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“Listening to person after person eloquently, yet desperately, plead for their schools not to be closed during the Austin-North Lawndale Network school utilization hearing on Jan. 31 brought forth, to my mind, heart-wrenching images of our enslaved African-American ancestors pleading for their loved ones not to be beaten, sold at auction, or killed.”---Bonita Robinson, retired Chicago teacher, Duke Ellington School, Austin-North Lawndale Network

The Chicago Public Schools(CPS) has asked residents to attend any of 28 meetings around the city to give their input about neighborhood schools being closed because of “underutilization” and "budget constraints". The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has forcefully refuted these CPS rationalizations in their publication The Black and White of Education in Chicago.

In response to threatened school closings by the CPS leadership, neighborhoods across the city are saying NO--- loud and clear. One such meeting was held on a cold Chicago evening in late January in the Friendship MB Church on Chicago's West Side near where I live. Schools from the Austin and North Lawndale neighborhoods were represented.These communities are largely black and working class.

In the face of the cold-blooded racist threats to close their neighborhood schools, people responded with a night of love, pride and solidarity. Hundreds of parents, students and teachers packed the Friendship MB Church as people spoke of the deep love they had for their neighborhood schools where teachers and staff go that extra mile even when they must fight for the most basic modern educational resources. 

Audience at the Austin-Lawndale hearings
The church was packed by opponents of school closings
“We have the most devoted teachers in our school. I’ve been an A student since the 8th grade. I love Henson and love is very strong word. And man do I love Henson. I’m graduating, so why should I care if it closes. They help the entire community, not just the people who go there.”--- an 8th grade student at Mathew Henson School, Austin-North Lawndale Network

People spoke with pride about the academic accomplishments of the students and the grants their schools had worked so hard for. They spoke of their schools' partnerships with universities, symphonies, museums, science laboratories and businesses so that students can excel beyond the classroom. 

Valerie Betts
Valerie Betts makes a point

CPS  routinely withholds education resources from neighborhood schools, particularly in working class black and latino communities. Schools must work hard to obtain grants and support from outside organizations. They are often successful as Valerie Betts, a CPS graduate, a teacher, a Local School Council(LSC) member and a grandparent of a May School student explained:

“This year she [her granddaughter] is a 6th grader. She participates in jazz band, drumline, the after school dance program and the YMCA after school program.  In her music classes she is learning to play guitar. She was in contact with the NASA space center and Skyped with the astronauts. We have a plethora of resources including the Old Town School of Folk Music, the Joffre Ballet, Lyric Opera, Roosevelt University and the Chicago Symphony.”

There was solidarity as representatives of West Side schools promised to unite against the closing of neighborhood schools, institutions that help hold communities together in the face of the poverty and racism.

“We will continue to fight against unjust school closings. Public schools should stay public. We want and demand and end to transformations, school closings and charters/turnarounds. Quit turning around our kids and our communities...If we have to make ourselves a human chain around our school or inside it, we don’t care, jail is not new to us.”-------- Michelle Young president of the May School LSC and member of Action Now

Entire generations participated including current students, parents and grandparents. Teachers spoke, some of whom had taught the parents of current students. Parents and grandparents who were school volunteers or Local School Council members were also at the microphone.

A neighborhood school develops a complex web of relationships that is similar to an extended family. To lose a neighborhood school can be likened to tearing a family asunder. This explains the deep suspicion many West Siders have toward the Chicago Public Schools(CPS) with its emphasis on “turnarounds” and charter schools. 

When CPS “turns a school around”, they fire all staff and start “fresh”, which only further destabilizes the longterm  relationships people have built up. Charter school staffs tend to be less experienced, have a higher turnover for teachers and have fewer teachers of color. Most charters are non-union, which means their staffs are lower paid and find it difficult to challenge poor administrative policies or misuse of resources. 

Although speakers spoke with pride about how their schools had improved their test scores, there was also skepticism about standardized testing. Overuse of standardized testing takes away from instructional time and has been used as a weapon to fire teachers and close schools.

Save our schools
Choir practice at the church was canceled to accomodate the crowd

CPS policies have dramatically reduced the number of black and latino teachers through school closings. West Side teacher and CTU Black Caucus president Brandon Johnson has presented compelling evidence of how serious this problem is:

In 2000, 52 percent of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and 41 percent of CPS teachers were black. Today, 43 percent of students and just 25 percent of teachers are black.

Black teachers are more likely to work in high-poverty schools with high percentages of black students. In other words, the data indicates that black teachers are employed at higher rates in schools serving students with severe challenges, augmented by their living conditions.

