ROSCOE VILLAGE — Rocked by millions in budget cuts and the resulting loss of 35 staff members, Lane Tech students, parents and teachers took to the streets in protest Wednesday, marching from the school's campus at Addison and Western avenues to Ald. Ameya Pawar's 47th Ward office in North Center.
Police escorted the marchers along the route, which temporarily snarled rush hour traffic at the Damen/Irving Park/Lincoln intersection.
"This isn't something I could have missed," said Nayelii Duran, a Lane Tech senior who hobbled along on crutches with a sprained ankle. "This is a crime against CPS students. I was just so angry."
The approximately 200 marchers included Lane Tech Latin teacher Jim Chochola, whose job was among those eliminated.
"Aw, I know what that is," he said when he saw Principal Christopher Dignam's phone number pop up on his Caller ID last Friday.
Told that Latin would be reduced from a full-time to a part-time position, Chochola can apply and interview to get half of his old job back.
"I'll have to move out of my place," said Chochola, who's already advertised his apartment for sublet. "Even at full-time, I was pushing the top end of my rent."
One of the goals of the march was to present Pawar with a resolution calling for, among other things, the restoration of Chochola's job along with the 2,200 other CPS teachers and staff cut loose due to slashed budgets across the district.
Vanessa Pena, a 2012 Lane Tech grad, turned out to support her alma mater and former teachers, many of whom inspired her to major in education at Beloit College.
"I'm really close to a lot of teachers," said Pena. "It breaks my heart."
Susan Dobinsky, Lane Tech parent, marched not just for her daughter's school but for public education at large.
"It's anti-democratic," she said of what she deems a "clear effort" to "dismantle" public schools.
"Our country's founded on public education," said Dobinsky. "I feel it's very important Chicago has a viable public education system."
Pawar met the protestors outside his office on Lincoln Avenue, borrowing a bullhorn to be heard by the crowd.
Though stating his support for returning Tax Increment Financing dollars to schools as well as for an elected school board — two additional components of Lane Tech's resolution — Pawar cautioned that there were no easy solutions to the school district's ongoing funding woes.
Illinois' income tax structure needs to be revisited and pension reform has to be addressed, which he was quick to add "doesn't mean you bust people's retirements."
"The teachers and the students are paying the price of a lot of political inaction. We didn't get here overnight," he said. "When you try to untangle a really complicated mess, it takes time. Everyone has to work together."