What started out as a neighborhood gathering in support of various public policy changes quickly turned into a march, which culminated into a rally outside the front doorstep of the home of 49th Ward Chicago Alderman Joe Moore.
A diverse crowd of hundreds that included college students, residents, community activists as well as several elected officials, attended the public meeting held Sunday evening in the Willye White Field House in Rogers Park.
The event, held by the community group Northside P.O.W.E.R., brought together various interests under a common theme of what they described as the “corporatization” of such public concerns as education, healthcare, affordable housing and taxes.
“This is a fight against corporate power and greed,” said Northside P.O.W.E.R. Chairwoman Beth Lanford. “This is a fight against the corporatization of our society. We must stop the process of turning our common good into their private gain.”
Much of the focus of the meeting centered on education, with speakers raising concerns over the closure of public elementary schools as well as the expansion of private charter schools.
It was reported last week that as many as 80 schools could close their doors next school year, based on the final recommendations of Chicago Public Schools’ Commission on School Utilization.
Although no school in the Rogers Park area is currently on the closure list, advocates warned that school closings could further cause an incursion of private business within public education.
“I have seen the privatization and corporatization of our schools unfolding in different places, but in each case with the same underlying theme that our public education system should be run more like a business,” said Rev. Marilyn Pagàn-Banks, president of IIRON. “This notion is wrong-headed and downright dangerous.”
Also speaking out on Sunday were students from Loyola University Chicago, who are currently protesting against their school administration’s decision to raise the cost of basic student meal plans from $1,300 to $3,500 beginning next year.
“Loyola is requiring me and every other sophomore student to pay $3,500 for the least expensive meal plan option.” said first year Loyola student Lilly Osborne. “This is an increase of 150 percent over what I expected to pay for food next year. I am here today to say this is an unacceptable burden to place on my family and families like mine.”
Another topic that brought a loud response from the crowd was on the issue of closing corporate tax loopholes, which State Representatives Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) both said they were fully committed to adrressing in order to create a more equitable state tax structure.
“I am thrilled to be in Springfield to have an opportunity to begin a campaign toward a fairer tax,” Cassidy said. “We have the opportunity now for the first time in a very long time where we can make this happen, and we can change our state’s tax structure.”
Here is more from Cassidy, as well as comments from other speaker at the event:
Eventually the topic came back to charter schools, at which time organizers directed the crowd to march three blocks to Moore’s home to place yellow flags in his front yard. A total of 582 flags were placed, one for each student enrolled at Stephen F. Gale Elementary School, which was recently taken off the CPS list for potential closure.
Here is more from the speakers and protest:
Last month, Moore voted in favor of a resolution to establish a moratorium on charter school expansion for the 2014-2015 school year. But protestors called on Moore to give a firmer commitment against the opening of any more charter schools within the 49th Ward, citing that the resolution was non-binding.