EDGEWATER — Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) joined Edgewater community members and teachers at Swift Elementary School on a chilly Friday morning to call for an elected school board, more fairness in education funding and to decry Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to ban refugees from the state.
Teachers, parents, and Principal Salvatore Cannella spoke as supporters held signs demanding more money in schools and expressing their love for Swift's teachers. In between each speech, Swift middle school band students played music.
The "walk-in" demonstration was meant to "keep teachers going into the schools, not walking out of them," Cannella said, adding that he supports his staff "110 percent."
Each speaker applauded the efforts of the Swift community, including dedicated parents and community members who have helped support the school.
"Edgewater really has something special here, and that's Swift," Cannella said, adding that Osterman has long been a strong advocate for the school.
Osterman said he has "always" stood in solidarity with teachers and said he was doing "everything in my power" to find ways to keep local schools successful — including changing his stance on an elected school board.
"I've seen the error of my ways," Osterman said of his new position. He previously opposed an elected school board, but conceded Friday that "there needs to be more accountability."
Cindy Boland, a Swift parent, said the staff at the school goes above and beyond for their students, "but we don't have anything extra, we need all the resources we can get."
Boland said she didn't believe the city had a revenue problem, but a "revenue distribution problem," saying she sees big money spent on developments Downtown, but would rather see funds being put into neighborhood schools, like Swift.
Samantha Gamble, a music teacher at the school, said increased funding for education was critical because Swift could face losing 6-8 teachers if additional budget cuts are made.
"We can't afford that, nobody can afford that," Gamble said.
Gamble said she believes the decision-makers in education funding are disconnected from the struggles neighborhood schools are facing.
"Their kids are getting what we want for our kids, what our kids deserve," she said.
Speakers also touched on recent remarks about refugees coming into the United States, specifically admonishing Rauner's efforts to ban Syrian refugees from entering the state.
"We are a unified, diverse community, Swift and Edgewater are built on immigrants and refugees," Osterman said. "They are the strength of our community. We are a special place, and we gotta keep it that way."
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