Letters to the Editor

Representative Mitchell is no union champion

To the Editor:

Union workers are our neighbors, family members and our community stakeholders that contribute to the economic viability of our neighborhoods, which is why I was deeply honored that a strong coalition of union members and community organizations supported my initial run for public office. After taking two unconstitutional votes to slash the pension benefits of union workers and elderly union retirees, and accepting nearly $200,000 from conservative republican donors, special interest groups and PACs (that were in some cases funded directly by Governor Bruce Rauner), Representative Christian Mitchell asserts he is a leader prepared to protect union workers.

In Representative Mitchell’s recent announcement regarding his bid for re-election, he talks about the need for ‘decisive action’ against Illinois’ ‘union busting’ governor. What is interesting, is that Rep. Mitchell shares at least 25 donors with Governor Bruce Rauner, and continues to accept boat-loads of money from the very interests he claims to be fighting against.

When you support slashing the pensions of elderly retirees and union workers, support the privatization of public schools; and then sit silent as thousands of teachers and school staff are displaced due to mass school closings, you have failed workers, their families and communities. These are the times when union workers need ‘decisive action.’ It is where you stand in those critical moments that determine your mettle, not where you stand when you have the cover of the political establishment. (Note-the Illinois General Assembly was the only legislative body that had the ability to enact a moratorium on school closings.)

One of Mitchell’s contributors, Stand for Children (which has given his campaign $126,000), has been explicit about its desire to undermine the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s right to strike; this intention was explicitly described by Jonah Edelman, (CEO for Stand for Children) in a video-taped discussion regarding Stand for Children’s efforts to undermine the collective bargaining rights of teachers (June 12, 2011). Perhaps this is why Rep. Mitchell neither supported legislation that called for a moratorium on school closings nor legislation that would limit the authority of the Illinois Charter Commission to override the decisions of local school districts when it comes to the proliferation of Charter Schools. This would also explain why he recently refused to vote for legislation that would allow parents to have the ability to ‘opt out’ of excessive high stakes testing, which is the fuel used by the school privatization movement; as the results of these tests are used to close schools and castigate teachers. Lastly, this is also why he has not consistently supported a fully-elected, representative school board – not a hybrid board where the majority of the members are still appointed by the Mayor.

My track record as a champion of working families and union members is clear, consistent, and it did not begin when I decided to run for office. For the last decade, I have worked side-by-side with unions to fight against pension cuts, school closings, the decimation of the African American teaching force, and cuts to social services. I have also worked with unions to win funding to address foreclosures, and on progressive political campaigns. During the last election cycle health care workers, teachers, municipal and state administrative workers, transit workers and other union workers united to support Commissioner Chuy Garcia’s campaign while Rep. Mitchell supported the same Mayor Emanuel who has fired thousands of union workers through closing public institutions and privatization.

At the end of the day, Rep. Mitchell’s campaign is bankrolled by the same billionaire boys club that funded Bruce Rauner’s campaign, which begs the question, “How long can Rep. Mitchell keep up his pro-union charade?’ Is he ‘pro-union’ because he is in a contested race? Will he stand with teachers and school staff the next time they face mass firings?

He took $15,000 from Gov. Rauner’s We Mean Business PAC, and voted to slash the pensions of union workers. He took $170,000 from other special interest groups that support the privatization of public education system, and was mute as thousands of teachers, custodians and other union workers lost their jobs. Rep. Mitchell’s newly acquired zest to fight for unions is because he is facing a challenger that has a consistent track record as someone who fights side-by-side with unions out of a belief that the right to unionize (and the protection of workers that unions provide) are critical to our democracy and the our ability to have economically stable neighborhoods.

Jay Travis

Burns doesn’t get his facts straight

To the Editor:

While Alderman Burns and I don’t agree on much, I do concur with one phrase in his recent letter to the editor; that phrase is “the facts are the facts.” The decision to close a school is both highly politicized and racialized, as school closings have had a disparate impact on African American and Latino students. If anyone has been ‘bullied or held hostage’ in this process, it has been the African American students that have endured disinvestment in their schools, and been displaced as a result of school closings and phase-outs. More importantly, research clearly shows that school closings and privatization have not improved educational outcomes for students that were most-impacted. The decision to re-open Dyett required consistent community pressure on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his appointed school board and Ald. Burns. It occurred because both KOCO and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett were willing to challenge the mayor whenever we were aware that he set foot on Bronzeville’s soil. While I don’t want to diminish the input of the Bronzeville Community Action Council, this decision would not have happened without the sacrifice of the students, mothers, grandmothers, community leaders and organizations that participated in the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s process.

The facts that were critical to the decision to reopen Dyett, as well as additional facts regarding KOCO’s work at Dyett are as follow:

1) KOCO fought for improvements at Dyett even prior to developing the proposal that it recently submitted to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In 2005, KOCO worked with students to win capital improvements, such as repairs to Dyett’s roof and a new air conditioning system. In 2009, KOCO began an in-depth planning process for Dyett and its feeder schools; engaging local school councils, parents and scholars. It is also important to note that KOCO also brought the nationally acclaimed VOYCE leadership development initiative to Dyett for 5 years absolutely free of charge to Dyett or its students (Note: KOCO’s former education organizer, Jitu Brown, joined Dyett’s LSC and served consistently from 2003-2013).

2) The decision to close Dyett was made in 2012 (the intention to close Dyett was announced in 2011). Ald. Burns did not attend the board of education meetings regarding Dyett’s closure (as at least three Aldermen that opposed school closings in their wards have done to express concern for their constituents); nor did he convene a meeting between the mayor and his constituents (as was requested by KOCO members in 2011) to discuss the impact of the potential loss of Dyett with 4th Ward constituents. Perhaps he wrote a letter after Jitu Brown, Karen Lewis and Jeanette Taylor-Ramann visited his office in 2011 to demand that he take action.

KOCO was public, forthright and clear about how the loss of Dyett would impact Bronzeville, and held a 3-day sit-in at the mayor’s office; during which Will Burns attempted to ignore several mothers and grandmothers when he walked pass them in front of the mayor’s office. He was not completely let off the hook during the sit in because a reverend who participated in the protest held his hand as she prayed for him to get the courage needed to stand up against the school closings in his ward.

Burns’ lack of definitive action regarding Dyett is in sharp contrast to his response to parents in Hyde Park when they complained of overcrowding at Kenwood High School (my alma mater). According to the Chicago Tribune (July 23, 2013), the alderman expeditiously convened the CEO of CPS and mayor Emanuel, and transferred the building that formerly housed Canter Middle School to Kenwood. Why did the alderman take definitive swift action on behalf of Hyde Parkers, but not low-income and working African American folks in Bronzeville? Did he convene the mayor, CPS and his constituents to discuss the closure of Dyett? All children deserve access to a quality education regardless of their race or income. Just as the young people at Kenwood deserved Ald. Burns, CPS and the mayor’s swift action, so did the students at Dyett. These students are equally deserving of action from their alderman. Just as separate and unequal education is unacceptable, so is separate and unequal political representation (Note: If Ald. Burns convened such a meeting with the mayor and CPS on behalf of Dyett, he chose not to publicize the meeting as he did in the case of Kenwood).

3) In 2012, Ald. Burns was well aware of the abuses suffered by Dyett students, and did nothing to end their suffering. Students were forced to take art and gym online, and were not offered advance placement courses. As a final demonstration of CPS’ lack of respect for Dyett students, they were forced to enter the building each day through the back door. KOCO held a press conference to address these issues, and invited Karen Lewis (CTU President and 4th Ward resident). While Ald. Burns was present at the press conference, he did not ‘publicly’ pressure CPS to end the injustices the students endured. KOCO also shared the framework for its plan with the Bronzeville CAC in 2012. KOCO continued to fight for Dyett to be reopened as an open enrollment neighborhood high school.

4) In 2013, KOCO supported Dyett students who filed Title VI Civil Rights Complaints with the US Department of Education (DOE) regarding the closure of Dyett and the treatment of its students. The complaint was found viable and an investigation is currently underway with the DOE Office of Civil Rights. The planning process that began in 2009 culminated in the creation of the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School Plan. KOCO played a leadership role in the organization of hearings with Congressman Rush and Congressman Davis regarding the impact of school closings, held six town halls with feeder school parents, students and community residents and collected over 3,000 signatures and post cards in support of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s plan. KOCO continued to fight for Dyett to be reopened as an open enrollment neighborhood high school.

5) In 2014, KOCO members once again sought support both for the reopening of Dyett and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s plan. During a meeting with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, Ald. Burns told his constituents that because the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences (CHAS) and the Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) exists, he would not support the plan (It is important to note that CHAS is a selective enrollment school located on the edge of Oak Lawn on 111th near Pulaski and CVS in near 87th and Clyde).

During this same period KOCO and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett escalated its pressure on both the mayor and Ald. Burns to reopen Dyett, which included a 3-day sit-in at Ald. Burns’ ward office. I am also proud to say that during this period, I delivered the commencement address at Dyett’s 2014 graduation, at the request of Dyett students and one of the remaining teachers. After members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, KOCO and Northside Action for Justice literally chained themselves to a statue on the 5th floor of City Hall, and confronted the mayor at Bret Harte Elementary School in September 2014, a decision was made in October of 2014 to re-open Dyett.

To Ald. Burns’ point, he attempted to claim credit, but the facts, which are noted in major newspapers, federal documents, and police records, indicate a different story. It is not the mark of a leader to slander an organization and attempt to minimize their involvement or influence on a critical issue.

KOCO dried the tears of Dyett students and encouraged them to fight the discrimination they faced – not Ald. Burns.

KOCO supported the students neglected by CPS, providing after-school tutoring and helping them prepare for, be accepted and enrolled into college.

KOCO spoke out against the Illinois Network of Charter Schools when they attempted to disparage Dyett (as Dyett teachers fought back tears at the CPS board meeting regarding Dyett’s future) – not Ald. Burns.

And in absence of both concern and a vision from CPS, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett led a thoughtful process and created a plan that deserved to be evaluated on its merits (per a process that was both developed and abandoned by CPS and Ald. Burns). The new plan that was announced by Ald. Burns and the CPS CEO for an arts/technology hub school has not been made available to the public.

As for Ald. Burns’ assertion that KOCO wants to make money off of Dyett, the budget that was submitted with the committee’s plan speaks for itself. There is not a single line item for services from KOCO. Ald. Burns took two sentences from a 60-page document that refer to KOCO providing leadership development support and extrapolated a money ‘empire’ scheme. Yes, the facts are the facts. Read the proposal for yourself.

Back in 2011, when we met with Ald. Burns about the future of Dyett, he was dismissive and told those in attendance ‘we should be thinking of viable African American candidates for mayor’ referring to himself. During the meeting Ald. Burns’ concern for the future of Dyett seemed half-hearted at best. ‘My opinion’ hasn’t changed, and neither have the facts.

Jay Travis

Canter reference is inaccurate

To the Editor,

I’m writing to correct an unfortunate error in reporting on the reason for Canter Middle School’s closure, reported in the Herald’s article titled “Kenwood Academic Center Has First Day in New Building” (9/16/15 issue).  Let’s keep the public record accurate:  Canter was NOT closed due to underperformance, as the article erroneously reports, but to CPS’s declaration of “underutilization.”  In fact, as I presented downtown at the Canter school closure hearing in 2013, Canter outperformed district and state averages in most subjects for many consecutive years.  Interestingly, if in 2013 we were using the newly manipulated school performance metrics, Canter would have been touted a Level 1 school.

Angela Paranjape

Representative Mitchell is no union champion

To the Editor

Union workers are our neighbors, family members and are community stakeholders that contribute to the economic viability of our neighborhoods, which is why I was deeply honored that a strong coalition of union members and community organizations supported my initial run for public office. After taking two unconstitutional votes to slash the pension benefits of union workers and elderly union retirees, and accepting nearly $200,000 from conservative republican donors, special interest groups and PACs (that were in some cases funded directly by Governor Bruce Rauner), Representative Christian Mitchell asserts he is a leader prepared to protect union workers.

In Representative Mitchell’s recent announcement regarding his bid for re-election, he talks about the need for ‘decisive action’ against Illinois’ ‘union busting’ governor. What is interesting, is that Rep. Mitchell shares at least 25 donors with Governor Bruce Rauner, and continues to accept boat-loads of money from the very interests he claims to be fighting against.

When you support slashing the pensions of elderly retirees and union workers, support the privatization of public schools; and then sit silent as thousands of teachers and school staff are displaced due to mass school closings, you have failed workers, their families and communities. These are the times when union workers need ‘decisive action.’ It is where you stand in those critical moments that determine your mettle, not where you stand when you have the cover of the political establishment. (Note-the Illinois General Assembly was the only legislative body that had the ability to enact a moratorium on school closings.)

One of Mitchell’s contributors, Stand for Children (which has given his campaign $126,000), has been explicit about its desire to undermine the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s right to strike; this intention was explicitly described by Jonah Edelman, (CEO for Stand for Children) in a video-taped discussion regarding Stand for Children’s efforts to undermine the collective bargaining rights of teachers (June 12, 2011). Perhaps this is why Rep. Mitchell neither supported legislation that called for a moratorium on school closings nor legislation that would limit the authority of the Illinois Charter Commission to override the decisions of local school districts when it comes to the proliferation of Charter Schools. This would also explain why he recently refused to vote for legislation that would allow parents to have the ability to ‘opt out’ of excessive high stakes testing, which is the fuel used by the school privatization movement; as the results of these tests are used to close schools and castigate teachers. Lastly, this is also why he has not consistently supported a fully-elected, representative school board – not a hybrid board where the majority of the members are still appointed by the Mayor.

My track record as a champion of working families and union members is clear, consistent, and it did not begin when I decided to run for office. For the last decade, I have worked side-by-side with unions to fight against pension cuts, school closings, the decimation of the African American teaching force, and cuts to social services. I have also worked with unions to win funding to address foreclosures, and on progressive political campaigns. During the last election cycle health care workers, teachers, municipal and state administrative workers, transit workers and other union workers united to support Commissioner Chuy Garcia’s campaign while Rep. Mitchell supported the same Mayor Emanuel who has fired thousands of union workers through closing public institutions and privatization.

At the end of the day, Rep. Mitchell’s campaign is bankrolled by the same billionaire boys club that funded Bruce Rauner’s campaign, which begs the question, “How long can Rep. Mitchell keep up his pro-union charade?’ Is he ‘pro-union’ because he is in a contested race? Will he stand with teachers and school staff the next time they face mass firings?
He took $15,000 from Gov. Rauner’s We Mean Business PAC, and voted to slash the pensions of union workers. He took $170,000 from other special interest groups that support the privatization of public education system, and was mute as thousands of teachers, custodians and other union workers lost their jobs. Rep. Mitchell’s newly acquired zest to fight for unions is because he is facing a challenger that has a consistent track record as someone who fights side-by-side with unions out of a belief that the right to unionize (and the protection of workers that unions provide) are critical to our democracy and the our ability to have economically stable neighborhoods.

Jay Travis

Would Hyde Park Obama like President Obama?

To the Editor:

As a Hyde park resident having worked the 2008 presidential election cycle as a field organizer in Ohio for President Obama, I take a somewhat nuanced view of Obama’s last term.  I recently wondered just how content Organizer Obama would be with President Obama. As a young student, Barack Obama was filled with hope, optimism and courage, ready to take on social and corporate ills for the sake of justice and equality. His candidacy for elected office initially into the Illinois Senate was intentioned to accomplish those goals.

A watered-down healthcare bill, ending a prolonged conflict in Iraq and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy might not have been among young Obama’s top priorities. The 250 or so who have been murdered in Chicago (disproportionately black and brown and geographically from two sides of the city), increased fees/fines for average citizens, food deserts, lack of quality affordable housing and lack of employment would probably top Organizer Obama’s agenda.

If Barack was a young organizer on the South Side of Chicago in 2012, I wonder if he would see a president who was on his side or one who has forgotten him? Just a thought.

President, as you exit your Presidency please remember your cause and remember your goals.

Tosh Chandy

We were promised arts films at Harper Theater

To the Editor:

I was so looking forward to seeing good movies in Hyde Park, and for the first six months after you opened, I did find movies I liked and I did come to the Hyde Park Theater.

Now I look and look and there is nothing there for me to see. Just now, “Rosenwald” is playing in town. Rosenwald was an amazing man, a Hyde Parker (the Rosenwald mansion is in Kenwood, he founded the Museum of Science and Industry) whose life in a documentary should have been shown in Hyde Park. Instead I’ll travel up to Century Landmark and see it there. The same with many other non-violent movies I would be interested in.

Just thought I’d let you know. I suspect I am representative of a sizeable number of older Hyde Parkers.

Vreni Naess

Jay responds to Ald. Burns

To the Editor

While Alderman Burns and I don’t agree on much, I do concur with one phrase in his recent letter to the editor; that phrase is “the facts are the facts.” The decision to close a school is both highly politicized and racialized, as school closings have had a disparate impact on African American and Latino students. If anyone has been ‘bullied or held hostage’ in this process, it has been the African American students that have endured disinvestment in their schools, and been displaced as a result of school closings and phase-outs. More importantly, research clearly shows that school closings and privatization have not improved educational outcomes for students that were most-impacted. The decision to re-open Dyett required consistent community pressure on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his appointed school board and Ald. Burns. It occurred because both KOCO and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett were willing to challenge the mayor whenever we were aware that he set foot on Bronzeville’s soil. While I don’t want to diminish the input of the Bronzeville Community Action Council, this decision would not have happened without the sacrifice of the students, mothers, grandmothers, community leaders and organizations that participated in the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s process.

The facts that were critical to the decision to reopen Dyett, as well as additional facts regarding KOCO’s work at Dyett are as follow:

1) KOCO fought for improvements at Dyett even prior to developing the proposal that it recently submitted to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In 2005, KOCO worked with students to win capital improvements, such as repairs to Dyett’s roof and a new air conditioning system. In 2009, KOCO began an in-depth planning process for Dyett and its feeder schools; engaging local school councils, parents and scholars. It is also important to note that KOCO also brought the nationally acclaimed VOYCE leadership development initiative to Dyett for 5 years absolutely free of charge to Dyett or its students (Note: KOCO’s former education organizer, Jitu Brown, joined Dyett’s LSC and served consistently from 2003-2013).

2) The decision to close Dyett was made in 2012 (the intention to close Dyett was announced in 2011). Ald. Burns did not attend the board of education meetings regarding Dyett’s closure (as at least three Aldermen that opposed school closings in their wards have done to express concern for their constituents); nor did he convene a meeting between the mayor and his constituents (as was requested by KOCO members in 2011) to discuss the impact of the potential loss of Dyett with 4th Ward constituents. Perhaps he wrote a letter after Jitu Brown, Karen Lewis and Jeanette Taylor-Ramann visited his office in 2011 to demand that he take action.

KOCO was public, forthright and clear about how the loss of Dyett would impact Bronzeville, and held a 3-day sit-in at the mayor’s office; during which Will Burns attempted to ignore several mothers and grandmothers when he walked pass them in front of the mayor’s office. He was not completely let off the hook during the sit in because a reverend who participated in the protest held his hand as she prayed for him to get the courage needed to stand up against the school closings in his ward.

Burns’ lack of definitive action regarding Dyett is in sharp contrast to his response to parents in Hyde Park when they complained of overcrowding at Kenwood High School (my alma mater). According to the Chicago Tribune (July 23, 2013), the alderman expeditiously convened the CEO of CPS and mayor Emanuel, and transferred the building that formerly housed Canter Middle School to Kenwood. Why did the alderman take definitive swift action on behalf of Hyde Parkers, but not low-income and working African American folks in Bronzeville? Did he convene the mayor, CPS and his constituents to discuss the closure of Dyett? All children deserve access to a quality education regardless of their race or income. Just as the young people at Kenwood deserved Ald. Burns, CPS and the mayor’s swift action, so did the students at Dyett. These students are equally deserving of action from their alderman. Just as separate and unequal education is unacceptable, so is separate and unequal political representation (Note: If Ald. Burns convened such a meeting with the mayor and CPS on behalf of Dyett, he chose not to publicize the meeting as he did in the case of Kenwood).

3) In 2012, Ald. Burns was well aware of the abuses suffered by Dyett students, and did nothing to end their suffering. Students were forced to take art and gym online, and were not offered advance placement courses. As a final demonstration of CPS’ lack of respect for Dyett students, they were forced to enter the building each day through the back door. KOCO held a press conference to address these issues, and invited Karen Lewis (CTU President and 4th Ward resident). While Ald. Burns was present at the press conference, he did not ‘publicly’ pressure CPS to end the injustices the students endured. KOCO also shared the framework for its plan with the Bronzeville CAC in 2012. KOCO continued to fight for Dyett to be reopened as an open enrollment neighborhood high school.

4) In 2013, KOCO supported Dyett students who filed Title VI Civil Rights Complaints with the US Department of Education (DOE) regarding the closure of Dyett and the treatment of its students. The complaint was found viable and an investigation is currently underway with the DOE Office of Civil Rights. The planning process that began in 2009 culminated in the creation of the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School Plan. KOCO played a leadership role in the organization of hearings with Congressman Rush and Congressman Davis regarding the impact of school closings, held six town halls with feeder school parents, students and community residents and collected over 3,000 signatures and post cards in support of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s plan. KOCO continued to fight for Dyett to be reopened as an open enrollment neighborhood high school.

5) In 2014, KOCO members once again sought support both for the reopening of Dyett and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett’s plan. During a meeting with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, Ald. Burns told his constituents that because the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences (CHAS) and the Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) exists, he would not support the plan (It is important to note that CHAS is a selective enrollment school located on the edge of Oak Lawn on 111th near Pulaski and CVS in near 87th and Clyde).

During this same period KOCO and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett escalated its pressure on both the mayor and Ald. Burns to reopen Dyett, which included a 3-day sit-in at Ald. Burns’ ward office. I am also proud to say that during this period, I delivered the commencement address at Dyett’s 2014 graduation, at the request of Dyett students and one of the remaining teachers. After members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, KOCO and Northside Action for Justice literally chained themselves to a statue on the 5th floor of City Hall, and confronted the mayor at Bret Harte Elementary School in September 2014, a decision was made in October of 2014 to re-open Dyett.

To Ald. Burns’ point, he attempted to claim credit, but the facts, which are noted in major newspapers, federal documents, and police records, indicate a different story. It is not the mark of a leader to slander an organization and attempt to minimize their involvement or influence on a critical issue.

KOCO dried the tears of Dyett students and encouraged them to fight the discrimination they faced – not Ald. Burns.
KOCO supported the students neglected by CPS, providing after-school tutoring and helping them prepare for, be accepted and enrolled into college.

KOCO spoke out against the Illinois Network of Charter Schools when they attempted to disparage Dyett (as Dyett teachers fought back tears at the CPS board meeting regarding Dyett’s future) – not Ald. Burns.

And in absence of both concern and a vision from CPS, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett led a thoughtful process and created a plan that deserved to be evaluated on its merits (per a process that was both developed and abandoned by CPS and Ald. Burns). The new plan that was announced by Ald. Burns and the CPS CEO for an arts/technology hub school has not been made available to the public.

As for Ald. Burns’ assertion that KOCO wants to make money off of Dyett, the budget that was submitted with the committee’s plan speaks for itself. There is not a single line item for services from KOCO. Ald. Burns took two sentences from a 60-page document that refer to KOCO providing leadership development support and extrapolated a money ‘empire’ scheme. Yes, the facts are the facts. Read the proposal for yourself.

Back in 2011, when we met with Ald. Burns about the future of Dyett, he was dismissive and told those in attendance ‘we should be thinking of viable African American candidates for mayor’ referring to himself. During the meeting Ald. Burns’ concern for the future of Dyett seemed half-hearted at best. ‘My opinion’ hasn’t changed, and neither have the facts.

Sincerely,
Jay Travis

Burns responds to Jay Travis

To the Editor

Jay Travis asserts in her letter to the editor September 4, 2015 that public pressure lead me to fight to reverse the decision to close Dyett High School.

Everyone, including Ms. Travis, is entitled to their opinion, but the facts are the facts. In 2012, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the Bronzeville Community Action Council in direct opposition of closing Dyett High School. My opposition to closing Dyett is documented in correspondence to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then CPS schools chief, Jean-Claude Brizard also in 2012.

In 2013 the Bronzeville Community Action Council (BCAC) issued a report calling for Dyett High School to be re-opened as a neighborhood open enrollment school with a special focus including arts education.

More recently, re-opening Dyett High School was a key plank in my re-election campaign last year.

My call for Dyett to be re-opened is not a result of Ms. Travis and her friends’ agitation, but rather because stakeholders throughout Bronzeville – many of whom serve on the BCAC – expressed a demand that the school be re-opened.

Indeed, it must be noted that Kenwood Oakland Community Organization’s (KOCO) organizing efforts regarding Dyett High School have centered exclusively on re- opening the school and handing control of the school over to them. That is the sole reason for the continued protests, even after CPS announced that the school would be re-opened as an arts focused high school with a technology innovation lab.

Of course, most Bronzeville residents know the real story. Last year, many community residents attempted to participate in a planning session on the future of the Dyett. During that session and in a breakout group, community residents who expressed a different vision for the school outside of KOCO’s plan were yelled at, booed, and otherwise intimidated by KOCO and its adherents.

One organization cannot hold an entire community hostage. The hunger strike should end and we are encouraging KOCO to come together and work with the rest of the Bronzeville community to make the new Dyett High School a success for everyone.

Sincerely,
Alderman William D. Burns
Fourth Ward, City of Chicago

Why hunger strikers will continue to starve for Dyett

To the Editor

The parents, grandparents and community members from the Committee to Revitalize Dyett, that have engaged in a 19 day hunger strike, were rightfully outraged when CPS CEO Forest Claypool announced a last minute, somewhat clandestine plan for Dyett High School. Flanked by a group of “leaders,” the majority of whom have either not been involved in efforts to keep Dyett open, or in one case an organization that was actually involved in the “rent-a-protest” scandal, in which organizations paid people many of whom were economically disadvantaged to call for Dyett’s closure, Claypool touted the credibility of a plan that has not been made available to the public in its entirety. According to CPS, a decision was to be reached regarding the three proposals submitted in CPS’ own RFP process by August 26, 2015. The decision to move critical dates during the RFP process without adequate public notice is one of the key factors that led to the hunger strike.

It is important to once again set the record straight:

1) The parents and leaders from the Committee to Revitalize Dyett put consistent, public pressure on both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Will Burns to reverse the decision to close Dyett. The numerous actions that caused them to change course are publicly documented—– this was not done out of the goodness of the hearts.

2) Representative Christian Mitchell has not publicly spoken out or taken action to address the closure of Dyett, the injustices that the last few graduating classes endured, the displacement of school staff impacted by the closure or the plan for a new school at Dyett. The notion that he attended a press conference regarding a last minute plan for the future of Dyett was insulting to the parents, grandparents and community leaders that have worked to keep this school open.
After taking well over $100,000 from special interest groups that support school closures and disempowering unions, it is incredulous for him to assert that he has fought for Dyett.

3) Including representatives from the KLEO center in the press conference, the very organization that paid protesters $20 a piece according to WBEZ and the Catalyst, to call for Dyett’s closure only adds insult to injury.
The families of Washington Park and Bronzeville deserved a fair process in which CPS kept its promise to make a decision by August 26, 2015. CPS should have honored its own process; they should not have selected a plan that was not submitted in the publicly announced/vetted process. A decision should have been reached regarding the three proposals that were submitted to CPS, period.

Jay Travis

I continue to support positive Dyett future

By Ald. Will Burns (4th)

Since 2011 serving as Alderman of the Fourth Ward in the City of Chicago, it has always been my passion, priority and commitment to advocate for quality, accessible, world-class education for all of our children.

The record is clear – I fought to keep Dyett High School as a quality open enrollment school since September 2011. Our office has held numerous meetings with Bronzeville community members and stakeholders to address issues and concerns, including the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett/Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO).

On August 7, 2015 the Board of Education announced they were extending the date for the Dyett RFP public hearing to September 15, 2015. Although the date change is disappointing to us all, it is important that we allow time for adequate public feedback and a thoughtful and thorough review of proposals to make the best decision for our children’s education.

As the newly appointed City Council Chairman of the Committee on Education and Child Development, I will continue to work with the community, the Chicago Board of Education and the RFP process to secure a new plan for Dyett.

I do not take the hunger strike lightly and I am sympathetic to the demonstrators. Dyett is very important to a lot of people in the community and I encourage everyone to attend the upcoming Dyett RFP Hearing on September 15, 2015.

As Fourth Ward Alderman, I will not be bullied into submitting to the special interests and scare tactics of one group. The whole community deserves the opportunity to have their opinions represented and communicate their plan in a fair and open process.

The new vision for Dyett can bring an enormous amount of excitement to the Fourth Ward and we are eager to quickly move towards a positive outcome. Failure is not an option. Dyett will be a successful open enrollment community high school.

Visit http://cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Pages/Dyett_RFP.aspx for information on attending the public hearing.

ALDERMAN BURNS’ RECORD ON THE CLOSURE AND REOPENING OF DYETT HIGH SCHOOL (Editor’s note: The following information was compiled by the office of Ald. Burns.)