These same schools tend to be less desirable workplaces and are disrupted by a revolving door of administrators, plagued by relentless testing and are void of teacher autonomy over curriculum and are more likely to be closed or "turned-round." 

West Siders wonder why charter schools are getting generous public funding when neighborhood schools are often starved for the most basic educational resources. The official reason that CPS is threatening to close schools on the West Side is because of “underutilization”. So West Siders ask, after years of overcrowded black and latino schools, why doesn’t CPS use this opportunity to reduce class size, one of the most important factors in school success? 

Trayvon Granville an 8th grade CPS student put it this way:

"A CPS school like May is supposed to have 900 students, but we only have 461 students. I think that’s a good thing because that means smaller classes. "

 Nicole Shere, a teacher at Armstrong Math and Science which has 98 students in a building that could hold 270 echoed Granville’s assessment:

"Every kid in our school knows every teacher, and every teacher knows every kid. Not only does that work to build our social skills and interpersonal relationships, but because of those relationships, our kids want to achieve well, and they do achieve well because we work together.”

The gold standard for Chicago education is the privateUniversity of Chicago Lab School with its 10-1 student-teacher ratio, its well equipped labs and classrooms and its aversion to endless standardized testing. This is where Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his kids. West Side residents want similar opportunities for their children.

People also pointed out that Austin and North Lawndale need community services that could occupy unused school spaces. Several parents spoke eloquently about this, with one parent explaining how such counseling services helped her deal with issues that impacted on her life and those of her children. LSC Chair Earlean Green said of the Ella Flagg Young school:

“This is a community school. At Young, we’re open six days a week to service our students and the community. We’re not just about the students.”

One West Side resident stated that the whole underutilization crisis and West Side population "loss" was manufactured: 

"There were areas of the black community that were gentrified. There were homes that were that were torn down. public housing was torn down.  So let's not say loss. I believe terminology is very important. Those homes were torn down purposely. And there has been a plan to that in the black community... Close your eyes and pretend this audience is white. Would you [CPS] be making these same decisions if the audience was white?"

 Several speakers questioned the veracity of the CPS statistics

David Wolf of Chalmers School said that CPS called Chalmers “underutilized”, but CPS failed to include the charter school that took up an entire wing of the building. He also said CPS had not taken into account the enrollment increase that Chalmers had experienced.

Save our school!
A Chalmers School student show their love for the school

Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance presented some of her extensive research analyzing what has been called the “fuzzy math” of CPS budget data: 

“For the past year or so, you have indicated to the press that you must close schools because you are facing a billion dollar deficit. This is one of the main reasons you give for closing an unprecedented number of schools at once. You indicated in the 2013 budget that you would be closing a $435 million budget gap by depleting your cash reserves. As a result, CPS' bond rating was lowered. Even after you closed out the 2012 school year in June, 2012 with a $322 million windfall, you did not disclose this fact in your bond documents for your December 2012 bond issue.”

Leonard also questioned why CPS has included performance data on public schools but omitted this critical information about charter schools:

According to the Center for Education Reform, 15% of U.S. charter schools will fail due to performance. In the City of Chicago, 33% of charter schools are performing at the lowest levels. Some charter schools have experienced financial strain after taking on multiple construction projects. A study by Catalyst Chicago indicated that nearly 50% of Chicago's charter schools have run a deficit in recent years. Substance News reports that a significant number of charter schools are having difficulty making teacher pension payments on time. Schools that have financial difficulty usually have difficulty maintaining high quality staff and programs.

In addition, CPS is opening new charter schools when it claims "underutilization" of public schools. The hypocrisy is exceptionally blatant even for a city authority that is infamous for that.

Chicago’s high respected educational research group Designs for Change(DfC) wrote a detailed report showing how public schools in poverty areas which have strong administrative leadership, well organized Local School Councils and an active unionized faculty can do an excellent job. These are exactly the type of schools that West Side parents are demanding stay open AND obtain the resources they deserve. CPS ignores the findings of Designs for Change and continues with privatization and turnarounds.

Another West Side resident recalled what Malcolm X had taught:
" Urban school reform has been a depraved failed experiment. In closing I will invoke the words of Malcolm X when he said,'If you stick a knife in my back 9 inches and pull it out 6 inches that's not progress. If you pull it out all the way, that's still not progress. The progress come from healing the wound that blow made.' They haven't even begun. I'm talking about CPS and the 'urban reformers'. They haven't even begun to pull the knife out. They won't even admit the knife is there...They have plunged the proverbial knife into the backs of our children. It's time to heal. It's time to stop this failed experiment now."

