We, the students, have had it

A new coalition of Chicago students organizing against school closures held its debut action. Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS), representing students from across the city's North, West and South Sides, held a March 25 press conference at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters followed by a march to the mayor's office.

The coalition formed several weeks ago while CPS administrators were whittling down a list of 129 schools facing closure. In late March, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced her final recommendation: to shut down 54 schools and "turn-around" or otherwise shake up 17 others. Nearly 90 percent of the students in the closing schools are Black, though African Americans make up only about 40 percent of the district's student population.

At their City Hall press conference, CSOSOS members highlighted the racist character of the CPS plan. They read a statement aloud--in the style of the Occupy movement's "mic check"--calling for a moratorium on all school closures and pledging their commitment to continue organizing. After minutes of chanting, "We want Rahm!" the mayor's office produced a staffer, to whom the students presented the following letter.

High School students march and rally against threatened school closures in ChicagoHigh School students march and rally against threatened school closures in Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel,

We are the Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools. We are a student-led organization fighting to save our schools.

You have not done enough to help our schools!

We represent the thousands of students in Chicago Public Schools that will be directly affected by school closings.

These closings will force us to cross gang lines that will result in more violence and more children dying. This is unacceptable. Almost every school that will be closed is in a Black, Latino and low-income community; this is a racist decision. This is unacceptable! And we, the students, have had enough!

We demand:

1) An immediate moratorium on all school closings;

2) A better way to use the TIF funds and to actually be used for our schools;

3) And an elected school board

We expect to hear back from you soon. If not, you should expect that we will be back! This is our first action but will not be our last. This is our school, and we are taking it back!

Sincerely,
Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools