DOWNTOWN — With the Chicago Public Schools requesting a delay on a deadline to announce school closings for next year, dozens of protesters rallied at City Hall Friday demanding CPS declare a two-year moratorium on closings.
Calling the appeal for a delay on a Dec. 1 deadline "an admission of failure of this policy," Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey asked CPS to "admit you made a mistake and go all the way to make a moratorium."
CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett asked earlier in the day that a state-mandated Dec. 1 deadline to specify which schools would be shuttered for the next school year be pushed back to the end of March.
She said the extra time was needed for a "rigorous" analysis of which schools should be closed, given their low enrollment levels and CPS budget problems.
School, teacher and neighborhood groups immediately organized a protest for the end of the day at City Hall outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel to demand a moratorium on closings.
Pauline Lipman, a professor of education policy studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of Teachers for Social Justice, said the request for a delay was a smokescreen.
"It's about closing neighborhood schools and expanding charter schools," she told the crowd of about 100 protesters. She said the closings are expected to unfairly target schools in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, asking, "If this is so good, why don't they do it in white, affluent neighborhoods?"
"CPS doesn't have a budget problem," said Camille Mathis, of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. "It has a credibility problem."
Protesters demanding a meeting with Emanuel chanted in favor of a moratorium and threatened, "One-term mayor!"
Protesters were asked to disperse after the building formally closed, but 10 stayed until 11 p.m. and were arrested, according to Aileen Kelleher, spokeswoman for the grassroots community group Action Now. Those arrested were charged with trespassing and released on Saturday. The CTU released a list of those arrested.