CITY HALL — Hundreds of protesters turned out at City Hall Monday to deliver candy canes to nice aldermen and lumps of coal to the naughty on issues concerning Chicago Public Schools.
"We came here to say Happy Holidays, but some of you aldermen, you're going to get a lump of coal," said Martin Ritter, of the Chicago Teachers Union.
"We want fully funded schools," Ritter added. "We want art, music, world language in every school. We want equity in our schools. We need local control of Local School Councils and an elected, representative school board."
"The reason I'm out here doing this today is to fight for public education," said Asean Johnson, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Garvey Elementary credited with saving his school from the 50 closures earlier this year. He criticized CPS' emphasis on charter schools and spoke in support of neighborhood schools, saying, "Then you're in a community together."
Johnson helped deliver coal and candy to aldermen on the second floor of City Hall, while others delivered coal to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the fifth floor. Protesters continued on to the Thompson Center to ask Gov. Pat Quinn to support an elected school board and fair tax reform to better fund public education, state issues that would have to be settled in the General Assembly.
Protesters, who included members of the community groups Action Now, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Pilsen Alliance, among others, also demanded a fair state tax and a moratorium on new charter schools. Ritter estimated about 500 turned out.
Yet their key issues on naughty & nice were a proposed redistribution of Tax Increment Finance funds, in part to CPS, and an elected school board, pushed in the City Council by Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd) and John Arena (45th). Both received candy canes and said they appreciated the support, even as Arena's proposal for a referendum on an elected board was squeezed out by other aldermanic issues earlier Monday.
"I think it's a creative approach toward raising the issue," Fioretti said earlier in the day. "I hope I won't be getting coal unless we squeeze it into diamonds and help the Board of Education out of the terrible mess they created."
As it turned out, he had nothing to fear about getting coal. Many of the naughty and nice aldermen were determined by their votes on a recent failed attempt to free those measures from the Rules Committee.
Those praised by protesters included Fioretti, Arena and Aldermen Toni Foulkes (15th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Joe Moreno (1st), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Michele Smith (43rd), Nick Sposato (36th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).
Those on the protesters' naughty list receiving coal included Aldermen Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Latasha Thomas (17th), Matthew O'Shea (19th), George Cardenas (12th), James Cappleman (46th), Michael Chandler (24th), JoAnn Thompson (16th), Rey Colon (35th), Jason Ervin (28th), William Burns (4th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Danny Solis (25th), Emma Mitts (37th), Ameya Pawar (47th) and Michelle Harris (8th), chairman of the Rules Committee.