Saying recent Chicago Public Schools budget cuts, layoffs and school closures have destabilized the city's communities of poor black and Latino children, activists are calling for a single-day boycott of the district's public schools.
A city-wide coalition of roughly 50 students, activists, parents and teachers have aligned the Wednesday boycott with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Fifty years later, activists say the progress King envisioned is still just a dream for Chicago's poor minority students. "I wish I could say his dream is becoming a reality," Michelle Young, Action Now president, said. "Our education system is still racist."
As with previous protests of the district, the group plans to demonstrate in front of CPS' Loop headquarters where the school board is slated to vote on the $68 million proposed budget cuts. According to Progress Illinois, the group plans to host a “people’s board meeting” outside the headquarters.
Activists are defending the boycott, which calls for students to skip school to protest, as a learning experience.
"[Students] will learn more about democracy in the streets of Chicago than they would in a month of classes," Sarah Simmons, a member of Parents 4 Teachers, said at a news conference.
“I think to use children as a protest tool and not to to attend school is reprehensible. Our children need an education and need to be in school." Byrd-Bennett added, “If we have differences, then the adults should come to the table and have that conversation. I’m old school. Children don’t belong in that conversation.”
Earlier this week, a report came out revealing the district's budget woes -- despite deep budget cuts and layoffs -- were even worse than previously thought. Despite the news, the district seemed to only further raise the ire of critics by handing out $1.1 million in bonuses to principals at more than 130 high-performing schools.