Statement of solidarity with Whittier parents

drafted together with allies, parents, a brief introduction the struggle. also an online petition at

The Whittier Parents’ Committee is staging a sit-in to fight against the demolition of the Whittier Dual Language School’s field house (la Casita), in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. The sit-in has been widely reported as the struggle of a community against the blind austerity cuts instituted by a cash-strapped school board. But in fact this struggle brings to light larger and more contentious issues in Chicago and nationally: control over Tax Increment Funding and the top-down reshaping of public education.

The Whittier Parents’ Committee has been organizing for seven years to push Pilsen alderman Daniel Solis to allocate some of the estimated $1 billion in Mayor Daley’s TIF coffers to their school for a school expansion – he finally agreed to give $1.4million of TIF funds for school renovation. Cynically, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has earmarked a part of this money for the destruction of the school’s field house, which has been used for years as a center for community organizing and services. This would directly undermine the ability of the Whittier community to organize and struggle for educational rights. Parents are demanding to be part of the decision-making process.

CPS has been conducting an extreme makeover of public education: privatization, demolitions, school closures and turnarounds, massive firings of seasoned teachers have been part of the large-scale redesign of public education. Public funds are being used to renovate schools that are privatized, while low income neighborhood schools are being starved of the most basic resources. The fight over the survival of this little field house is an important one in the larger struggles around educational rights, community self-determination and control over public land and institutions.

The undersigned organizations support the demands of the Whittier Parents’ Committee!
1. Do not demolish the field house – use the same $354,000 allocated to demolish the field house to remodel the building and expand the programs offered, including a school library
2. Work with parents and the local community instead of imposing a top-down vision for the school

Whittier School occupation begins

An extreme makeover has been underway. The structure of “public” has been cast as inadequate, as an offensive and dangerous obstacle. That is to say public infrastructures and resources, but also the very notion of public or shared or common, the terrain of social life that is not organized primarily around the rules of profit maximization, the forms of ownership, use and value that do not begin and end with exclusive private property rights, this larger social process is cast as the source of all our social and financial problems. It stands for a logic of inefficiency and waste, of sluggishness, resistance to innovation and lack of individual opportunity. It is the realm of limited individual choice, and of small-thinking. To move forward is to tear it all down.

To a certain extent, this is a politico-economic strategy related to devaluing or undervaluing public resources: public schools have been ruined, resources have been exposed to decay, public projects, institutions, infrastructures defunded, pilfered, bled dry. Private hands dipping liberally into the public purse, simultaneously help to push everything into the market at rock-bottom prices: sell the highway, privatize the schools for pennies on the dollar. This way you make money both coming and going.

This is also an ideological project, one that recasts all of life in terms of its efficient management. Because unlike commodities systems, living systems have waste, fat, redundancy, and operate at differing speeds. Living systems resist enclosure; and are always under construction, always generating endless possible outcomes. The future of living systems is not easily amenable to management.

Once the jurisdiction of the market expands over all of life, from the territory of the body, into the future of the air we breathe, into our very way of relating to each other, it tends to appear as though it was inevitable, as though it could not be any other way. It is a peculiar characteristic of jurisdiction: that it erases the process of its own making, its authority appears as a given, as inevitable. And it appears as the new notion of the “public good”.

In Chicago , over the last 7 years, 100 public schools have been slated for closure or subjection to “turn-around”, while 70 private, charter or “under private management” schools have been funded. This is the vision of the Renaissance 2010 program, a vision that became national policy once former Chicago Public School CEO Arne Duncan became Education Secretary for the Obama administration. Backed by the largest Education reform budget of any US administration in history, the opening of the US public school market is being rolled out at a stunning pace.

In Chicago, a small group of parents have been fighting against the ruining of their neighborhood school for ten years. On September 16, they occupied the building to resist its demolition. Extreme makeover, public-school edition, interrupted.

An Immigrants’ Freedom Ride

On Labor Day weekend (Sep 3-5, 2010), the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign undertook a “Freedom Ride: Immigrants’ Caravan” through the vast suburban sprawl of the Chicago metropolitan area. The 3-day, 100 mile bike ride, as well as the actions, rallies and meetings along the way, addressed the collaboration between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the rise in xenophobia as expressed in recent English-Only legislation, and the locally-specific ways in which capital accumulation is predicated on the degradation of work, the management and policing of migration, and the reorganization of urban/suburban space.

As the expanding logistics management industry consolidates enormous warehousing centers ( “inland ports” ) in foreign trade zones west and south of the city, tens of thousands of precarious workers, in large part immigrants, are pushed out of the city into planned suburban developments and into “perma-temp” jobs. The vast suburban landscape we rode through is a system of highly policed and regulated subterritories that are at once separated and connected by a limited number of county roads and an expanding system of freight rail lines. The logistics industry does not consist only of the warehouses and the flow of commodities in the supply chain, but also of the residential districts and of the efficient management of the flow of cheap, precarious labor – it is, in other words, a “people” system. Suburban Chicago appears in this sense as a logistical landscape: that is to say it is a spatial and social arrangement of differential mobilities – and immobilities – that links land speculation, the efficient warehousing and distribution of commodities and the efficient warehousing, detention and controlled migration of people.