Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard took to the pulpit, literally, on Sunday to respond to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Chicago Teachers Union's labeling of the recent CPS vote on turnarounds and closures "educational apartheid."
Brizard, speaking at the Apostolic Church of God in the city's Woodlawn neighborhood, argued, according to the Chicago Tribune, that "ninety percent of our kids are black and brown ... how can that be educational apartheid?"
He went on to argue that "not once" at the meeting where the Chicago Board of Education listened to testimony from those concerned with the 17 turnarounds, closures or phaseouts did he hear about how the actions impact the schools' students, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
"I kept hearing about adults. I kept hearing, 'Don't close my school. Don't do anything,'" Brizard told the Sun-Times. "I kept hearing other kinds of things about 'Don’t displace people.' Parents came in and said 'Fix the schools.'"
"I argue and I beg that we can no longer accept a status quo that has failed our students year after year -- because that's exactly what has happened for decades," Brizard continued, according to CBS Chicago.
Rev. Byron Brazier, the church's pastor and a member of then-mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's transition team, defended Brizard and expressed support for the CPS board's recent actions to his congregation.
"(You can take) the position to complain or you can take the position to support and help develop, because he can't do it by himself," Brazier said, according to the Tribune.
Meanwhile, Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis on Saturday lashed out against Emanuel who she says told her in a closed-door meeting shortly after he was elected that "25 percent of the children will never be anything, never amount to anything and he's not throwing money at them," Fox Chicago reports.
The mayor's office told Fox it was not appropriate to speculate on a private conversation.
Jackson reiterated Saturday that all too many public schools serving largely communities of color in the city have been victims of "sabotage" because they lack the resources they need, the Sun-Times reports. Jackson said he will call on the Department of Justice to intervene in what he described as inequalities in the city's public school system, Fox reports.
Last Wednesday, the CPS board approved the closings and turnarounds on the heels of hours of impassioned testimony urging the board to arrive at an opposite decision. Legislation in the Illinois Statehouse that would put a one-year moratorium on such school actions has been introduced and the teachers union has filed a civil rights lawsuit aimed at keeping the board-approved actions from going through.