Safe to say, student organizers defending their public schools have become a regular (and inspiring) fixture at Chicago Board of Education meetings lately. We posted a video a couple weeks ago of members of Chicago Studetns Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS) speaking up during a meeting last month and being escorted out by security. At this week's Board meeting, the students were back, and 20 of them took the podium to give powerful testimony about the disastrous impact that school closures, underfunding and high-stakes testing have had on their education.
Above all, the students are demanding a voice in the decisions affecting them. Currently, the Board is appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, denying students, parents, educators and community members a say on important issues like funding and closures.
One of the students was 9-year-old Asean Johnson, whose fiery speech at a rally in May made him the national face and voice protesting the closure of 50 Chicago schools.
CSOSOS has the full testimonies from their members posted on their Facebook page here. A few are quoted below, or check out this video for the highlights!
You can read the full student testimonies on CSOSOS's Facebook page, but here are a few samples:
"You know me as 40675744, but today I am more than an I.D. Number. I am the state of education. I am the future. I am a student and I need you to listen to me.
As students the weight of education and its bearing on our lives is continuously echoed. The message is clear. Education is important. Not only is it key to a greater fate as individuals, but also a greater fate as a society. We are the children. We are the future. Our education now affects all that is to come hereafter.
As students, we ask, if our education is so significant, so monumental in gravity as to decide the fate of the world as we know it, why is CPS attempting to take it away?"
"When in the Course of a student’s education, it becomes necessary for them to replace the educational system which has ruled over them and to assume a voice in the decisions that shape their education to ensure a quality education for all.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all students are created equal, that they are endowed certain unalienable Rights, among these are access to equal education despite race and whether they live on the south side, north side, west side as well as a quality learning environment including a class size with less than 30 students, an air conditioned class room, and up to date textbooks."
"How is it that what is supposed to be a public forum is being held during work and school hours? Are you scared of large crowds? How is it that in the last board meeting during the public speaker section, where people register online over a week in advance, only half of the speakers could miss work or school in order to actually speak?
This undemocratic system that you have created has only proven to students, parents, teachers, and all citizens alike that you are scared of what the public has to say."