Leading up to the landmark CPS decision to keep Dyett open, he met with members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett/ Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and held community forums on numerous occasions regarding the issue and others. The following outlines the meeting dates:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 — meeting with KOCO and CPS at our Ward Office
  • Saturday, Sept. 29, 2011 — Bronzeville Speaks II
  • Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 — Bronzeville CAC
  • Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 — meeting with KOCO about CPS at Price School
  • Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 — Bronzeville Speaks III
  • Thursday, March 28, 2013—meeting with KOCO and the Bronzeville CAC at the Bright Star Church
  • Saturday, April 13, 2013—KOCO’s annual convention at the King College Prep
  • Thursday, June 5, 2014—meeting with KOCO at our Ward Office

Alderman Burns has publically documented his opposition to Dyett’s closure and his support to reopen the high school:

  • The agenda for the Bronzeville Speaks II meeting on September 29, 2011
  • The agenda for the Bronzeville CAC meeting on December 5, 2011
  • A letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times sent January 19, 2012
  • A letter to Jean-Claude Brizard from October 9, 2012
  • The agenda for the Bronzeville Speaks III meeting on November 7, 2012
  • A public statement shared with the Bronzeville CAC about school closures on March 22, 2013
  • Media fact sheet we circulated on June 16, 2014
  • A letter to the Hyde Park Herald on which we collaborated with the Bronzeville CAC for the May 28, 2014 issue

He has also spoken on the record and publicly on this issue, including:

  • WVON w/Matt McGill on June 18, 2014
  • WVON w/Cliff Kelley on July 31, 2014

Additionally, Alderman Burns held a public meeting on Monday, July 28. After the meeting, he released correspondences soliciting feedback to be added to the report for the attendees that might not have had the opportunity to share their input.

Those solicitations were posted through social media and included in an email blast on July 30, and were included in his weekly newsletter that Friday, August 1. The results of the report were reported in his weekly newsletter on September 5 and September 12.

Looking for long-term budget fixes

By state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25)

Whither the budget?

What is the long-term solution for the state’s budget challenges? Clearly the first priority is adequate and responsible funding for the state’s current fiscal year. While courts have, so far, mandated ongoing payments to some programs, not every critically important program is protected. These forced payments are based on last year’s spending. That guarantees the state will run out of money long before the end of the current fiscal year, as income tax rates fell Jan. 1.

What it will take to stabilize state finances, while protecting the vulnerable, is a balanced approach to the state budget that includes both spending reductions and new revenues. Many groups and budget experts agree.

That includes the Civic Federation, an independent, nonpartisan government watchdog organization founded in 1894. Its members include the leaders of Chicago’s business and corporate community.

The Federation proposes a five-year plan that it believes will restore fiscal stability to the state of Illinois. The Federation notes that the repeal of a portion of the income tax last January pushed the state off a fiscal cliff: the sudden 25 percent drop in income taxes, it maintains, should be rescinded and retroactively increased until 2018. The Federation plan includes additional ideas for new revenues. One, for example, is to expand the sales tax base to include some services. When the sales tax was first adopted, ours was a sales economy. Families used to buy lawnmowers, which are taxed. Families today increasingly buy lawn care services, which are not taxed.

The report calls for stronger controls on state spending, with reductions that would amount to a quarter-of-a-billion dollars a year over the next five years. The report isn’t wrong: the state does need to cut. The budget the General Assembly sent the Governor cut spending close to that amount, although higher overall budget totals reflected mandated increases in pension contributions.

The Federation’s report recognizes that the state’s fiscal crisis imposes real hardships on our low-income neighbors. The programs they depend on face budget cuts, even though they are by no means immune from paying the higher taxes. To help struggling families, the Federation recommends an increase in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). I sponsored the measure that first created the state EITC and I’ve worked to expand the relief it provides low-income, working families.

I don’t agree with each of the suggestions in the Civic Federation’s report. But that it seems an unlikely group to lead the charge for new taxes gives, to me, special credence to its analysis of our serious fiscal problems. Beyond the Federation’s proposals, other ideas to increase revenues are also on the table. It is my hope that the Governor, lawmakers and the Illinois body politic sit up and take notice: this state needs budget cuts—but it also needs an infusion of new money in order to stabilize and sustain our finances.

Items in DuSable exhibit provoke painful memories

To the Editor:

In reference to [the] recent article “New Display at The DuSable Museum”(August 19), I am concerned about an item that will be displayed, for “Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality.” To get an idea of where one is headed, in my opinion, one must first know where he/she has been. Moving forward, means someone should take a look at the things in the past that will not beneficially serve his/her future and release and let go of those things. Therefore, I applaud certain items that will be displayed to show Black Americans the progress they have made from obstacles that were placed before them. However, other items on display would be a reminder of extremely traumatic and painful things of the past and would seem to serve only to bind one or many from successfully moving forward. I make reference to “…a Ku Klux Klan robe from 1920…”

Synonymously, I am reminded of a classroom category assignment where the teacher tells the students to place an “X” on the item that does not belong. The teacher goes on to list the items: orange, book, banana, [or] apple. Every student is happy to place an “X” on the book, because even though the book may be about fruit; it is not a fruit and therefore does not belong.

In conclusion, “…a Ku Klux Klan robe from 1920…” may have reference to Black History, but I am certain that it does not belong on display at the DuSable Museum, as it would appear as mockery.

Concerned Citizen,
La Verne D. Green

Hunger strikers want to hear from officials

By JAY TRAVIS

As the Hunger Strike for Dyett enters its 9th day, the silence of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Will Burns (the Education Chair of the City Council), and State Representative Christian Mitchell is deafening. This strike is not only about ensuring that African American students in the heart of the 26th District do not lose access to our last public, open enrollment neighborhood high school, it is also about ensuring an effective K-12 system of education in Bronzeville. After 6 years of diligent planning for a new high school, with a new math and science based curriculum that was developed in collaboration with scholars, the Chicago Public School Board chose to cancel a critical hearing regarding the future of Dyett High School. The Committee’s courageous, determined grandparents, parents, and community leaders made the difficult decision to place their physical bodies on the line, and began a hunger strike on August 17, 2015. As one of the parents on the hunger strike was rushed to the hospital on August 24, 2015, the continued racial injustice endured by parents and youth in the Black community is unconscionable, and wounds my heart.

