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A Chicago Public Schools board meeting was disrupted early Wednesday after protesters spoke out against the district's proposed closures, phaseouts or "turnarounds" of several neighborhood schools.
Hundreds of parents, teachers and activists gathered outside CPS headquarters Tuesday night, saying the school board's attempts to deal with struggling schools are misguided.
Starting around 6 p.m., members of the Chicago Teachers Union and Occupy Chicago gathered outside the headquarters, 125 S. Clark St., chanting "Save our schools!" and many stayed overnight. The group wanted to make sure they were allowed inside Wednesday's Board of Education meeting -- where board members are expected to vote to open 12 new charter schools.
"We will not stand by and let them close our schools," CTU president Karen Lewis told NBC Chicago. "This is a huge fight for the soul of public education."
The Chicago Tribune explains what happened at the Wednesday morning meeting:.
.. the school board abruptly ended its meeting and went into closed session after being shouted down by a couple dozen angry parents and union representatives upset over planned school closures, consolidations and turnarounds.
At least 10 people were escorted by security out of the building after a systematic protest in defiance of the board's actions. The proposed school realignments are to come before the board for official action in February.
"Nearly 40 percent of new schools that have replaced ones that closed are performing at the lowest levels," one protester said at the meeting, according to the Tribune. "We see through the sound bites. You have betrayed the public trust. You have failed Chicago's children."
CPS says the proposed charter schools will provide "a higher quality school option" for some 9,200 in "high-need" South and West Side Chicago communities, but some parents and teachers say that the district needs to properly fund struggling schools -- not just get rid of teachers.
"The problem is with CPS. They're saying, 'We're going to give your schools more staff. We're going to give them white boards. We're going to give them all the things that your heart desires that you've never had, [but only] if you get rid of all your teachers,'" CTU staff director Jackson Potter told NBC Chicago. "If you send them four miles away in harms way to another building, that's unacceptable."
CPS President Jean-Claude Brizard, however, said allowing schools to fail year after year is "criminal" and said the board will take "whatever steps are available" to ensure students access to better quality schools.
"We must make necessary but difficult choices if we are to do the right thing for our students and get them on a path for college and career readiness," CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in a statement, according to CBS Chicago.
The district also says that charters outperform neighborhood schools, but a recent study into test scores returned erratic results.
Check out photos of protesters camping overnight here, photos courtesy of Jen Haggard: