With clouds looming and blustering winds whipping through Daley Plaza last Tuesday, a crowd stood off to the side, projecting their worried voices for the public to hear.

The weather fit the mood as the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, protested against Chicago Public Schools policies.

“We’re not staying quiet anymore,” said Karen Lewis, a teacher and co-chair of the group

The teacher and student protestors – all from the Chicago public schools system -gathered that night, a day prior to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit to Chicago. Duncan, former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools before joining the Obama administration this year, returned to speak about violence in public schools.

“The chicken is coming home to the roost,” said Jackson Potter, co-chair of CORE and a teacher at Englewood High School.

Protesters discussed violence in schools, teacher cuts and the “20 Day Rule” that allows teaching positions to be changed in the first 20 instructional days. The protest that night marked the 20th day of this rule’s implementation.

In Duncan’s speech last Wednesday morning to Grantmakers for Education, he said, “Every child is entitled to a quality education, which unfortunately today we are failing to fulfill.”

Describing education as “the great equalizer,” Duncan spoke of the concerns and challenges public schools face. Donzell Chester, a sophomore at Percy L. Julian High School, stressed the need for more teachers in the schools, saying he was sick of losing teachers that he had bonded with.

Lewis, however, realizes that any solutions will take time.

“I think this is a really long, hard struggle and that it’s not going to end anytime soon,” she said. “We’ve got to do better. Our children deserve better.”

-Bree Tracey, Medill News Service