Green Party candidate supports parent/student/community struggle in Illinois

From a Rich Whitney for Governor 2010 press release, October 19, 2010:

Rich Whitney to visit parents occupying Whittier Field House

Carbondale, IL—Green Party candidate Rich Whitney will be visiting the field house at the Whittier Elementary School in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood this evening in a show of solidarity and support for the parents, students and community members who have occupied it since September 15th. Whitney and supporters will be delivering food and drink to the protesters.

The field house had been used for after-school programs, but the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) declared that the building would be demolished to build a soccer field to be used by nearby Cristo Rey High School (a private, Catholic high school). Parents, students, teachers and school activists were outraged. As one parent explained, “Again they want to take from the poor and give to the rich.” The bilingual school, which has about 400 students, does not have a kitchen or library. The parents themselves have made improvements to the school, including a science lab. Their demands are straightforward: they want a library for their school, not a giveaway to a private school. The parents have disputed the claim by the CPS that the field house is “not structurally sound.” A structural engineer who examined it on behalf of the parents found that it only needed a new roof and that it would cost less to fix the roof than to demolish the building.

Yesterday, the CPS budged from its hard line stance, agreeing to lease the field house to a community group for $1 a year and build a library inside the school. However, the struggle is not yet over as the CPS wants to put the lease out for bid in the community and the Whittier Parent Committee would prefer to oversee the project itself.

Rich Whitney stated that “I applaud the initiative taken by these parents to do what is necessary to save part of their community school and improve it. It is appalling that they have had to go to such lengths to obtain something as basic as a school and community library in a state and city as wealthy as ours. It is ridiculous that TIF money is sucked out of the school system at the city level and our schools don’t get adequate revenue from the state. I am running for governor to address the latter problem. Illinois provides only 32 percent of its school funding from state sources. This has given us some of the most poorly and unequally funded schools in the nation. Both Democrats and Republicans have known of this problem for many years and have refused to act to fix our regressive tax system and poor school funding system. I am the one candidate in the race who is determined to fix the problem and actually has a workable plan for doing so.”

“Today I am honored to stand in solidarity with these heroes for education. We are fighting on two different fronts but we are in the same battle for quality education in Chicago and all of Illinois.”

Rich Whitney is a 55-year-old civil rights and employment lawyer from Carbondale. As a lawyer, he has fought for working people who have lost their jobs or had their rights violated. A founder of the Illinois Green Party, he has long been politically active in support of the labor, health-care reform, environmental, civil rights, and peace movements. In 2006, he served as the Green Party’s first candidate for Governor, winning over 360,000 votes and making it possible for Illinois voters to have a third choice on the ballot statewide.

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