Last week 9-year-old Asean Johnson became the latest YouTube sensation when he criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his decision to close 54 Chicago public schools. With more than 100,000 views, the video, uploaded May 21, was taken at a Chicago rally where Johnson led the crowd in chanting, “Rahm, let’s face it, your policies are racist.”
“Rahm thinks we are all toys. He is not caring about our schools; he’s not caring about our safety. He only cares about his kids. He (does) not care about anyone but himself,” Johnson says in the video. “You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them.”
Even though the Chicago Board of Education voted on May 22 in approval of the school closures, Johnson’s school, Marcus Garvey Elementary, and three other schools were sparred from the chopping block.
However, the fight waged by Johnson and those he stands with didn’t end there. On May 29 a lawsuit was filed by the Chicago Teachers Union to halt the closure.
The lawsuit claims the Chicago Board of Education cannot close ten of the schools on its closure list. According to the suit, ten of the elementary schools on the list do not meet the board’s guidelines for closing schools.
The controversy surrounding urban school closings is nothing new for cities across America. Pittsburgh has seen its fair share and Philadelphia has gained notoriety for its closings as well.
In Pittsburgh, parents were outraged in 2008 when a round of reforms saw the closure of 22 schools. Since that time, more schools have been closed, and there is no guarantee more won’t be closed as the Pittsburgh Public School district’s student population continues to shrink.