One story’s ripple


July 25, 2014

The power of the media is clearest when it moves people.

Unfortunately the power seems to be out lately.

But here’s a case where the power is still strong and it begins with a story by the Chicago Crusader.

CPS pulls plug on Electrical Program

By J. Coyden Palmer

Story Posted:07/17/2014

“When Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett took over the helm of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in October of 2012, she told the Crusader during a meeting in her office that she was committed to maintaining vocational trade curriculum within the system.

“Last week, CPS quietly cut the final electrical program offered in city schools when the program at Simeon Vocational Career Academy was given the axe without warning.

“Members of the local electricians union, former Simeon electricity shop students and the instructor who taught them, came together Tuesday night just blocks from the school to begin organizing an effort to save the program. The elimination of the electricity program—a year after the last machine shop course was cut in the city—will have a devastating effect on African-American students looking to get into the trades, said a representative of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

“Michael E. Brunson, recording secretary for CTU, said while CPS is eliminating Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, suburban school districts are either maintaining or increasing them.

“These are opportunities that our young African-American and Latino students are missing out on. We are coming out of a recession, so the demand for electricians, machinists, plumbers, carpenters, and all of the other trades are on the rise again,” Brunson said. “So, why are we hurting our kids and their teachers?”

Community activist Jeanette Foreman read this article and sent out an e-mail that included these words:
“I urge us to Speak up and  Speak out  individually and especially collectively to reverse this unreasonable decision.

  • Ask our Media to report this as a high priority story and continually and to the same intensity and repetition reporting is done about Afghanistan and  other Wars…
  •  Ask  the Mayor, Superintendent to reinstate and escalate an aggressive vocation, technical and entrepreneur education program in CPS schools serving Black youth. 
  • Ask Chicago political, business and corporate leadership to connect these programs to paying internships and apprentices that are connect to the billion dollar building      boom resulting in public and privatized Chicago-area contracts for charter schools, street ,curb and pothole repairs, river walk, bridges, hotels and so forth. 
  • Ask the Mayor to pursue a policy of reducing violence by  requiring that public works contracts with private or public entities requires their workforce to be statistically  representative of the race and ethnicity of the local Chicago population, a policy that is actively and aggressively enforced . 
  • Require that construction companies have hiring in the Black neighborhoods rather than the suburbs and that they are connected to school vocational and training programs with internships and apprenticeships.
  • Adequately fund the vocational schools and training programs to make this possible.
“We must elevate  this issue into a  big public discussion, a political campaign matter, that traditional and social media keeps in the public eye as a lead/ front-page item. Our media should continually cover it in the same way the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel our part of our daily bread.  Every time there is a report about a local shooting, let us ask our media to include reports on the status of Chicago Black neighborhood and youth unemployment next to an assessment about the numbers of construction jobs and work in the vicinity with work crews that were not local African Americans.  “
A few days later WBEZ brought up the issue, citing the Crusader’s reporting.
Listen to what was said:
And then the Chicago Sun-Times chimed in:
The story provided school officials’ take on the closing, along with this sentiment from a teacher:

“Latisa Kindred, the electricity teacher who was laid off when the program was closed, said she had fewer dropouts in her Career and Technical Education classes.

“Electricity in CPS is the fourth program to close at Simeon in four years… first it was graphic design, then machine shop, then auto shop and now electricity,” Kindred said in a news release emailed by the Chicago Teachers Union. “They need to save CTE, because my students leave this program and find jobs, and that’s an alternative to what they face on the streets.”

So, too, the Chicago Teachers Union shared its views. They said:

“CHICAGO—In 2011, Simeon Career Academy on Chicago’s South Side closed its only machine shop—the last machine shop program in the city. Now in 2014, Simeon has eliminated the only electricity program in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) at a time when unemployment is more than 7 percent in the state of Illinois and an astounding 92 percent for African-American males ages 16-19 in Chicago. This continued decline in the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs has resulted in the shortage of skilled, CPS-trained tradesman in the city, as well as the termination of veteran teachers, including the district’s only female, African-American CTE teacher at Simeon.

“This loss of labor training comes at a time when minimum wage jobs are the only future prospects for many adults in Chicago, yet city leaders are eliminating programs that produce skilled workers. At a time when violence is a key concern in the city of Chicago and economic development proves to be a strong deterrent to widespread criminality, the programs that provide alternatives are being shut down. The sad fact is that Simeon is just one example of what is happening throughout CPS.”

Likewise, Progress Illinois followed up on the issue:

What’s the message? 

That all it takes is some effort from a small weekly newspaper to get attention and voices rising. And that’s a good message and a reminder of what can be done.

talk to me – digame

steve@chicagoistheworld.orgScreen Shot 2014-07-25 at 3.38.30 PM


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