Parents and activists warned for years about the violence that would erupt after school closings

It began with Renaissance 2010, a plan to shut down neighborhood schools and create charters, was launched. District officials dismissed neighborhood concerns.

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Evan F. Moore’s column, “A school torn down and a weekend of violence – it’s all connected,” raises a critical point that I and many other advocates have pressed for more than 17 years — more than a child’s entire pre-K-12 school experience.

We began to sound the alarm in 2004, as Mayor Richard M. Daley and CEO Arne Duncan touted Renaissance 2010, an attempt to satisfy the business community’s call to shut down neighborhood schools and create 100 charter schools. We slept on the sidewalk outside of the Board of Education headquarters the night before the August 2004 board meeting, so that we could present a steady stream of testimony the next morning against the 60 closures on the meeting’s agenda.

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As school leaders dismissed parent and community concerns, schools and neighborhoods became increasingly dangerous. Tragic examples included the 27 students killed within a few months of the closure of the only open enrollment high school in Austin, and the horrific 2009 murder of Fenger High School honor student Derrion Albert by students who’d been transferred to Fenger after their neighborhood high school was closed.

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Along with the warnings and protests, advocates developed school improvement proposals in collaboration with recognized education experts, parents, teachers, students and neighbors. These community-generated proposals were dismissed by district officials.

Our protests continued unabated as the closures eventually surpassed 100. Hardest hit were the communities of color on the West and South sides. Children fell through the cracks and disappeared, many simply moving to the streets. Thousands of teachers — most of whom were African American and often lived in the affected communities — lost their jobs and livelihoods. Relationships between schools and families, built over decades, were severed. Neighborhoods were stripped of what was often the only center of community life. Much of the glue holding the city together dissolved.

This failed program is not the only cause of Chicago’s rise in violence, but it would be the height of irresponsibility to ignore the damage that has been done and the lessons that should be learned. Cities will not thrive if schools are not strong, well-supported, and stable.

As we reopen our schools this fall, we must increase our commitment to funding proven, quality strategies such as lower class sizes, adequate numbers of counselors and nurses, and a curriculum that connects to students’ experiences.

Julie Woestehoff, former executive director, Parents United for Responsible Education
Arlington Heights

Sue those who promote the Big Lie

I am not an attorney and don’t know if this is possible. But why doesn’t someone bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of the 75 million voters who legitimately elected Joseph R. Biden President of the United States? Sue Trump, Fox News, the GOP and Republican state legislators and governors for their roles in starting and perpetuating the “Big Lie.”

It has been proven multiple times in court and via official certification that it is a lie, yet those parties act as if the courts haven’t settled the matter and are now passing restrictive, discriminatory voting laws. The only thing that may stop the b-s is if they are forced to pay up, bankrupting them.

While our government is based on a two-party system, we only have one “party,” plus a bunch of thugs trying to ensure their own power. Unfortunately, there are only a few Republicans who honestly believe in the Constitution, and they are drowned out or suppressed by the thugs.

Since we’ll never get term limits in the House and Senate, we have to find another way to let those who want to dissolve our democracy know that they will not succeed.

Joel L. Friedman, Chicago

Spend money on communities, not cops

More cops are retiring now than ever before, and I’m happy about it. It is evident that CPD is a problem: the majority of car chases end in crashes, Black applicants are seldom hired, officers have a penchant for shooting civilians, school cops reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline, and unprepared officers often botch raids. The city spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to “resolve” police misconduct lawsuits. Seems like a giant waste of resources to me, honestly.

Defunding the police is important, but it won’t mean a darn thing if the city doesn’t drastically invest directly in Chicagoans of color. Build more parks, plant more trees, increase job training programs.

You know, I just realized — I’m a middle-class white guy, and I don’t really know what Chicagoans of color need. So why don’t we reallocate money directly to the communities that have been abandoned by Chicago politicians? This way, communities can be catalysts for their own prosperity.

As it stands, it seems the city doesn’t have a damn clue what to do to help everyday Chicagoans live happier and healthier lives.

Ben Levin, Rogers Park

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