With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Thursday, April 6, 2017

'School killer' Rahm still on the hunt

Rahm uses Chief Ed Officer Janice Jackson to push his latest school closing scheme. 
Rahm's latest scheme calls for the closing of at least 7 more high schools in Chicago's black community. I know, I know -- he promised the community a moratorium on school closings after blighting the neighborhoods with his 50-school closings four years ago. But now he's promising the Englewood neighborhood a brand new, consolidated $76M large, shiny new high school to mollify the expected opposition.

The mayor's using the same old "underutilization" argument to board up more south-side schools. And it's true that there are about 15 predominantly African-American high schools in the city with enrollments of under 250 students. But there's several things missing from discussion of the consolidation plan (assuming that the decision hasn't already been made and the discussion isn't just for show).
  1. Why is enrollment dropping? The obvious answer has more to do with the whitenizing of the city, including the push-out of more than a quarter-million African-Americans over the past few decades, than anything about the schools themselves. It's about neighborhood gentrification and switching neighborhood populations. Disinvestment, loss of jobs, combined with the closing of schools, businesses and community social-services have left these neighborhoods blighted and dangerous. The Chicago Reporter attributes the enrollment declines and eventual school closings to "a legacy of disinvestment and segregation".
  2. What's the downside to more mass high school closings? Past closings, done despite massive community opposition, haven't saved the city or the school system much, if any money. After a previous round of closings, internal documents leaked to the press showed how school administrators failed to inform the public of associated transition costs for closing and consolidating a proposed 95 public schools. The cost of maintaining the buildings and problems of reuse often led to even greater debt for the city. Four years after the last round, two-thirds of the closed buildings are still vacant. Closings also failed to improve measurable learning outcomes for those students affected by the closings. But they have disrupted the lives of thousands of students, destroyed relationships between students and teachers, and exacerbated the threat of neighborhood gun violence and gang conflicts. 
  3. What's wrong with consolidation? It lessens parent and community participation in school affairs. It creates a larger, more anonymous, more highly tracked learning environment. It leads to lost jobs on the south side for teachers, staff, janitors, clerks, and in adjacent businesses. There's also a greater threat of violence with more students having to cross gang territory lines just to get to school. 
  4. What are the alternatives to more mass school closings? Smarter usage of existing buildings for adult education, housing badly needed community health and other surrounding services. Shifting city high schools to a (non-charter) small-schools model as we have been advocating for 30 years. 
Dyett hunger strikers
In a statement Wednesday night, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said: 
“The Mayor and his handpicked cast of school killers are proposing new obstacles to high school graduation with zero resources. And once again, he’s proposing a new round of school closings in one of the most violent spaces in this city. He continues to prove that he has zero capacity for sound and compassionate leadership. He’s gone from bad to worse.”
Can Rahm's school-killer plan be stopped? Yes it can. Remember how a small group of committed parents and community activists went on a hunger strike and saved Dyett from closing? Just imagine what a much larger and equally committed movement to save our schools could do.

1 comment:

  1. Keep fighting, brother. Every time we win, we just get to fight again. Every time they win, we lose.


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