 The War against the West Side and the battle for public education  

"The closure of public schools has caused a shockwave that extends beyond the classroom and our community. The social and economic costs outweigh any savings to be gained. These costs outweigh any savings to be gained. These costs include disruptions to student learning, increased violence, death, displacement of teachers, reduction in salaries, the cost of starting up new schools and the disposal of public assets which could be spent on our classrooms.” ------ Michelle Young president of the May School LSC and member of Action Now.

For many West Siders, neighborhood schools are literally a matter of life and death. Both Austin and North Lawndale have suffered heavy casualties in Chicago’s gun violence. 

Members of Action Now, a Chicago community organization were out in force.

Many of those at the meeting had the name Hadiya Pendleton on their minds, the 15-year-old South Side girl who had been killed in a shooting only two days before.  She had performed with her school band at Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony and had been in an anti-gang video when she was a sixth grader.

Speakers repeatedly talked about how important neighborhood schools are in keeping kids “off the streets.” Windy Pearson of the Herzl School LSC was concerned that students affected by school closings may have to travel far from their homes when it is hard for them to cross their own streets safely.

“They have to take two to three buses to get to school.They are moved from one another gang territory.”

Neighborhood schools also keep students within the web of relationships that help kids stay safer by providing a soul and mind nurturing environment. There are bad influences on the streets of Chicago that can be attractive to young people whose minds is still being formed.

Dedicated teachers and school staff can promote positive caring attitudes and a spirit of intellectual inquiry by the very example of their lives while also imparting those values through their teaching

When kids do reach high school age, where they become more independent, and often travel greater distances to school, they will be better prepared morally and intellectually. This is critical in the consumerist, individualistic violent nation that is the USA today, a nation that is at war with itself as it pursues endless wars abroad.

The gun violence that plagues communities like Austin and North Lawndale  is sometimes called horizontal violence, the violence within oppressed communities. 

Martinique-born psychiatrist Frantz Fanon wrote about this extensively in books like Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon was a member of the Algerian national liberation movement against French colonialism.  Put simply, oppressed people can internalize the values of the oppressor which leads them to lash out against their peers instead of against the racist oppressive system. 

 Poverty is a policy, not an accident

This internal violence has its roots in the disinvestment, racism and poverty that is enforced by decades of national and local economic policy. This is why people at West Side mass meetings call for more jobs and better investment policies.

But investment that could go into sustainable good paying jobs in the government, non-profit and private enterprise sectors has been spent on downtown development and the enrichment of selected neighborhoods that are majority white (with a few exceptions). Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which is supposed to finance development in poverty areas has largely failed to accomplish this and instead serves as a slush fund for politicians and their cronies.

After the devastating flight of high paying unionized manufacturing jobs from Chicago in the 1980’s, jobs in tourism and retail became the low paying largely non-union alternative. Unemployment remains high, especially for youth.

This is economic violence in the first degree, an economic war of the rich against the poor. The economic war on the West Side is devastating to youth who must navigate the dangerous intersection of race, class and gender under some of the most difficult social conditions in the USA.

Working class people of color have been the main casualties of this economic aggression. Mass layoffs of teachers of color is just one example. Recently Mayor Emanuel declared war on public employees and their unions, slashing budgets and seeking to privatize city services. He has tried to reduce wages of workers at the city’s airports. He has done nothing to support the efforts of retail and service workers to improve their pay and benefits at mega-corporations like Walmart, Hyatt, Darden, McDonalds and others.

 These attacks come despite research showing how important parental income is to their children’s success in school.

There are those who say, just be thankful you have a job, even a minimum wage job with no benefits, no guaranteed hours, no security or no respect from management---- even if that job can barely support one person, much less a family. 

Van Jones has a point when he says nothing stops a bullet like a job. But a job that pays poverty wages is scarcely an improvement.

With a wealth gap that is the worst in the developed world, the USA needs an economic transformation on a scale that would dwarf Franklin Roosevelt’s racially biased New Deal or LBJ’s doomed War on Poverty.This will take a 21st century liberation movement, that by necessity, will be radically different from those that have come before it.

And it will require well educated young minds to be in the forefront.

 Education and Liberation

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
“We have a new principal. He’s only been here 2 years. We haven’t had a chance to grow with him. He is big dreams for Henson. If you close the school he won’t have a chance to carry out those dreams. Education is liberation. Peaceful, positive and productive, is what he says everyday. He wants us to believe that---and I believe it.”--------an 8th grade student at the West Side Henson School

Education for liberation means schools that encourage students to think critically, research carefully, create imaginatively and work both individually and in groups to further their understanding. With the world around them always in flux, students need to understand not only how to cope with change but to become that change. This is what public education is supposed to be about. 

