CHICAGO — Prompted by the recent citywide Chicago Public Schools closings, an education reform group is partnering with a group of black pastors to inform minority families of the schooling options available to their children.
Democrats for Education Reform-Illinois said the plans to host the forums this month and July at three South Side Churches came because many minority parents were frustrated by the public school options for their children.
Charter and private school options are among those that will be discussed at six "Freedom Forums" hosted by New Beginnings Church, 6620 S. King Drive, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m on June 25; Another Chance Baptist Church, 1641 W. 79th St., at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on July 11 and July 25; and by Mission of Faith Church, 11321 S. Prairie Ave., at 1 p.m.and 7 p.m. July 16.
"A life without options is a life of slavery," Rebeca Huffman, executive director of the Democrats for Education Reform-Illinois, told a forum of 50 black pastors at Quinn Chapel AME Church in Bronzeville Wednesday. "If you are poor or working class in this country, you have no options when it comes to public schools."
Pastors need to get more involved because of their prominence in the black community, said the Rev. Walter Turner III, pastor of New Spiritual Light Baptist Church.
"I agree with what Rebeca said. When you enslave children, you can control the community. And there are too many people trying to enslave our communities," Turner said. "I still believe the most powerful voice in the black community is the church."
Huffman said one problem with CPS was that most of the "good'' neighborhood schools were in neighborhoods that were too expensive for minority families.
"The majority of students at CPS are black and Hispanic, yet some of the best schools are located in Lincoln Park or Roscoe Village, and not Roseland, Englewood or Woodlawn," Huffman said.
Churches in Chicago need to get more involved in helping parents with their school choices, said the Rev. Gregory Livingston, pastor of Mission of Faith Church in Roseland. He said having kids go to local schools was good, but officials needed to figure out how to stop them from dropping out.
"Students can go to schools near their homes and not be cast away from their community. For we know that seven out of 10 black boys drop out of high school, and then must learn how to survive on the street, and that is not where we want them to end up," Livingston said.
The two-hour meeting at Quinn Chapel also was attended by members of First Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Ark. For the last eight summers, the predominately white congregation has brought 25 students to Chicago for a week to work with a local black church and perform community service. This year the group partnered with Household of Faith Christian Assembly Church in south suburban Markham.
Bill Newton, youth pastor for First Baptist Church, said schools in Arkansas weren't as segregated as they are in Chicago.
"What school you can send your child to should not be based on your skin color. Schools in Arkansas are not dominated by one race like it is here in Chicago," Newton said.