CHICAGO - More than 500 high school students walked out of
classrooms at public schools city wide here Thursday, April 8, to
protest municipal and state education budget cuts.
The students were joined by dozens of parents, teachers and community activists.
Speakers at the rally said education is a right, not a privilege and
schools deserve an economic bailout, too. They add that the city, state
and federal government should prioritize public education and invest in
children's future, not slash the budget, which only makes matters worse.
Chicago Public School officials plan to cut non-varsity sports,
after school and pre-K programs, bus and bilingual education services.
CPS will also lay-off 3,200 teachers and increase classrooms to 37
pupils. Support staff and alternative education courses including
honor, music and drama programs are also on the chopping block.
"These are things we really count on," says 16-year-old Amber Perry
who attends Lincoln Park High School on the city's north side.
Her classmate, Dalilah Villafane, agrees, "I don't think it's fair
that CPS officials are getting salary raises while our badly-needed
programs are getting cut. We don't even have enough books and we're not
allowed to take them home to study. It's not right."
Ashley Landa, 17, is a student at Little Village Lawndale H.S. on
the city's southwest side and said cutting programs is not good for the
"That's why we're here to fight for our education because we deserve to be successful in life," she said.
Erin Hinton is a student at Uplift Community high and said she's
upset that cutting school programs is even an issue. "Education is not
a business," she said, "it's a basic right."
Also at the protest was Amber Johnson with her three-year-old son
and three-month-old baby to support the students. "I'm here as a
concerned parent because the city needs to hear our voices and if we
are really going to invest in our children then they need to find the
money to save these cuts," she said.
Community activist Abdul-Aziz Hassan said it's important that adults
support young people who want to get organized and stand up for their
rights, especially education. "There is an attack on education across
the nation and it's usually the first thing to be cut," he said. "But
what about the military spending or the amount of federal dollars being
spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he asked. "And it's always
working class young people who end up paying the price."
Public school teacher Miguel Guevara said the whole situation "is a
crisis and you can't just cut all these programs without any fallback."
He adds the ramifications of these cuts are dangerous to all young
people and their families, especially low-income communities already
struggling with the lack of good jobs or recreation for youth.
"What we need is a bailout for education on a city, state and
national level," said Guevara. "We are talking about people's lives."
Student activists at the rally said CPS must stop the destruction of
public education. They should cut from the top and keep schools out of
the hands of private corporations, they said. City, state and national
lawmakers including CPS officials should stop blaming each other and
should all advocate increasing public education funding by raising the
corporate tax and cutting the military budget, they add.
Alvaro Obregon is a leader with Chicago Youth Initiating Change, the
local group that organized the event. He said educational opportunities
are critical for young people's lives because too many are dropping
out, end up in jail or fall victim to community violence.