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 Bree Tracey/MEDILL

The night before U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan returns to Chicago, members of CORE gather at Daley Plaza to express their thoughts and opinions on the Chicago Public Schools.

Protesters blast Chicago Public Schools before Duncan's visit

by Bree Tracey
Oct 07, 2009

With clouds looming and blustering winds whipping through Daley Plaza, a crowd stands off to the side Tuesday night projecting their worried voices for the public to hear.

The weather fit the mood as the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, protested against Chicago Public Schools policies.

“We’re not staying quiet anymore,” said Karen Lewis, a teacher and co-chair of CORE.

The protesting teachers and students of the Chicago public schools gathered the night before U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former CEO of the schools, returned to Chicago to speak about violence in public schools.

“The chicken is coming home to the roost,” said Jackson Potter, co-chair of CORE and a teacher at Englewood High School.

Protesters discussed issues of violence in schools, teacher cuts and the “20 day rule" that allows teaching positions to be changed in the first 20 instructional days. The protest that night marked the 20th day of this rule.

Donzell Chester is a sophomore at Percy L. Julian High School who says the schools need more teachers. “I’m sick of losing teachers that I get bonds with,” he said.

In Duncan’s speech Wednesday morning to Grantmakers for Education, he said, “Every child is entitled to a quality education, which unfortunately today we are failing to fulfill.” The organization is a national network that works to improve achievement and create opportunities for students.

Describing education as “the great equalizer,” Duncan spoke of the concerns and challenges public schools face.
“Teachers and students were thought of as interchangeable widgets,” he said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke afterward on the issue of violence in schools.

“You cannot make the schools the dumping grounds,” he said. “Disrupted children disrupt schools.”

“We’ve got to do better. Our children deserve better,” said Lewis. “I think this is a really long, hard struggle and that it’s not going to end anytime soon.”