Race plays big factor in CPS reopening fight

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Chicago’s Black and Latino communities, those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, are majority stakeholders in the fight to reopen CPS schools.

With 84% of CPS students being Black or Latino, those communities depend on Chicago Public Schools. So fights between CPS and CTU have come down to how best to serve minority students.

Among the key players in the battle are Black women; Mayor Lightfoot, CPS CEO Janice Jackson and CTU VP Stacy Davis Gates.

In their war of words, Lightfoot, Jackson and Davis Gates use race.

“We’re talking about three African American women who all really should have the same goal,” said Maudlyne Ihejirika with the Chicago Sun-Times. “But who have competing interests.”

Mayor Lightfoot argues the district’s move to remote learning has resulted in minority students falling behind. She says it’s equitable to offer parents options.

“What are we going to do about the achievement gap that is widening every single day?,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

Maze Jackson, host of “What’s in it For the Black People” on 1570 AM, said equity has become a buzzword for politicians, but many have failed to actually deliver it.

“What I have found and what we say on our show is that equity is really the new way for white people to get re-rich,” Ihejirika said. “Right now, I think about equity from the standpoint of everything they sold us about cannabis and how it really turned out to be nothing for us. I think when we saw the mayor talk about why we had to get the schools iPads that didn’t work was because of equity.”

Davis Gates, a fierce advocate for her union, is never shy to raise the racial subtext in the ongoing school fight.

“We work in a school district and in a city that, number one, is hyper segregated,” she said.

Negotiating opposite of Davis Gates is Dr. Janice Jackson, whose kids are enrolled in CPS.

“Why should CPS stand out when private and parochial schools in Chicago have been operating since the beginning of this school year?,” she said.

Although at times the rhetoric is harsh, Ihejirika said she thinks having three Black women in top posts helps lower the temperature.

“All three being African American women certainly have one thing in common and that is they understand and have to recognize it is our children that they’re talking about and that it is our children who are always left behind,” she said.

The fights are fierce but there’s evidence the district is improving. Last year, CPS set a new record-high five-year graduation rate.

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