It is clear that there are schools on the West Side who are committed to a vision of education for liberation. That is why the battle for neighborhood schools is so critical to the future of the West Side. Imagine just for a moment that CPS stopped its relentless demands for standardized testing, provided West Side schools with the finest in educational resources, supported its teachers, treated Local School Councils with respect and stopped the expansion of privatized charter schools. 

How much more time and energy would be available to develop new curricula and programs and reshape them according to changing needs? How much more could students accomplish if West Siders didn’t have to waste time and energy fighting the CPS leadership day in and day out? 

Right now there is a resistance movement growing across Chicago to save public education. The West Side is a part of this movement. But it is a movement that is still largely based on individual schools and neighborhoods.

The struggle cannot be won on a school by school or neighborhood by neighborhood basis. Chicago’s enemies of public education will seek out divisions and weaknesses and relentlessly exploit them. It is time for a city-wide alliance to not only defend neighborhood schools, but to seek ways to build on their successes and learn from their shortcomings. 

Much of our educational policy is also determined on the state and federal level, so city-wide alliances must also become state-wide and national alliances. Government at all levels is heavily dominated by powerful corporate interests who favor privatization and hi-stakes testing for working class education.

The USA needs an educational system dedicated to liberating young minds, not forcing them to endure corporate dictated soul shriveling curricula and mind numbing endless testing. We could stand aside and allow our educational system to become a chain of corporate owned "big box" schools. But if we do, we will have buildings labeled schools that are killing the human spirit of those inside.

We have the beginnings of an education resistance movement. Can that grow into a powerful education liberation movement so that young people will have the tools to transform this nation and further the cause of social justice?

That possible future has yet to be written....

Sources Consulted

Disappearing acts: The decline of black teachers by Brandon Johnson 

Manufactured in Chicago: The Largest School Utilization Crisis in the Countryby Valerie Leonard

Chicago residents fight to keep West Side schools openby Ellyn Fortino 

Fuzzy Math: The CPS budget crisis by Curtis Black 

The Black and White of Education in Chicago by the Chicago Teachers Union 

Fight for the Future: How low wages are failing Children in Chicago’s schools by Stand Up! Chicago and the Chicago Teachers Union 

Feisty crowd fights to save West Side elementary schools by Lauren Fitzpatrick 

Retrieving insights from Fanon: systemic and social violence by Maulana Ron Karenga 

Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan 

Self­ esteem Building and Horizontal Violence by Francia C. Clavecillas 

Poverty pulls the trigger by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor 

Chicago Middle-School Students Berate Officials: ‘Don’t Close Our Schools! by Kari Lydersen 

Violence plagues Chicago area that shaped Obama's views 

Nothing stops a bullet like a job by Van Jones




Originally posted to BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 04:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Chicago Kossacks, In Support of Labor and Unions, Black Kos community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's not really true. (8+ / 0-)
    One West Side resident stated that the whole underutilization crisis and West Side population "loss" was manufactured:
    Chicago's African-American population dropped by 200k in the last census and most of the drops were on the West and South sides. Meanwhile, there's school overcrowding in the Hispanic neighborhoods on the Northwest side.

    I have mixed feelings about the closings because I know in some of these neighborhoods, schools are the only stabilizing influence that exists. On the other hand, there are a lot of empty desks.

    Repurposing them as community centers until the neighborhoods refill with young people would probably be the best solution for many of them.

    I'd hate to see them torn down because many of the older schools are built like brick shit houses. You just need new mechanical-electrical-plumbing infrastructure to get them up and running for another 100 years. (Rahm is toying with the idea of building a cheaper generation of new schools that would have, say, a 25-year lifespan, so they can more easily be torn down and thrown up to follow the population shifts. I disagree with that.)

    In the end, the only real answer is desegregation, drawing some of the white, hispanic and asian populations into the traditional "black belt," so the schools refill with a diversified mix of students from growing ethnic groups as well as shrinking ones.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 05:42:15 AM PST

    •  Yeah, the position that no school (7+ / 0-)

      that ever opens should ever close does not seem a realistic one (nor is it the right thing for students). Some schools should close, and there should be an open debate on which schools should survive and which should be closed. When we see activists claiming that this is reminiscent of slavery ("brought forth, to my mind, heart-wrenching images of our enslaved African-American ancestors pleading for their loved ones not to be beaten, sold at auction, or killed"), we know that passions may be trumping rationality. I don't think that such exhortations are helpful to the cause here.

