A dozen people who have been staging a hunger strike in Chicago for weeks to save the historic Walter H. Dyett High School have rejected the city’s decision to turn it into an arts school and are continuing their action, saying the community’s wishes have been ignored. What do these activists want?
The hunger strikers and their supporters have spent years developing a proposal to transform Dyett into a green technology school in the historic Bronzeville area on the city’s South Side. It is one of three Dyett transformation proposals made by community members to city officials, who rejected them all. Chicago Public Schools had agreed to hold a hearing this month on the three proposals, but after protesters disrupted two public budget hearings led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, authorities tried to end the controversy with the announcement last week that Dyett would become an arts school.
School district officials that the protesters succeeded in keeping Dyett open as an open-enrollment school, meaning that all local students can attend if they want. The protesters say that the community didn’t ask for an arts-focused school and that its desires were ignored.
Here’s a letter from Jeannie Oakes, president of the American Educational Research Association and presidential professor emeritus in educational equity at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, supporting the protesters’ vision of Dyett as a green technology school.
Oakes is the founder and former director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA), former director of the University of California’s All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity (ACCORD) and founding director of Center X. Oakes’s research focused on schooling inequalities. In 2014, she completed a six-year term at the Ford Foundation as director of educational opportunity and scholarship programs worldwide.