CPS critic unveils YouTube protest video

April 03, 2013|By Rachel Cromidas, @rachelcromidas | RedEye

Most protestors have a rallying cry. Matt Farmer's is more of a song.

Farmer, an attorney, musician, and education policy writer from Rogers Park, has been critical of Chicago's plans to close more than 50 public schools this year. On Sunday morning, he put pen to paper and wrote a song to express that frustration.

"Nine times six / Fifty-four / Schools gettin' closed / Like never before," the song, posted to YouTube at midnight on Monday, rhymes. "It's time to fight back / Rahm has gone too far."

The song takes jabs at Mayor Emanuel for vacationing in Utah during the closure announcements, and echoes several of the most-repeated arguments against the plans: among them, that the administration is trying to hurt the teachers union and gentrify South and West Side neighborhoods where parents have little political muscle.

Chicago Public Schools officials have denied criticisms in the face of protests and opposition from local school leaders and aldermen since the names of the schools on the chopping block were announced last month. Earlier today, schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the policy was neither illadvised nor racist.

"When status quo is not working, change is inevitable," she told attendees at the school board meeting. "What I can not understand, and what I will not accept are charges that the proposals I am offering are racist.”

But Farmer, a public school parent and member of the local school council for the Phillip Rogers Elementary School, doesn't agree. He hopes the video will help get a different message out to Chicagoans on the periphery of the closure controversy.

"It's meant to touch a nerve among those who are affected and who know what's going on," he said. But more people could be aware.

"We live in two different Chicagos, two different school systems," he said. "Parents, teachers students tend not to get off their couches unless it's an issue affecting them directly."

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