      •  Desperation (12+ / 0-)

        The Austin neighborhood, where I go to Unitarian church and is a 15 minute walk from my home led the city in murders last summer. Lawndale also has a high homicide rate.

        Unemployment is over the top and many young people feel lost and abandoned. All of the multiple problems of poverty compounded by racism are a reality.

        The schools are viewed as anchors of stability in neighborhoods where city policy is racially motivated destabilization and disinvestment.  It is important to communicate the desperation that some people feel when they see their schools under attack. They take it very personally because that threatens their children.

        As for an open debate about school closings, that is very difficult in Chicago where "transparency" is a cheap joke and City Hall and CPS lie on a regularly scheduled basis.

        This is especially ridiculous when the city is opening new charter schools while it tries to close public schools.

        Elsewhere in the city in predominantly white neighborhoods, predominantly hispanic neighborhoods and in racially mixed communities, meeting halls are packed with people in opposition.

        This is a working class rebellion that in some ways is a follow up to the working class support shown during the Chicago teachers strike.

        The City corporate elite which is behind the closings and the privatization schemes has a tiger by the tail.

        "Don't believe everything you think."

        by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 06:34:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Growing up, the school was the anchor (5+ / 0-)

          of my neighborhood. Everything revolved around it. The parents in the PTA became lifelong friends; their families celebrated holidays together. My parents have long passed, but several of my mother's close friends are still alive in the 90s and I visit them when I am back home in CHicago. These are people I know from elementary school. The school knit the community together.

          Jon Husted is a dick.

          by anastasia p on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:18:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Back when we had communities. (0+ / 0-)

            All the kids in the neighborhood went to school together.  Except the Catholics.  They always went to Catholic school.

            The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

            by helfenburg on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:01:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  the corporations are trying (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mrkvica, figbash

          to enslave our children by controlling what they are allowed to learn.
           Biblical obedience to 'authority'.

          Fear of the Other and a taste for blood.

          In Greece, only free men were allowed to study the LIBERAL Arts- Liber = 'free'.

          Slaves were the engineers, technicians, doctors and service industry workers.

          In antebellum America, teaching a slave to read could get the slave killed.

          Lay that template over GOP actions to control school curriculum and access.  There is nothing new under the sun.

          Jesus died to save you from Yahweh.

          by nolagrl on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 09:15:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  It's not as simple as declining population (0+ / 0-)

        In CPS, neighborhood kids - especially the white and more privileged ones - are siphoned off to charter, magnet, gifted and classical grade schools.

        (and it's not like its a system that's lots of fun for the privileged families. First the crazy array of tests and hoops to go through. And then families can end up with everybody driving miles, sometimes in opposite directions because not all the kids in the family pass the tests to get into the same schools. Wouldn't it be a lot more efficient in every way to have all these resources in the neighborhood school?)

        There's also the fact that these aren't just schools, and they aren't just a commodity like a loaf of bread that you can move around. They are communities in themselves and they also anchor their communities and provide services, identity, pride. You don't get that when your school is a half-hour drive away. These trends of busing kids all over the place instead of providing great schools with lots of resources in neighborhoods, are toxic to our communities (and environment). And not just in Chicago.

        •  Abelia - privledged kids in Chicago (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          go to private schools.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 10:18:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I guess it depends on your definition (0+ / 0-)

            of privileged. "Middle class income" is privileged compared to the neighborhoods discussed in this diary.

            But I know many modestly well-to-do families that send kids to CPS schools. (and you'd be lucky to get a private school seat in a school as excellent as Chicago's very best public high schools - take Lane Tech, for example.)

            But in any case the more upwardly-mobile families coming into gentrifying neighborhoods and wanting better school options don't have to be 1%ers to contribute to policies (unintentionally) that are sucking the resources out of plain old neighborhood schools.

        •  That's why the whole charter concept is flawed. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Eventually, after wasting lots of time and money and aggravation, we'll end up where we started because it's what makes sense - local, neighborhood, public schools.

          The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

          by helfenburg on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:00:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Displacement and gentrification (7+ / 0-)

      She was referring to the destruction of public housing and the gentrification of neighborhoods in such a way as to push out the black population. I have watched this happen on the West Side and on the South Side. Displacement of entire populations seems to be the name of the game in Chicago. The Pilsen community which was largely Mexican when I taught on the South Side is now being gentrified and at least part of it is an arts district.

      It's not always racial though. It also involves social class. I lived in Lakeview in the 1970's until one summer when a wave of mysterious arson fires broke out, signaling the beginning of gentrification for that formerly white working class neighborhood.

