RYH Statements at the #CTUSEIUStrike Rally at Lincoln Yards

On October 29, CPS mom and Raise Your Hand board member, Andrea Tolzmann, spoke at the #CTUSEIUStrike rally at the Hide Out, across the street from Fleet Fields, the soccer fields on the Lincoln Yards site. Huu Nguyen, CPS parent, RYH parent leader, and Illinois Families for Public Schools board member, also spoke. You can read both statements below.

Watch video of the speeches here


Andrea Tolzmann, parent of two CPS students and Raise Your Hand Board Member

We are here today for our kids. My kids. Your kids. Everyone’s kids. Every child in this city deserves to know their education is a priority and that we care about them more than we do about any massive luxury development. Our kids need to know the Mayor and CPS leadership will prioritize resources for their education.

To borrow from a remarkable young person’s sign from yesterday’s student protest, Students -- are NOT -- a Bailout.

Our kids are our future and they deserve -- every day in every classroom in this city -- what Raise Your Hand, our teachers and support staff engaged in these negotiations, and the groups here today, have been fighting for for years. Yes, we are tired of waiting, and we are not going anywhere until our kids get ALL the basics they need.

They need a student-to-social worker ratio that is in line with professional standards, not for some children, for ALL children!

They need fully resourced special education staff and services, not for some children who need services, but for ALL children who need them.

They need a nurse, a case manager, and a librarian, in all schools, not for some children, for ALL children!

They need reasonable classroom sizes, not for some children, for ALL children!

They need a quality school day, not for some children -- say it with me -- for ALL children!

For years, RYH has gone before the Board of Education and relentlessly called on the mayor -- not to ask for luxuries -- but to beg for the basics: Clean classrooms, meeting the district’s basic legal obligations to deliver special education services, safe playgrounds, reasonable staffing levels and class-size numbers. These are not a bailout, they are the basics and we will accept nothing less.

Now Mayor Lightfoot will say the money is not there, that the City is broke. But we stand here today in the midst of what will soon be a vast luxury development in a non-blighted area of the city. And part of it will be financed with $1.3 billion in our tax dollars. This TIF will divert tax revenue for 23 YEARS. That’s our money that won’t go to our schools and other vital services. 

And you know what? That deal got put in writing! 

So, Mayor Lightfoot, Dr. Jackson, unelected CPS Board of Education -- you need to reverse the years of failed priorities and policies that systematically disinvested in our schools. Empty campaign promises and wishy-washy pledges won’t cut it. We are not asking for a bail out. We are asking for the basics. This is what every one of our kids deserves!

We are with all of you here today. Yes, tired, but also energized. We are so grateful for all of you who are part of Chicago’s fight to preserve and sustain the public good that is public education. Together we will remain strong and continue to demand the basics while the City of Chicago spends money on luxuries like Lincoln Yards. 

Huu Nguyen, CPS parent, RYH parent leader, and Illinois Families for Public Schools board member

My name is Huu Nguyen. I’m a parent volunteer with RYH, and am a board member of IL- Families for Public Schools (IL-FPS).

I’d be remiss to stand here today at this site where LY is well underway and not highlight the injustice, during this historic strike about justice and equity. I’d be neglectful to not address the insidious nepotism and scandals that fuel the inequitable physical (and social) infrastructures in our city.

Since it’s inception, Lincoln Yards has been tainted. Sterling Bay, one of Chicago’s biggest developers, purchased the Finkl Steel site in Dec 2016. In Feb 2017, the city sold the Goose Island Yard to pay for “new 311 system.” Nearly $20 million from this sale was used to purchase the Garfield Park property, where the construction of the state-of-the-art $95 million training facility for Chicago police and fire recruits will take place, aka the Cop Academy. In the summer of 2017, Sterling Bay emerged as the winning bidder (although not the highest bidder) for the Fleet Management lot. And to date, the only funds (about $28 million) the city currently has on hand to build the facilities for the new cop academy, came from that sale.

How do we have $33 million for resources school officers, but not for social workers? How do we have $95 million for a police building, when our school buildings are crumbling? Connect the corporate dots and we’ll see exactly why there’s money for everything else in this city except for our schools and for the poor!

LY, officially known as the “Cortland/Chicago River” TIF, proceeded through with incredible expediency through the city hall. The fast-tracking to approve a TIF district that will now cipher $477M from CPS coffers over the next 23 years highlights the misplaced priorities of this city’s administration.

I want to see this type of speed when it comes to getting a child services for the IEP, or high school students getting the help they need from counselors and social workers to help them navigate in a system determined to keep them from being their best self.

Our children and parents and teachers are exhausted from striking. Our children miss their teachers, their friends, and their learning. We are tired. We are tired of waiting for CPS to prioritize all students; we are tired of waiting for the State to finally fund public education; for a mayor to finally come through on campaign promises.

We are tired and weary, but are energized with a collective sense of justice and morality!! As I look over at this sea of community members from all over the city gathered together today, on this 9th day of strike, I’m invigorated knowing that these injustices have brought us together in authentic solidarity. And I’m beyond grateful to you all, especially to our teachers!!!