Update: Chicago's School War

Bartlett, Rob

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/08/2013
Year Published:  2013  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19871

Chicago Public Schools took a hit on May 22, 2013 as the appointed Board of Education of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) voted to close 50 schools, of the 54 originally targeted for shutdown -- in the largest closing of public schools in U.S. history. This was done despite an outpouring of opposition, expressed by thousands of parents in more than 100 meetings mandated by state law to allow parental and community input into the process.



The entire process highlights the undemocratic nature of the school system in Chicago, which remains one of the most segregated systems in the country. Of the schools slated for closure, the vast majority are in predominantly African-American or Latino neighborhoods where the Board has disinvested for years and promoted charter schools that have siphoned off students from the neighborhood schools.

The Board was mandated by state law to produce a list of schools proposed for closure last December, but the CPS board lobbied the state to allow them to postpone public disclosure of their list for three months to shorten the time for opposition to the closings to organize.

Despite this, an impressive outpouring of vocal opposition and public opinion opposed the closings spearheaded by “Mayor 1%” Rahm Emanuel. A Chicago Tribune poll in early May found that 60% of the public opposed the closings, while only 30% approved; among parents of public school children the numbers in opposition rose to 75%. Views on whom they trusted on educational issues were similarly lopsided in support of the CTU over the mayor.

Many people felt that their opinions didn’t matter after Rahm stated that the time for debate was over, even before all the hearings had occurred. A sign of the depth of public opposition to the closings was reflected in reports by retired judges, who oversaw the public hearings, to recommend that 13 of the 54 schools not be closed due to concerns over safety and other issues raised during the hearings. The decision of the school board to ignore the judges’ recommendations is now subject to a lawsuit by CTU.
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