Access to an equitably-funded, well-resourced public neighborhood school within walking distance from their homes is a right that should be afforded to all children regardless of their race or income. It is a right that is afforded to children that live in Hyde Park, Beverly and Lincoln Park.

Sixty years after the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, separate and unequal education is alive and well in this city. The disinvestment, subsequent closure and disingenuous process regarding the future of Dyett School are glaring examples of not only the inequality that persists within the Chicago Public School district, but also the devaluing of the voices of African American grandparents, parents, youth and educators.

It was the sheer determination of the Committee to Revitalize Dyett which was illustrated by its decision to file Federal Title VI Civil Rights complaints, engage in sit-ins in front of the Mayor’s and Alderman Burns’ offices, and take arrests on more than one occasion that saved Dyett from indefinite closure. The committee has also secured the support of well over 2,000 people from Bronzeville for their proposal through a petition and post card drive. African American parents are often demonized as being uninterested in their children’s education. Instead of the hope, hard work and diligence of the parents and community members that have fought for new Dyett being embraced by the district, a sham process was established to call for new proposals for Dyett. Despite being ignored for numerous years by the elected officials and the district, the Committee to Revitalize Dyett submitted its proposal.

A review of all three proposals clearly indicates that the Committee to Revitalize Dyett proposal is the strongest, and has the most academic depth. So why is the decision regarding the future of Dyett being delayed? Why are the voices of Black parents ignored, when the voices of White parents in other parts of the cities are listened to? When white parents in Lakeview rejected the proposal of Noble Street Charter to open a new campus in their neighborhood, elected officials and CPS adhered to their wishes; but Black parents must endure arrests and travel to Washington DC to file Civil Rights complaints for a neighborhood school? Why do the Mayor and his close allies, Alderman Will Burns and State Representative Christian Mitchell, refuse to address the concerns and African American grandparents and parents who simply request the same treatment given to parents in neighboring Hyde Park?

Parents from Hyde Park, Lakeview, Albany Park, Englewood, Beverly, Lincoln Park, Auburn Gresham, South Lawndale, Pilsen and numerous neighborhoods in Chicago have traveled to Dyett High School to support the hunger strikers. In fact, Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus (Chuy) Garcia and 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz have visited the hunger strikers, but not a word from our local elected officials. Unfortunately, this response (or lack thereof) continues their pattern of silence around the impact of school closures and the subsequent displacement of thousands of students, teachers and school staff; which have a disproportionate impact on African American neighborhoods and families. Perhaps speaking out on these critical issues would offend the special interest groups such as Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform and the We Mean Business PAC (which are PACs supported by Gov. Bruce Rauner); which bankroll their political campaigns.

The parents, grandparents, students and community members of the Committee to Revitalize Dyett are solution-driven. They saw the challenges facing Dyett, and rolled up their sleeves and collaborated with scholars and several organizations such as DuSable Museum, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, and Blacks in Green to develop a new school. Their definitive action deserves swift support.

“Justice delayed, is justice denied.”

No reponse from Fourth Ward office

To the Editor:

My name is Larry A. Green a resident of the 4th Ward and I have been trying for months to get a drain cleaned at the corner of 52nd street and Kimbark. I have called the 4th ward office as well as reported it by 311 and no seems to care about the standing water every time it rains hard. This seems to be a recurring issue not only with repairs but also trying to get the police to enforce the law of no heavy trucks on Kimbark and 52nd street. On Tuesday and Friday, Budweiser, Miller Lite. US Foods, Kehe, Kemps and several other large 18 wheel vehicles making deliveries to Kimbark Liquors and Hyde Park Produce roll up and down the street sometimes even going against the one way signs. I was told by CDOT that the trucks were to enter and exit off of Woodlawn but they do not do that. I have called the Chicago police department numerous times and was even told by a car that did come to just let them make delivery. There is a sign posted at the corner of 51st street and Kimbark that sys no trucks over a weight limit allowed but this is not even enforced by the Chicago police department. This is a problem that tears up the streets and it seems that no one cares. I am sure if this was happening at the corner of North Dearborn Parkway and Schiller on the Gold Coast this would not happen.

Larry A. Green

Burns needs to deal with real problems

To the Editor:

I feel disgusted that my alderman, Will Burns, is putting forth resolutions about a movie tax credit in response to what accounts say is the working title of a Spike Lee film based in a neighborhood that isn’t even part of his ward. If that’s not enough, all of this is going on during a time when the governor of Illinois has already frozen film tax credits and at a point when the real violence happening every day (not the fake movie kind) is a challenge that actually requires the attention and effort of our elected officials.  Will Burns, you represent the Fourth Ward.  Please try your hand at actually doing that in a way that truly benefits your constituents.

Cory Petty