Saturday, October 8, 2016

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton, From a Chicago Teacher

Dear Madame Secretary,

I am writing to you today from Chicago on behalf of all the children, families, and staff in the middle of a massive manufactured crisis brewing in the Chicago Public Schools. A crisis in major part worsened by your friend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton-AP
I am a special education teacher at an elementary school on the far South Side of the city in a high-poverty African-American community. Thanks to Rahm Emanuel's increased attacks on neighborhood public schools like ours, we are living under truly abhorrent conditions for teachers and students alike. My school is a survivor of his vicious, racist school closings from 2013 where the school down the street was forced into ours creating chaos and disruption for all involved. We have been beaten down by at least five separate rounds of budget cuts over the past 2 years since, with yet another round of cuts on the way. These cuts have seen lost teaching positions causing large class sizes (41 kindergartners in one classroom!), split classrooms (more than one grade in a class), and the laying off of other vital staff members. We no longer have a Librarian. We lost a much-needed clerk. We lost our Climate and Culture Coordinator and our mentoring program. CPS even has stolen our social worker and psychologist for all but a day or two a week despite the high number of children who have experienced trauma and need therapeutic services.

And we are indeed experiencing trauma. We are a school located in the middle of a neighborhood facing massive spikes in violence, thanks to Rahm's racist policies causing a lack of housing, jobs, and opportunity. Just yesterday, I sat huddled in my classroom, protecting my students during a lockdown as violence swirled around us, leaving a man dead on our streets just down the block and 2 others injured. As I comforted my students, crying and scared in the dark, the obscenity of Rahm's call for teachers to sacrifice MORE tore through my thoughts. Children at my school are in mental health crisis. Yet Rahm and his unelected school board have cut the very healing services we need now more than ever. As teachers, how can we allow these horrid conditions to stand?

Not only has Rahm gone after neighborhood schools, particularly in Black communities, but now he and CPS are coming after our most vulnerable population: students with special needs. CPS has changed funding formulas and procedures to access vital special education services in an attempt to save money for their crisis off the backs of our most fragile learners. We have seen harmful disruption in special ed services, with massive lawsuits brewing. Teachers are being laid off, support personnel are being lost, busing and transportation is being cut, and CPS has created a mountain of bureaucracy designed to prevent access to services. We are at criminal levels of harm to students.

Would you allow your granddaughter to attend a school suffering these types of assaults?

You say, "Black Lives Matter." Well now is the time for you to show that the Black Lives of children, children with disabilities, children living in poverty here in Chicago...that those lives matter to you. That the lives of Black Educators who are being laid off or pushed out of teaching in droves matter to you.

You say to teachers, "I'm with you." I heard you speak at the AFT National Conference this summer where you promised us that you are on our side. Well, in Chicago we are under attack, an attack led by your party's out-of-favor embarrassment, Rahm Emanuel. As the chosen candidate of the Democratic Party, we ask that you intervene directly. If you ask teachers to say, "I'm with her" then you need to show us that you truly are with us in our time of dire need.

Teachers in Chicago are on the eve of the second teachers' strike in four years. Members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike because we see the unacceptable reality of underfunded, sabotaged schools every day. We are willing to stand up and fight for the schools our students deserve. While we deserve fair compensation and should not shoulder the burden of the elite's created fiscal crises, this strike is about so much more than our pay.

Secretary Clinton, I invite you to come walk the picket line at my school should we go out on strike beginning on October 11th. Show us which side you are on. The wealthy bankers that profit off of Rahm Emanuel's privatization schemes or the families and teachers of Chicago?

It's time for you step up and show what kind of president you will be.

Sincerely,
Katie Osgood
Special Education Teacher
CTU Delegate at a CPS Elementary School

Teachers and staff during the April 1st One Day Strike


46 comments:

  1. This special education teacher in Oakland stands with you. <3

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  2. I am not a public school teacher, but a lot of my friends are and I Stand with you Katie Osgood. I am a senior citizen and we have issues with the leader of the Democratic Party also. Trump is not the man, but there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.

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    1. Thank you! I think our light at the end of the tunnel is each other. Your solidarity is much appreciated!

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  3. Thank you! I stand with the teachers and children in Chicago!

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    1. Thank you, we need all the support we can get!

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  4. You are a rock star. Standing in solidarity.

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  5. I am just a parent volunteer, "luckily at an awesome little school in San Diego county, and my heart goes out to you. I'll spread your message of needed support and I send you my love.

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    1. Thank you for sharing and your support. It means so much!

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  6. This is an outstanding letter which should be answered. Your strength and love for the children is evident. You and your coworkers are activists and role models. Funding must be given to your school. Solidarity from NJ

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  7. Well said! We are standing up for all of our children!

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  8. I am with you 100%! I, too, as a CPS employee kg 24 years see the corruption of our system and the blatant destruction kg our schools in black neighbkrhokds. This has GOT TO STOP!!! I will walk on behalf of the children we serve! Thank you for your outspokenness and honesty! Sending my support and love to you!

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    1. Solidarity! See you on the picket lines!