      The somewhat racially mixed Lincoln Park area was also gentrified in the 1970's and resulted in displacement of the working class residents there.

      Why isn't it possible to fix up old housing stock, invest in jobs and let working class populations remain in their communities?

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 06:12:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  These empty schools won't be torn down (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      figbash, k9disc, alwaysquestion

      they'll become charter schools.

    •  Neighborhoods will not refill with young people (0+ / 0-)

      any time soon. So if they will be repurposed, it will not be temporary.

  •  I think it may be best to try and be a part of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster

    team that decides how consolidation of schools happens rather than fight consolidation.

    "There were areas of the black community that were gentrified. There were homes that were that were torn down. public housing was torn down.  So let's not say loss. I believe terminology is very important. Those homes were torn down purposely. And there has been a plan to that in the black community... Close your eyes and pretend this audience is white. Would you [CPS] be making these same decisions if the audience was white?"
    Yes, consolidation of school would and is happening in white districts all over the United States.  People are wisely limiting the number of kids they have to what they can afford, which decreases the population.  The choice is down to which large school building is kept and which is sold off.  Districts all over the country are making those decisions.

    We are in times of great change and the ability to adapt is a challenge.  Areas of poverty want jobs to fix the crime problem.  But what business wants to locate in the middle of a major crime area?  That is the bottom line:  crime.  It all boils down to that.  

    I live in MI where Detroit is going through major pains.  One of their problems is that consolidation of schools means putting gangs together in the same building where they had their own school building before.  But nonetheless, consolidation will happen.  School districts cannot plan around gangs.

    I think, given time, the charter school fad will burn out because they are not performing well.  People will vote with their feet and just walk out or not walk in and it will be a another failed business adventure in history.

    I do sympathize with your challenge to adapt.  We are experiencing the same here in metro MI and Detroit.  The trick is to be part of the planning team at the table to affect the move forward.

    •  As Oscar Wilde said: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alwaysquestion, figbash, k9disc, elfling

      "If you do not have a seat at the table, you are on the menu."

      Jesus died to save you from Yahweh.

      by nolagrl on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 09:17:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We dealt with this in rural Indiana. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, BobboSphere

      Rural in this case means "lily-white".  The high schools that served small towns were closed and consolidated into behemoths that served large swaths of land.  Such consolidations did lead to better course offerings for students and wider fields of study.  Losing the schools, unfortunately, caused these little communities to lose their focus.  Tiny businesses that relied on the purchases of teachers and students lost their customers, and closed.  

      Now the norm is to have a large school building in the middle of cornfields, miles from most of the towns that are served.  In some cases, one town's school became the consolidated school while another town's school got closed, a sure way to rub people wrong.

      "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

      by Yamaneko2 on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 02:23:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Where is the place where the population of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      children is decreasing?

      I'd like to know where that place is.  It's not where I live and teach.

      The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

      by helfenburg on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:58:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Where I live in Metro Michigan (0+ / 0-)

        we have large old school buildings that served families with 5 or 6 kids.  Those same houses now have families with 1 or 2 kids and the schools had empty classrooms.  So it was logical to consolidate the kids into fewer buildings, lower maintenance costs and offer more services to the children.  And sell the empty school buildings or the land.  In most cases, the building was torn down and the land was sold for more residential neighborhoods.  This worked out well in the end.  The new schools are are the new community focus.

        However, as I am told, this is not the scenario for Chicago.  I am now to understand that there is trickery going on where kids are being funneled into charter schools, then claiming the buildings aren't needed for public schools.  Am going to guess the buildings will then be used for charter schools to give the public 'an option.'

        Whereas my neighborhood consolidation was legitimate and necessary, it sounds like Chicago neighborhoods are getting forced into a bad deal.

  •  Worth pointing out to non-Chicagoans (7+ / 0-)

    That the U of C lab school, which you point out is the gold standard, is not a public school.  Tuition is over $23K ($26K for high school).

    We should strive for that level of quality, but that's a lot more than the CPS have per student to spend and the lab school cherry picks students so they don't have the same challenges the poublic schools have.

    "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

    by nightsweat on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:19:07 AM PST

    •  Working class students need smaller classes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, figbash

      The Lab School has smaller classes, well funded educational resources and no hi-stakes testing. That is not out of financial range for working class students if we raise the working class standard of living.

      It's a question of priorities. We have a society that would rather lavish money on a wealthy elite and wars for empire.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 09:13:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let me get this straight: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alwaysquestion, Yoshimi, elfling

    to decide what schools are "under-utilized," they count the ENTIRE school, even parts of it which are now being used by a charter school and are unavailable for the public school students? That seems unfair and rigged.

