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Groups demand more black teachers in CPS, nationwide

Calling it a “crisis in America,” activists and Chicago Teachers Union representatives on Wednesday demanded an end to the “purge of black educators” in the city and across the nation.

And the group, standing outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall office, called on the candidates for mayor to be more explicit about how they would deal with the problem.

“Long gone are the days when we had veteran African-American teachers who taught you, your little brother, your little sister, who had roots in your communities and knew your families,” community activist Jitu Brown said.

Chicago is one of 14 cities where protests are taking place as part of Black Lives Matter at School week.

The activists blamed school closings, school privatizations and “overly punitive” evaluations for a black Chicago Public Schools teacher population that they say is down to about 20 percent from 40 percent in 18 years ago.

“We say that is not a result of teacher quality. This is an intentional purge of a particular population from the system — when all the research says that children do better when they are taught by people (who) are from their own race,” Brown said.

Jennifer Johnson, CTU’s chief of staff, said when she began teaching, there were 12 black teachers in her school. That number later fell to five, she said.

“We must have a pipeline, we must have a dedicated way for black educators to be supported to get into classrooms,” Johnson said.

Chicago Public Schools did not answer requests for comment.

Brown said the candidates for mayor have not said enough about making needed reforms.

“Some of the candidates are saying the right thing in regards to support for an elected school board, stopping school closings, freezing charter school expansion,” Brown said. “What we need is a dedicated policy that is talking about healing the wound.”

Jennifer Johnson, chief of staff at the Chicago Teachers Union, speaks about equity in Chicago Public Schools and "Black Lives Matter at School Week" during a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.

Jennifer Johnson, chief of staff at the Chicago Teachers Union, speaks about equity in Chicago Public Schools and “Black Lives Matter at School Week” during a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times