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  9. I am with you 100%! I, too, as a CPS employee kg 24 years see the corruption of our system and the blatant destruction kg our schools in black neighbkrhokds. This has GOT TO STOP!!! I will walk on behalf of the children we serve! Thank you for your outspokenness and honesty! Sending my support and love to you!

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  10. Solidarity from Florida, where we've been under attack for years, with no right to strike. I feel your pain!

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am also a CPS teacher and alternate union delegate in an impoverished school on the far south side. This year I am the special education teacher, general education teacher and the case manager. We all know this is impossible but due to budget cuts this has become an impossible reality at my school. Sending my love and support to all our CTU brothers and sisters and we prepare to strike if no agreement is reached. I will be sharing this to make others aware of our struggles as we try to teach in a broken system. Solidarity! Regina

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    1. Oh wow, Regina. These cuts are unacceptable. Those of us experiencing it need to shout out loud for all to hear so everyone knows about these atrocities. Solidarity! Perhaps I will see you on the picket line. Much love and support right back at you!

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  12. Katie, your letter is a powerful testament to the sad state of education, not only in CPS, but in our schools nationwide. As a retired elementary school counselor from Wisconsin, I stand with you. I pray that Sec. Clinton reads your letter and understands the grave implications if this continues and takes action as soon as she is elected.. "These are all our children. We will all profit by, or pay for, whatever they become." - James Baldwin.

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  13. Katie, i am not an educator, but am a product of CPS.... Several years ago. It saddens me that you had to write this letter, but i appreciate your courage and honesty and the love you have for the children. Thank you and i stand with you and the other teachers.

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  14. Katie, i am not an educator, but am a product of CPS.... Several years ago. It saddens me that you had to write this letter, but i appreciate your courage and honesty and the love you have for the children. Thank you and i stand with you and the other teachers.

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  15. Solidarity from Waukegan... CPS supported us 2 years ago on our strike, now it's our turn.

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  16. Solidarity from Waukegan... CPS supported us 2 years ago on our strike, now it's our turn.

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  17. I live in the neighborhood in which your school is located. That's a relatively new facility, and I'm saddened to hear this. Saddened, but not surprise. Disinvestment in our schools and neighborhoods has been ongoing. Much of the current upheaval began with removal and displacements from CHA housing. We know what it's all about, and we will remember. As far as I'm concerned Rahm's days are numbered. And we must hold Hillary's feet to the fire as well. In solidarity.

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    1. Thank you, Alec. Yes, our school building is beautiful-I understand that people fought hard to get this facility built! And thank you for pointing out the disinvestment in the community and the removal/displacement caused by terrible housing policy. Community members have told me stories about the spikes in violence after CHA tore down the high-rises along State St and forced thousands to scramble for housing options and how many of those families relocated to Roseland. Everything we are experiencing is a direct result of disgusting, racist policies beyond just education. It absolutely is time to hold Hillary's feet to the fire. Let's see if she turns up in our hour of need. We all remember that Obama did not. Will she be different?

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  18. Yesterday I spent some time reading HRC education plans if she becomes president. It is clear that she understands the talking points but it is also clear that she does not have any deep understanding of how public education works or not in this country. Her plans involve public campaigns to help boost teacher pay, government bonds to help schools with building projects, bring computer science classes to everyone to name a few. All good things on the surface but really, just a lot of rhetoric.

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  19. Have you also sent this open letter as a direct letter by paper or electronic mail? I am anxious to hear her response. As a graduate student here in Chicago, I am deeply concerned with the state of the seige on public education in Chicago.

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  20. If the teachers from the school districts of this country that are still getting the support they need would stand up and strike for those that are not being supported....we might see a change, but if they wait until more of these people get into office they will loose the power to do anything. The unions need to stand together now! It's obvious that the democrats and the republicans don't have the answers.

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  21. This is amazing. Thank you for writing. CTU Strong!

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  22. In solidarity from Poway CA, special education teacher. Your post brought me to tears.

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  23. If the mayor found the money for teachers as he has now all of a sudden found it for hiring more police Chicago wouldn't be in this mess.

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  24. I'm also a CPS teacher. Beautiful letter. Thank you!

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  25. Bravo! Well written letter and you most certainly nailed the many issues. Hopefully she will show up! That would TRULY be a POWERFUL move on her part. Thank you for having the courage to write the TRUTH! Blessings! N

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  26. Chicago has always been the center of public school privatization. It began with Milton Friedman and many of his colleagues in the University of Chicago's economics department. State and local governments spend more money on education than any other public service. Its not surprising that private business has its eyes on this money bag. Hillary Clinton will be more supportive of public education than most politicians but its unlikely that she will get involved in all of the local battles. She does have a bully pulpit, however, for expressing her views and she can influence federal policies that support public education.

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  27. Beautiful, powerful and necessary.

    Addie Alkhas

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  28. Beautiful, powerful and necessary.

    Addie Alkhas

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  29. This is indeed beautiful, powerful and necessary. This particular teacher has decided to stand up for the rights of all the teachers and show the example for the students it is really frustrating when you decide to put your faith into one politician and it turns out that he or she eventually cannot meet the needs of all the electors. I wonder would be the opinion of this politician particular towards the resource for students and if she will provide what she has promised.

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