    Jon Husted is a dick.

    by anastasia p on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:19:38 AM PST

    •  Is the charter school unavailable to students (0+ / 0-)

      to choose as their public dollar options?

      I think it may come down to which building is centrally located and has the least maintenance cost to bring it up to code.

    •  That was at one school. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, JeffW, figbash, alwaysquestion

      However the whole question of utilization has not been subject to honest public discussion. In previous years, CPS looked to privatize schools on the basis of test scores. This year its utilization. Communities that have endured overcrowding and poor allocation of educational resources feel that some "empty" classrooms should be an invitation to make classes smaller and hire more teachers.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 09:17:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is all a shell game. (5+ / 0-)

    CPS wants these schools closed so that they can reopen them as charter schools in a couple years.

    Note that underutilized charter schools in the same neighborhoods were spared the ax.

    And also note that the CPS has been in the black financially for awhile.

    Fuzzy Math:  The CPS Budget Crisis

  •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Awesome and idealistic presentation and discussion.

  •  Some schoolds will need to be closed. (0+ / 0-)

    It will likely be about 20. This is all a scare tactic.

  •  The school hit list is at 129 now. (4+ / 0-)

    CPS released the number of schools on the hit list last night. The list of schools on the hit list that are in Austin-North Lawndale include several mentioned in the diary I wrote.

    You can read about the closing list at the link below:

    "Don't believe everything you think."

    by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 09:23:37 AM PST

  •  Reality may not be liked but it is reality. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    figbash, FG

    You cannot run schools have empty.  Fill up the ones you can and close the others.  We may not like it but the city simply cannot afford it.


    "Chicago Public School officials have released the much-anticipated new enrollment numbers that will be used to determine whether or not a school might be closed in June.

    But the new data indicates that just 40 percent of the city’s schools are safe from action.

    Twenty percent of CPS schools are more than half empty and another 25 percent are considered “underutilized.” The district could also decide to make changes to the 12 percent of schools labeled “overcrowded.”


    CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says, because so much money is being spent on under-enrolled schools, shutting schools down is inevitable. However, she refused to give a ballpark on how many will make the final list.

    "The fact that we've moved from 330 to 129 schools says to me the process is working," said Bennett. "The next iteration, what will that process yield? I don't have that crystal ball, I don't know...we will then land and we'll take a look at that number and see what and how we can handle that through the transition process that's in place."

    Bennett promises that students who attend schools on the final list will be moved to higher performing schools and, she says, safe passage will be guaranteed as

    The overall attendance at CPS is:

    You see a decrease from 845,000 to 700,000 from 2000 to 2010,” Anderson explained during a telephone briefing with reporters. “This represents a decrease of 17 percent overall.”

    Thsi Chicago Tribune report puts everything in perspective:

    •  Oh yeah. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BobboSphere, k9disc

      I always believe the Tribune's take on things. Not. The Tribune carries water for Chicago's elite. Always has.

      As to the link, I won't look at that much advertising just to read what looks to be from the editoral pages. At least I didn't see the writer's name anywhere.

      There are arguments to be made here. There always are, but this is the New Chicago, Rahm's Chicago, and he and his buddies are hell-bent to make it a city by and for the upper middle class and above. I think he gets a real charge out of pissing on poor people and if he can stiff the schools at the same time, more's the better.  You've seen his big initiatives on gang violence, I suppose.....

      Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

      by figbash on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:34:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We do need to have an honest public discussion... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        figbash, helfenburg

        ...which is currently not possible in Rahm's Chicago. I think figbash is right. This is about driving working class people out of the city. Especially working class people of color. Closing schools  destabilizes communities that already have more social problems than they can handle now.

        People in working class communities do not pack up their kids and crowd into churches and auditoriums at night to stand in front of a mic for 2 minutes and plead with some stoney-faced bored CPS bureaucrats because it's fun

        They do it because they care about their kids and communities they in.

        One North Lawndale community leader doubts her community will be able to survive the number of possible school closings CPS has announced. She may be right. Gentrification is pushing west and when I look at a West Side map, it sure looks like North Lawndale is in the crosshairs.

        "Don't believe everything you think."

        by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:01:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  For Chicago's students... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      figbash, k9disc

      ...this is an opportunity to reduce class size, hire more teachers and allocate more resources. If "underutilization" is a problem, why has CPS opened up so many charter schools? This is straight up privatization and unionbusting.  In addition, Race to the Top/No Child Left Behind has already created havoc in the city's schools as curricula has suffered to make way for endless testing.

