another bond rating downgrade if it does not make the payment.
Of the 150 individuals who attended the first Washington Park Summit on April 1, only fourteen actually lived in the neighborhood, according to the Hyde Park Herald. Cecilia Butler, longtime Washington Park resident and president of the Washington Park Resident’s Advisory Council, called the meeting “insulting” due to the lack of notice given to neighborhood residents. An event posted on the neighborhood bulletin website EveryBlock did not appear until less than a week before the event.
“If Dyett does not work, we view it as further disinvestment in the quality of life and the basic quality of life institutions of a particular population of people.”
“When they said it was gonna be closed, I said I’d chain myself to the doors, so all them kids can stay there.” –Christian Davis, Amandla parent
Last Saturday, over 700 people flocked to Kenwood Academy for a curriculum fair featuring presentations, workshops, and a panel regarding community organizing and social justice in Chicago area schools. This was the fourteenth annual fair from Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ), an organization of educators from both private and public schools, pre-K to university, who are interested in teaching social justice concepts in their classrooms. According to TSJ co-founder Rico Gutstein, the fair is one of Chicago’s largest educator gatherings of the year.
“No, we don’t eat babies and we don’t kill cats. What you see in the movies—no. We don’t fly on brooms.”
This rally came about a week after the end of the hunger strike, a month-long endeavor where fifteen protestors drank only liquids and some suffered hospitalizations.
There is excitement, then, for the library’s potential to inject capital into Washington Park.
Jahmal Cole has been a public speaker since 1988. He was four during his first speech.