Nearly two dozen Chicago Public Schools students and parents held a protest and sit-in at Ald. Walter Burnett’s office Friday afternoon demanding a stop to the opening of a selective enrollment charter school in the 27th ward.
At one point, Chicago Police officers were called to the scene and threatened to arrest protesters for trespassing.
But the adamant group, which argued that funds should be used for other financially struggling schools, refused to leave until one parent, Sherise McDaniel, was promised a meeting with Burnett.
Burnett was not present at the ward office during the protest, according to alderman’s aides.
“Year after year, we face budget cuts to local neighborhood Chicago Public Schools, [and] we need those funds,” McDaniel said. “We don’t need another magnet, selective enrollment for the privileged. We have to care about everyone.”
The $60 million, selective enrollment Barack Obama Preparatory High School is set to open in 2017 at North Clybourn Avenue and North Larrabee Street.
Meanwhile, other neighborhood schools in the 27th ward and across the City of Chicago are experiencing declining enrollment as well as ongoing budget cuts, the protesters said.
“How do we have money to build new schools? Where is the money coming from?” McDaniel asked at Burnett’s office, 4 N. Western Ave..
The protest, organized by Raise Your Hand Action and the West Humboldt Park Parent Network, initially began outside Burnett’s office. A few dozen CPS parents, students and teachers carried signs calling for plans for the new selective enrollment high school to be put to rest and reciting chants in protest of the CPS budget cuts.
Joy Clendenning, a board member of both Raise Your Hand Action and the Kenwood High School local school council, said opening another selective enrollment high school would be “financially abusive to existing schools.”
“It’s utterly inequitable and damaging to those [schools] that need funding the most,” Clendenning said to the small crowd of protesters. “A new selective enrollment high school project directs resources to the most advantaged while fueling inequality and adding to an already separate but unequal schools system.”
After a brief press conference, the protesters stormed into Burnett’s office’s lobby to deliver a petition supporting their cause that had received more than 2,500 signatures.
No arrests were made during the protest.
“Enough is enough. Stop the stratification, fund existing schools and stop creating elite schools for the most advantaged students,” Clendenning said.
McDaniel is expected to meet with Burnett at City Hall on Wednesday, hours after the Chicago Teachers Union is set to protest there for aldermen to find new revenue solutions to fund city schools.