by Larry Miller
Last night Wendell Harris and I had the honor and privilege to address over 100 activists on Chicago’s South-side. The town hall meeting was called by The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Action Now and the Hope Center. The array of speakers was highlighted by community participants in the recent victorious hunger strike demanding that the south side Dyett High School not be closed.
This was a meeting of south-side grassroots organizers with one goal in mind; an elected school board representing the communities of Chicago. They spoke of the failures, the corruption, the elitism and the refusal of Chicago’s leaders to educate the city’s Black children. It was noted by one of the speakers that Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel sends his children to the exclusive University of Chicago Lab School, while attempting to close school after school in black and brown communities.
They are fighting for proposed legislation HB-4268. It would create 13 election districts that would vote to constitute a 13 member school board for the City of Chicago. This event was the first of many town hall meetings that will be held to discuss this proposed legislation. The growth of this movement, focusing on the creation of a democratically elected school board, follows two nonbinding Chicago referendums that showed voters overwhelmingly support the replacement of the present mayoral appointed school board with an elected board.
It was reported at the meeting that their efforts have already won 50 supporters in the Illinois State Assembly. They need 71 to secure veto-proof passage.
They had invited Wendell and me to speak about our experience in a city with an elected school board. At the same time it was clear that they are not under any illusion that a victory in this effort will mean the battle is over. They see it as just another step in the fight to educate all of Chicago’s children.