Stacy Davis Gates is the Political Director for the Chicago Teachers Union.
She’s been a student, teacher, a principal and a parent at many Chicago Public Schools, but at some point in her life she decided it was time for activism. She joined the CTU, she says, because she saw the public schools as a fulcrum for change.
“You can drive down entire city blocks in Englewood and see the divestment, see the divestment, not disinvestment, because that would presuppose that there is some idea of investment. You know there’s been divestment in that community, so this is basically the cherry on top of the divestment sundae that the families in Englewood have been dealing with.”
Specifically, she’s telling us about the recent hearing in Englewood to seek the community’s approval for closing four neighborhood high schools in return for the promise that an expensive new one will be built there in the years to come.
“The hearing last night,” she claims, “was tragic in a number of ways. You know you see black mothers in this City begging and crying for identity, to be seen, to have their needs for safety, to have their needs for public education, to have their needs for gainful and stable employment addressed. And so, what we saw last night were more tears. What we saw last night was more begging, more teeth gnashing, and it’s something that’s really tragic, especially in Chicago.”
CPS has offered the premise that the action is not just a closure, it’s a consolidation, and that the consolidation is what the community wants. She’s not buying it.
“These schools too, little known fact, they are meeting every requirement that they need to meet, right?” she demands. “Against all odds of disinvestment, of invisibility that they experience in that space, those students are still making the mark. Those teachers are still coming back every single day. Those PSRPs and clinicians they are doing the best that they can with the little investment that they’ve received, and they are still hitting their marks. So when they hear closure, when they hear we can’t invest in you or we can’t provide you with the basic necessities, then there’s a rage, there’s the tears.”
We ask about Janice Jackson, who has recently risen to the top post at CPS, and who, like Davis Gates herself, has children in CPS schools, attended them herself and had worked in them as a teacher and a principal. Doesn’t that give her optimism that Jackson might be more in touch with the CPS parents and might be more sensitive about difficult school actions?
“We are a mayoral-controlled school district,” she begins. “Mayoral-controlled school districts is a failed policy. She’s going to take orders like the other six CEOs of the district took orders because the Mayor is still in control. People can have the best intentions, but the impact is what it is, quite frankly. The impact is that our schools are being defunded. Black educators are being pushed out the door because of student-based budgeting. We had a school district that once reflected the student population and it no longer does that. So I am clear that until we have an elected representative school board, until mayoral control in the Chicago Public Schools is a relic of the past, that we’re going to have the same types of impact with every single CEO.”
“And they also say that they weren’t closing all four high schools either,” she concludes. “They also said it would be a consolidation and we’re not experiencing either of those things now. So why would anyone who understands the way in which CPS and the City of Chicago work, why would they believe them?”
You can hear the entire discussion on SoundCloud here.
And you can read a full transcript here:CN transcript Jan 11 2018 Stacy Davis Gates