      The closings are aimed primarily at neighborhoods of color, many of whom had to put up with decades of overcrowding and poor allocation of resources based on Chicago's long history of promoting racism and segregation.

      City Hall never seems to have a problem coming up with development money for downtown office towers  and subsidies for corporations . It has also salted away a pretty penny in TIF money which is generally not used as intended, for poverty stricken areas.

      As a state Illinois has made education a low priority and it shows.

      It's a question of priorities.

      Also, I would not trust any figures given out by CPS. For other points of view I recommend Curtis Black and Valerie Leonard for starters:

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:45:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's right - open up lots of charters, siphon (0+ / 0-)

      off the students into the charters (non-unioned, conveniently) and then say you have to close the public schools because they are "underutilized".  Destroy the union, fight unionization of the charters.  Presto, chango -- everything the Koch brothers ever dreamed of -- you've destroyed the last bastion of unionism in the US, public sector unions.  Your victory is complete.

      The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

      by helfenburg on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:55:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bobbosphere, this is one great piece of reporting. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for all the links, too. I live in Rahm's neighborhood so there is only one public school over here on the hit list: Stockton Elementary.

    Before the condoization of East Lakeview or the west and south boundaries of Uptown by the Yuppie set in the last 20 years, Stockton was an Uptown school. To you outsiders, Uptown is an incredibly diverse neighborhood along the lakefront on the North side. Developers have been trying to turn it into Lincoln Park North for years but haven't been all that successful. There has always been gang activity in Uptown and that continues. I can't imagine what the parents in this little jewel of a school will do. Maybe they'll just read the writing on the wall and go ahead and move to the 'burbs like Rahm wants them to.

    Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

    by figbash on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:43:48 AM PST

    •  I lived in Uptown in the 1970's... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...not far from Stockton. Thanks for comments!

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 11:49:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Didn't we all... (0+ / 0-)
        I lived in Uptown in the 1970's...
        On my steady migration seeking housing at decent prices starting in 1966 was: Gold Coast, New Town (of course it wasn't called that when I moved there), Uptown, West Lakeview, Rogers Park, then back to the old place in Lakeview which has turned into a ridiculously priced haven for those who just can't quite make it to Lincoln Park. If my situation weren't so unusual I could never afford to live here.

        No need to thank me. I'm a fan!!!

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:57:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I also live in Rahm's 'hood, for better or worse (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BobboSphere, figbash

      (mostly the latter) and Stockton is a few blocks northeast.  I was at a meeting on a different topic held by the alderman in an adjacent ward who also asked participants to call the school board about saving Trumbull school which is considered to not be meeting standards, even though their scores have improved in recent years and they seem to get good parent reviews.  I would have to look deeper, but it seems the utilization issue also hinges on the fact that many of these schools have several classrooms dedicated to special needs kids, and they can't have 36 kids per class in those--the supposed 'standard' the school board used to determine how 'well utilized' schools are. I agree it's mostly union busting that motivates this.
      My son who has several LDs progressed more in four years at a different school where he was in a class of 10 kids with 2 teachers and an aide, and had intensive reading and math programs, for kids like him, than he had done in a well-regarded magnet school with 28 kids per class.  I doubt that self contained program exists anymore.  Neither Stockton nor Trumbull are in neighborhoods that are now terribly poor or depopulating, so that seems odd, as does the fact that these and two other schools in Ravenswood (a name loosely applied to our area) appear to be the ONLY north side schools that are targeted.  There may be others; I haven't reviewed the entire hit list yet.  
      I hope the poster who said that this scare tactic will lead to the closing of 'only' 20 schools is correct. I have a friend who's done environmental monitoring for CPS and her stories of the bad repair in many of them are scary so I don't doubt that some are structurally not worth keeping up, BUT that isn't the criterion the CPS is using.  

      •  I'm sending you an invitation to join our (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Chicago Kossacks group. We are about to begin the planning for a meet-up in April and would love to have you in our group.

        Check your kos-mail.

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 07:52:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's OK. Rahm will protect them. nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobboSphere, Sparhawk

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 02:26:45 PM PST

  •  So heartening to see that people believe in their (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    public schools.  But then, when you think about it, it's about the only public institution we have left, the only place where everyone comes together.  And they've made the public schools responsible for all aspects of a child's welfare, i.e. nutrition, health, education, etc. so yes, it is important in the lives of children.  The public schools and the teachers in them have become the great providers.  I guess people recognize that.

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:51:53 AM PST

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