IFT, AFT presidents rally with Dyett School hunger strikers

by Amy Excell | Aug 26, 2015
Illinois and national union leaders lend their support to parents and community activists who are fighting for their neighborhood school on Chicago's South Side.
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IFT President Dan Montgomery and AFT President Randi Weingarten (far right) rally with the Dyett hunger strikers and call for public support of their community-developed plan for the neighborhood school.


The IFT and American Federation of Teachers affirmed our unions’ support and rallied with dedicated parents and community activists in Chicago this morning as they began Day 10 of their hunger strike to save Dyett High School on Chicago’s South Side.
 
IFT President Dan Montgomery began with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, recalling that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Montgomery noted that all communities and organizations – not just Bronzeville, and not just unions – should be standing in solidarity with Dyett parents as they fight to protect their neighborhood school and right to have a voice in its future.

Montgomery, a high school English teacher himself, also cited Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate of Illinois and “the bard of Bronzeville,” who wrote authentically and powerfully about her community.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also joined the strike on Wednesday and praised community members for their commitment and courage.

“This is what democracy looks like. This is what pursuing justice looks like,” Weingarten explained.
 
The Chicago Teachers Union, IFT Local 1, is also supporting the Bronzeville community’s efforts to save their neighborhood school. CTU representatives recently joined the strikers during a sit in at the Board of Education offices, and IFT Executive Vice President and CTU President Karen Lewis last week called upon the board president and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold a special hearing to address the situation and to "end their plan to eliminate Bronzeville's only neighborhood high school."
 
The 12 hunger strikers are members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, a group of parents, community members, clergy and others that has been calling on the Chicago Public Schools since 2009 to listen to their innovative, well-developed plan to re-open Dyett as a global leadership and green technology school. Their plan includes a science-based curriculum with a focus on leadership training and the importance of participating in the political process.
 
At today’s rally, Montgomery and Weingarten urged CPS to support the coalition’s plan because it would benefit students and the community. The IFT, AFT, and other groups also placed a full-page ad in today’s Chicago Tribune calling for public support.
 
Dyett was originally scheduled to close its doors in June under a three-year phaseout plan. After a public outcry last fall, CPS agreed to consider community-developed alternatives to closure, but earlier this month the district cancelled a public hearing to listen to the plans and public concerns. That was the last straw for the Dyett parents and community members who have worked for years to be heard, so they initiated the hunger strike.  
 
“The fact that, in 2015, parents have to go on a hunger strike for a school is ludicrous to me,” Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, one of the dedicated Dyett strikers, told the Chicago Tribune this week.
 
The Dyett strikers’ desperate plea is drawing national attention to the plight of neighborhood schools across the country like Chicago’s, which are facing shutdown despite the best interests of the students and communities they serve.
 
Voice your support for the strikers and neighborhood schools on social media using #FightForDyett.