West Side residents protest charter school expansion

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Action Now members in the Austin community are holding a protest against charter expansion 4 p.m. today (Jan. 24) at the By The Hand Club, 415 N. Laramie.

They’re upset that a new charter school may be built at that location months after four Austin schools were closed during the historic mass shut down that have decimated communities across Chicago. There will be a parent leader from Austin available for interview as well as a mother and former Austin resident who left Chicago with her daughter when Robert Emmet Elementary School was closed.

Action Now’s Austin chapter voted to hold this protest because members believe that CPS is lying to them and that charter schools are stealing funds and resources from neighborhood public schools. CPS should not be privatizing public education by closing neighborhood schools in favor of opening more charters when charters have not been proven to perform better that neighborhood schools, they say.

Action Now parent leader and Austin resident Zerlina Smith said, “Schools have been closed or had their budgets slashed by millions of dollars in the exact same communities where new charters are proposed to open! Taxpayers can look forward to spending over $21 million on charter schools in the next year alone. This increased investment could either be avoided all together, or be invested in improving existing neighborhood schools.”

By The Hand Club is an organization affiliated with Moody Bible Institute and other private interests outside of the Austin community. The director of By The Hand, Donnita Travis, is also the chairperson of Chicago Education Partnership, which has submitted a proposal for a new charter school to be built at the current By The Hand location in Austin.

This new charter school is likely to be approved by the Chicago Board of Education tomorrow (Jan. 22), months after the board voted to close Francis Scott Key, Louis Armstrong, Horatio May and Emmet elementary schools in the Austin community. CPS cited “underutilization” and “budget concerns” as reasons for mass closures, but now they are eager to open new charters that would cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Action Now members are calling for an end to charter school expansion and for an elected, representative school board that will be accountable to the true public education stakeholders in Chicago’s communities.

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