When the Chicago Board of Education voted last week to close 50 schools, Marcus Garvey Elementary School was not on the list. Nine-year-old Asean Johnson is one of the reasons why; his fiery speeches against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to gut public education have earned him widespread admiration and more than a few suggestions that he should replace Emanuel in City Hall.
As cities all over the United States close primarily minority schools, money flows to voucher programs and charter schools, and as teachers’ unions face repeated attacks, it is easy to get discouraged about the state of public education. Johnson and his mother Shoneice Reynolds joined Melissa Harris-Perry on Sunday to talk about why he got involved in the fight against the Chicago Public Schools plan, and he insisted that the situation is not as dire as Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett have argued it is.
Students of all ages have played a huge role in protests against school closings. Thousands of students walked out of school in Philadelphia on May 17 and marched to the school district headquarters. Philadelphia is set to close 23 schools, all of which are located in black and Latino parts of the city.
Asean Johnson doesn’t plan to stop fighting to protect public education. As he told Melissa, when he’s the mayor, he wants to support businesses that invest in communities. One corporation he won’t welcome? Walmart. “They don’t give back,” Johnson told Harris-Perry.
See the second half of the conversation, including the Walmart bit, below.