The occupation of the Whittier Elementary School field house by a group of immigrant mothers caught national attention last October, but their story is far from over.
In the past year, the group of mothers — known around the neighborhood as the Whittier or La Casita (as the field house is named) mothers — has made verbal agreements with three consecutive school district CEOs (Ron Huberman, Terry Mazany and now Jeane-Claude Brizard) to preserve the field house and build the school’s new library inside it. CPS wants to build the library inside the main school building, which parents say will displace a special ed classroom. The La Casita mothers have worked with a non-profit architectural team to make a new, green plan for the library and even have started their owned non-profit, the La Casita Parent Youth Center, according to organizer Evelin Santos.
In the past week, the La Casita mothers have blocked the entrance of a dumpster truck that heralded the start of library construction inside the main school building, picketed to keep unionized construction workers from coming to work and resumed their 24-hour sit-in at the field house.
At the crux of the issue is money, money for public education, money for libraries, money from Tax Increment Financing. Here is a breakdown of the funds that have driven this struggle, from Santos and news reports.
$1.4 million: allocated to Whittier by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) from the Tax Increment Financing funding.
$364,000: The money from the $1.4 million TIF fund allocated first to demolish, then renovate the field house.
$564,000: The total amount of money raised to build a new, green field house
$750: Prize money awarded to the Whittier Parents Committee by the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) for the environmentally friendly design of the proposed La Casita.
Priceless?: More than 50 people came out last Friday at 5 a.m. to block the planned construction of the library in the school building instead of the field house and halted the construction for the day.