By Bats Social Media Team: Aixa Rodriguez, Steven Singer, Sue Goncarovs, Lisa Smith
A group of concerned Chicago mothers, called BAM, or Badass Moms, dressed in skeleton and bone costumes on July 29th to protest against $60 million in public school budget cuts while charter schools gained $30 million in funding. These mothers and their children wore the Halloween attire to illustrate how deep these spending cuts were hitting their schools – down to the bare bones. Members of the Badass Teachers Association’s Social Media Team chatted with Rousemary Vega, founding Badass Mom, an involved and concerned parent of four public school students, to find out about the BAM action and what is happening in Chicago public schools.
Aixa Rodriguez: We would like to tell the story of this parent protest. Tell us about your group. What is your mission/purpose?
Rousemary Vega: Our mission was to bring to life how our Public Schools are being starved. We have been on the chopping block for many years, but money is being redirected and charters are being funded.
Aixa: You protested by wearing clothing with skeletons and bones on them and were holding tombstones. What was the significance of these choices?
Rousemary: We wanted to be creative in our message and we needed to be bold enough. The purpose of the skeleton suits was to visually show that we are DOWN 2 BARE BONES.
Aixa: What does this group of mothers wish to change?
Rousemary: We wish to change the dirty inequality in our neighborhood public schools. We want to change how our parents are linked and involved. We want to build bridges of parents, from one Public School to another. We want to raise our parents voices so loud that we no longer can be ignored and or silenced. We will not shake in fear.
Aixa: What is currently happening in Chicago schools? How have the mayor’s choices impacted neighborhood schools?
Rousemary : What is happening here in Chicago, is a massacre of Public Education, a disruption of futures and the killing of a profession. Our children are paying the price for the corporations’ free ride. Public school is where everyone is welcome. They are changing and privatizing schools. Where will the kids go? Where will the kids that need different teaching and more time go? They are cutting the arts, trips, teachers, transportation. The charters are getting funded and they are leaving us with nothing.
Aixa: Your group has said “Every Chicago school is your school.” What do you mean by that? Why is this your slogan?
Rousemary: It is not enough to just care about the school your kids go to. These cuts are happening to the system. Chicago is really segregated, and they want us to fight among ourselves. But we can’t hate each other because one school has a program my school doesn’t. We need to unite and fight so all schools have that program. Every school is our school.
Aixa: Parents have long supported the Chicago Teachers Union, seeing the teachers issues as connected to the quality of education children receive in Chicago Public Schools. This #Down2BareBones action features mothers alone. Why was this done? Why were teachers not at this event?
Rousemary: We love and highly respect the CTU. But this action was about mothers who are done being a shadow. We want the mayor and every other parent to know we have our own voice and that this is our fight. Because when I fight for Education, I mean everything.
SueG: Karen Lewis has been a stalwart supporter of teachers and parents in this…how have the attempts to discredit teachers been part of the impetus of your protests?
Rousemary: Karen Lewis is amazing and her support for parents, loyalty. It really upsets me to see how they – the system, the reformers, the money makers – are discrediting teachers. I know this is being done because teachers are the forces to our chances and changes. Because without teachers, we will all fail. That is my motivation, I can’t let my children fail. Why are they not valued like the kids in charters? Why must we make do with the bare bones?
Steven Singer: Rousemary, is this happening in all Chicago public schools or just schools serving certain populations? Minorities? Poor? Etc.
Rousemary: Steven, this is happening to all our public schools, but more cuts to our poor communities as much as $3.9 million. Rahm’s choices have clearly been an attack on our black and brown communities, teachers and students.
Steven: Is this coming mostly from the mayor’s office? Would it have been different with Chuy (Garcia)?
Rousemary: Yes, much different with Chuy.
Aixa: What do you want Chicago aldermen to know?
Aixa: That’s outrageous !!!
Rousemary: Yes. The cuts are really deep. We are literally #DOWN2BAREBONES.
Aixa: How do they even justify this!!
Rousemary: He (Emanuel) is a money making bully who says he cares about our city, but not the people in the city. No money. They say they are bankrupt.
Aixa: What is the state of the charters?
Rousemary: They are giving away our Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money to corporations that don’t need it. It’s all about privatizing.
Nancy Osborne: Awful, awful, awful. Chicago is like watching Detroit sliding into the abyss again.
Aixa: What do you want other parents to know?
Rousemary: That when it comes to public education and its teachers, we need to act today because tomorrow might be too late. To know that when you stand up and fight…..your voice becomes heard.
Aixa: You are a warrior for the right reasons. How can Chicago citizens help draw attention to this situation?
Steven Singer: Is there anything folks outside of Chicago can do to help?
Rousemary: All our public schools are bleeding and being cut. It’s really hard to watch. Help us spread our message. #Down2BareBones. Tell your elected officials.
SueG: How should parents who are interested in helping you contact you for more information?
SueG: How difficult has it been to attract media attention to what parents have been saying?
Rousemary: The media is not on our side. Not difficult to attract, difficult for right words. They spin the story so our voices aren’t heard. It’s like we don’t matter. They had security and like 10 policemen for mothers with babies and didn’t let us into the meeting; they said it was full. But with who? Who speaks for us? And the media doesn’t dig deeper and doesn’t expose this.
SueG: How will these cuts hurt your children and has your family been impacted economically?
Rousemary: I wish I could tell you that this is about how it is hurting my pockets and it is, trust me. But, these cuts are hurting us physically, mentally and emotionally. For example, the budget cuts included that special teacher, or no more physical education, or no more field trips, or no more bus transportation. Our cuts are #DOWN2BAREBONES. We are in desperate times. We are being closed out. We must stand up today.
Mary Fahey Hughes
Karen McKeegan Fraid