The Chicago Board of Education is slated to vote Wednesday on its plan to close, phaseout or "turnaround" some 17 of the city's Chicago Public Schools amidst ramped up public criticism of the proposal in recent days.
Protesters rallied against the plan early Wednesday outside CPS headquarters, Fox Chicago reports. The demonstrators, numbering in the hundreds, say that the community was not consulted in the decision-making process.
Among the protesters were the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson, according to the Chicago Tribune, criticized the planned closings and "turnarounds" as part of an "apartheid" that persists in the city's public school system.
"It's a type of segregation when, within the same school system, you have an upper tier and a lower tier," Jackson told the Tribune. "It is apartheid. You have 160 schools (on the South Side) without a library. You have (selective enrollment high schools) Payton and Whitney Young and you have Marshall."
The vote comes after a new study [PDF], was released by Designs for Change, which questions the effectiveness of the "turnaround" model that will essentially replace the principal and most of the staff of schools deemed to be failing. The schools are slated to be taken over by charter operator Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).
As CBS Chicago reports, students at about 33 of the city's neighborhood schools with at least 95 percent low-income students actually outscored schools operated by AUSL. Further, the study found that achievement at the AUSL-operated schools has been low and teacher turnover has been high despite the schools receiving big money -- $7 million over five years -- from the district.
CPS defended AUSL in response to the study, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, stating that they "provide an opportunity for academic achievement that would otherwise be unimaginable for students" and improve the district's average growth rate.
Parents, teachers and community members gathered outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's North Side home on Monday evening in a protest against the planned turnarounds and closures. The group said the mayor and the Chicago Board of Education have "silenced" their opposition to the plan.
“People are fed up,” Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization told the Sun-Times. “The hope is that the mayor understands that his constituents are serious, which is why we are doing it the way we are doing it, and that he gives audience to the people who elected him.”
Responding to the protests Tuesday, Emanuel defended his education policies.
"I understand people are anxious. I respect that. Because change is hard," the mayor said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "But watching, year in and year out, kids captured in a system that's failing, is harder."
Late last week, members of Occupy Chicago joined parents and community members as they sat inside Brian Piccolo Elementary School -- one of the schools slated for "turnover" at the hands of AUSL. The protesters say the school's new principal has not been given the chance to improve students' achievement.
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