Thursday, September 4, 2008


Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Boycott goes from threat to reality
by Wendell Hutson

The threat of a Chicago Public Schools boycott became a reality Tuesday when nearly 1,000 Chicago students showed up on the campus of New Trier High School in north suburban Northfield to register for classes.

Linda Yonke, superintendent for the District 203 school, said 800 elementary and 150 high school CPS students were registered.

It's unlikely, though, that any CPS students will be allowed to attend the north shore school due to a state law, said New Trier School District President James Koch.

“According to state law, if you do not live in a school's district, you are not eligible to attend,” he said.

However, state law does allow students living outside New Trier's district to attend if their parents are willing to pay the $17,000 annual tuition, according to Koch.

“We have had students in the past pay tuition to attend New Trier, but we currently do not have any now,” Koch added.

There are 4,000 students at New Trier, and while 12 percent are minorities, only 1 percent is Black, according to Yonke.

“We are here today to send a message to the governor that he needs to keep his promise and better fund public schools,” said state Sen. James Meeks, D-15th, who organized the boycott. “A child's education should not be based on where they live. This method of school funding is nothing more than a system of apartheid.”

He called on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to make good on a 2006 campaign promise to invest $10 billion in education.

Gov. Blagojevich did not return calls by Defender press time.

Meeks, who is also pastor of Salem Baptist Church, said that 70 percent of school funding comes from property taxes. As a result, he said, CPS spends $10,000 per student while New Trier spends $17,000 per student.

Many parents accompanied their children to New Trier via yellow school buses provided by boycott organizers.

Shannon Lewis, 41, whose daughter is a senior at Wendell Phillips High School on the South Side, was one of those parents.

Boycott supporters included a host of clergymen, community and education activists, and concerned residents like Sharon Pough, 47.

Pough does not have any children in CPS but drove to New Trier anyway.

“It's important for the kids to see that adults care and that there are possibilities beyond their reach,” she said.

The students who skipped school in the city Tuesday had little impact on attendance. The official first day of school attendance won't be confirmed until later this week but Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, estimated first day attendance at around 99.7 percent.

“Attendance was very strong. Parents wanted their kids in school,” Duncan said. “I never thought a boycott was a way to address this issue (of school funding).”

Last school year, first day attendance at CPS was 92.8 percent, according to Michael Vaughn, press secretary for CPS.

Boycott organizers said students would begin holding classes Wednesday at various downtown office building lobbies. They include the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.; Cook County Building, City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.; Aon Center, 200 E. Randolph St.; Chicago Board of Trade, 141 W. Washington St.; and J.P. Morgan Chase, 150. Michigan Ave.

Meeks said William Daley, Midwest regional director, private wealth group for J.P. Morgan Chase, looks forward to students coming to the Chase building.

“He (William Daley) said he would make bankers available to teach students about financial responsibilities,” Meeks said at a news conference outside his church, 752 E. 114th St.

Daley is the older brother of Mayor Richard M. Daley and reportedly is considering a run for governor in 2010.

Wendell Hutson can be reached via e-mail at


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My view on the boycott: Good idea. Someone had to do something. In the past few weeks,I've been thinking very seriously about this issue. My mother works in education, and over the years, I have seen her struggle to get the basics, like textbooks, in the schools that she has taught in. One year, she went so far as to ask for textbooks from my the school I was attending that they were throwing out for one of the other teachers in her building. I realize that when students don't attend school, the district loses money; however, something must be done in these situations to call attention to a problem that is very real. Some people argue that schools districts receive enough money, but it is misused. If this is the case, then someone needs to be hired, to come in and appropriate the money efficiently. In any case, the ultimate effects of the entire issue lie on the students. I feel that they should be able to boycott if they wish. The consumers of any other service are able to take their business elsewhere if they do not receive quality service. Students must suffer through insufficient educational systems regardless of the quality of the educational system in their district. So I say...congratulations Senator Meeks...btw, I think he got a meeting with the Governor to speak about the funding issue.