Hundreds call for elected school board at MLK Day event

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Parents, students and teachers call for an elected school board at an event honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s headquarters. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel recalled on Monday the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s desire for everyone to take part in the American Dream, hundreds of community members called for an elected school board to replace his hand-picked panel that voted to close schools and slash budgets in black and brown neighborhoods.

Parents, teachers and students from groups all over the city cheered and chanted inside the headquarters of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition for an elected school board. And State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) said he’ll lead legislation in Springfield to install one.

“We need people making decisions about students’ lives coming from our communities. . . . We’re not just going to get it by asking for it,” said Guzzardi, one of more than a dozen people to take the microphone.

Jitu Brown, of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, one of the city’s oldest African-American community groups, asked supporters to tell their neighbors to vote yes on the elected school board referendum that’s on the ballot in 37 wards.

Gloria Warner, president of Action Now and a retired teacher, accused the board of turning “our public schools system into a Fortune 500 company.”

She recalled King’s quotation that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“The injustice being done to our kids through the closing of 50 schools, opening more corrupt charter schools, diverting our neighborhood schools and keeping democracy from the school board affects all of us,” Warner said.

Across town, Emanuel appeared at Gage Park High school, home to the kickoff party for a day of service sponsored by City Year before they fanned out to a handful of public schools.

When King launched his campaign in Chicago nearly 50 years ago, he wanted “everybody participating in the American dream,” Emanuel said.

He challenged the crowd crammed into the school’s auditorium to keep thinking of others.

“The truth is every day if you got a college education, you walked through the door of opportunity,” Emanuel said. “That means every day when you reach back, do you grab the door and close it, or do you grab somebody else’s hand and pull them through too?”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel participates in City Year Chicago’s Martin Luther King Day of service at Gage Park High School on Monday. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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