Collective action to stop school closings. Contracts matter and a movement.

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CTU VP Jesse Sharkey and others showed up at CPS headquarters yesterday with a copy of the contract that the union bargained with the board.

The teachers’ contract — which was reached minutes before a 2016 strike deadline — allows closing schools only “where the school cannot satisfy graduation requirements for students” and only after the Chicago Board of Education holds public meetings to address under-enrollment.

Sharkey said the four Englewood high schools CPS wants to close — Harper, Hope, TEAM Englewood and Robeson — all still meet the graduation standards for their dwindling numbers of students.

Like the Sun-Times erroneously reporting the death of CTU President Karen Lewis,  they are wrong in describing the collective bargaining agreement as “the teachers contract.”

Both the CTU and the CPS board signed that contract. They both own it and are required to abide by it.

I know from personal experience that a CBA is too often spoken about as if it belongs to the teachers alone.

Not true. Contracts are agreements between two parties and are protections and constraints on both.

The CPS board agreed to a limit on school closures except under certain conditions. Those conditions have not been met in the case of the planned closings of four high schools in the African American community of Englewood.

Last month I received a letter from Scott Smith of the 19th Ward, located on the south side of Chicago.

It’s been quite a couple weeks for Chicago’s public schools. As the moratorium on school closings has ended, CPS has yet another CEO resigning due to corruption and is trying to close all – yes, all – the public schools in a South Side neighborhood: Englewood, a community with a deep need for the kind of strong ties that schools provide.

Last year, a group of parents and community members – organized under the name 19th Ward Parents United – demonstrated a sense of collective power when we banded together as a group with a shared purpose of common good and holding our leaders accountable. 

If you’re unfamiliar with those efforts, read below:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-19th-ward-schools-march-st-0926-20160925-story.html

Together, we prevented the closure/merger of three high-performing public schools.

In the last several months, I’ve wondered what the next step is, especially as we’ve watched National Teachers Academy in South Loop and now the schools in Englewood experience a similar situation.

How do we make sure the public has a hand in the decisions about our schools, both here in the 19th ward and on the larger South Side? And how do we use the power we have to support those who don’t have it (yet)?

More than that, I’ve wondered how else to advocate for the needs of parents and students in our public schools. How do we push for economic transparency, quality housing, diverse communities, improved public transit, well-trained and supported public safety staff and strong, community-centered neighborhoods?

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The CPS board has announced their intention to close the National Teachers Academy along with closing the four open admission neighborhood high school serving Englewood.

We talked with NTA activists Elizabeth Greer and Niketa Brar on Hitting Left a few months back.

Scott Smith, Elizabeth Greer and Niketa Brar will be back on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers on February 16th

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