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Teachers protest charter champ Betsy DeVos as Chicago schools plan strike votes

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union protest an appearance Thursday evening by Betsy DeVos at the Chicago Cultural Center. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Teachers and other protesters confronted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Thursday evening as the nation’s top supporter of charter schools headed to an appearance at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The protest came as teachers plan strike authorization votes at several local charter schools, officials said.

The demonstration, organized by the Chicago Teachers Union, reached a peak of about 50 people as DeVos stepped out of a black SUV and walked into the Cultural Center shortly after 6 p.m., less than an hour after protests kicked off.

The group booed President Donald Trump’s top education administrator and took aim at her support for charter schools, arguing money should instead be invested in traditional public school systems.

Video by Nader Issa

Chris Baehrend, the chair of the CTU’s charter division, said DeVos is “ideologically opposed” to the best interests of Chicago students.

“We’re here to let Betsy DeVos know that public control of the public goods is the best way to serve the public interest,” Baehrend said. “The most I could hope for from Betsy DeVos is that she would just get out of the way, step down from her position and let someone who values public education and public educators run the Department of Education.”

Baehrend added that the CTU plans to announce several strike authorization votes next week at various Chicago charter schools.

Protesters eventually made their way into the lobby of the building before they were told to leave. Chicago police officers stood outside as a building employee locked the doors.

Protesters let out several chants, including, “Hey hey, ho ho, Betsy DeVos has got to go.”

Earlier, DeVos on Thursday afternoon visited Harper College in suburban Palatine. DeVos was joined by Ken Ender, Harper College’s president, as she toured the school’s advanced manufacturing lab.