PUBLIC SCHOOL CLOSURES HURT POOR DISPROPORTIONALLY

NOTE: This blog does not specialize in current events, but once in a while an issue surfaces that reflects larger anti-progressive trends. One of these is the large number of closures of already underfunded public schools, especially in poor areas. America seems to be able to afford a vast consumer economy, even during recessions, a military that equals the defense outlays of the next 30 countries’ defense budgets, but cannot seem to find the money to make excellent public education available to all. What follows is some reporting around (mostly) inner city school closings. The people in power (Rahm Emmanuel, Arte Duncan, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, et.al.) tend to send their children, and/or have friends who send children to private schools. And for good reason. The public schools feature large classrooms, often shoddily equipped, with underpaid overworked teachers and a system focused on testing and scores by which to judge teachers and fund schools.

This will be part of an ongoing discussion because it is so central to the issue of fairness and class mobility in the United States. Opposing or clarifying views are welcome, but the problem, below the radar for many Americans, is presented here as a matter of class discrimination. Read on:

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Chicago School Closings: District Plans To Shutter 54 Schools

Posted: 03/21/2013 7:27 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/22/2013 1:06 pm EDT

Chicago School Closings List

Parents protest outside the home of Chicago’s Board of Education President David Vitale’s house Thursday, March 21, 2013, in Chicago. Teachers say the city of Chicago has begun informing teachers, principals and local officials about which public schools it intends to close under a contentious plan that opponents say will disproportionately affect minority students in the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Citing budget concerns and falling enrollment, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Thursday they plan to close 54 schools next year and shut down 61 school buildings — the largest single wave of school closures in U.S. history.

For months, looming closures seemed inevitable. After a teachers union strike last fall concluded with an expensive contract, observers were left without a doubt that the only way the cash-strapped district could afford it was to shut down schools and fire the teachers who worked there.

Since the September strike, Chicago hired a new CEO for its schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a veteran of closures in cities like Detroit. The district held hearings with parents about the fates of their children. Rumors flew about how many and which schools would be axed, with some predicting as many as 129 could close.

On Thursday, news of the final closure list began to trickle out. The day had come, a week before the district’s April 1 deadline. Byrd-Bennett announced on local television that CPS would close 54 elementary schools, name six for “turnarounds” and send 11 schools to share buildings with others.

As the news dribbled in through aldermen and school officials themselves earlier Thursday, many angry Chicagoans were searching for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, who waged his mayoral campaign on promises of education reform. DNAInfo Chicago reported Emanuel was on vacation with his family.

Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis blasted Emanuel’s absence.

“Our mayor, who is away on a ski trip, drops this information a week before spring break,” Lewis said during a Thursday afternoon press conference outside Mahalia Jackson Elementary School in the city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “What’s their spring break going to look like?”

Lewis went on to call the mayor’s actions “cowardly” and likened them to bullying. “He should be ashamed of himself,” she said, drawing a chorus of “amens” and whoops from students in the crowd.

In a phone interview, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told The Huffington Post to expect a tumultuous spring from the teachers union. “We’re going to do any and all nonviolent forms of protest we have at our disposal including legislative and legal,” to protest the school closures, he said. “Also direct actions like sit-ins to try to stop this disastrous policy.”

While districts across the country have faced waves of closures, those in Chicago hit doubly close to home for the Obama administration; in addition to the Emanuel connection, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan formerly served as CEO of the district.

“When, where, why and how to close schools are local questions that are never easy. No educator ever wakes up in the morning wanting to close a school,” Duncan said in a Thursday statement provided to HuffPost. “On the local level, real considerations about budgets, resources, and declining enrollment have to be balanced against real impacts on the community. Closing a school is a difficult but sometimes necessary decision, and districts and local leaders should strive for a transparent process that listens to community input and offers better educational options for affected families.”

Chicago district officials have argued that dwindling population in some predominantly black neighborhoods has created an “underutilization crisis” where schools are operating way below their capacity. Keeping these buildings open, they said, is waste of resources. CPS says the closures could save $500,000 to $800,000 per school.

To soften the blow for students at closing schools, the district said it is adding 13 new special science programs, five International Baccalaureate programs, air conditioning and fine arts classes in 19 of the schools where these students will be sent.

CPS parents reacted with outrage at the news, even those whose children’s schools were saved from the chopping block.

Jennie Biggs, who has three children at Mark Sheridan Math & Science Academy in Bridgeport, called the district’s decision “unbelievable.”

“School is their second home,” said Biggs, 40. “It’s where they feel most comfortable. To lose that sense of belonging and that sense of community must be a traumatic event for a child.”

Biggs attended three of the volatile community engagement meetings held by the district earlier this year, where she said parents worried students assigned to new schools will be forced to cross into unfamiliar territory.

“Parent after parent after parent talked about safety concerns,” Biggs said. “For me, that’s my number one concern: How do we keep the kids safe?”

To simulate the effects a school change would have, one parent walked from Libby Elementary to Sherman Elementary in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Biggs said, passing seven abandoned buildings along the way. The trek took 27 minutes.

“That’s what will be the daily experience for kids who are displaced,” said Biggs. She added the district will likely see a spike in truancy numbers as parents struggle to get their kids to a new school.

Related on HuffPost:

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New post on Diane Ravitch’s blog

The Color of School Closures

by dianerav

Whose schools are closing? Is there a pattern?

Take a look at this graphic.

Tweet it. Share it.

And think about it. What is going on?

dianerav | June 12, 2013 at 11:20 am | Categories: Closing p

·Leslie Sabbs-Kizer, Nkai Melton, Akaira Melton, Khaymya Smith

Leslie Sabbs-Kizer, right, walks her children Nkai Melton, 8, Akaira Melton, 7, and Khaymya Smith, 3 to Bond Elementary school in Chicago, for the first day of classes Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy , Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012 in Chicago, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Two students hug, right, as they gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Students walk through the gates outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy, Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation’s third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Rahm Emanuel, Jean-Claud Brizard, David Vitale

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, is flanked by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claud Brizard, left, and school board president David Vitale during a news conference after the teachers union House of Delegates voted to suspend their strike Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city’s teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union smiles as she talks with reporters after the union’s House of Delegates voted to suspend the strike Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Members of the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates celebrate after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city’s teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Tennille Evans

Tennille Evans, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city’s teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Mary Edmonds

Mary Edmonds, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city’s teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Teachers picket outside Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, as a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union continues into its second week. CTU members in the nation’s third-largest city will pore over the details of a contract settlement Tuesday as the clock ticks down to an afternoon meeting in which they are expected to vote on ending a seven-day strike that has kept 350,000 students out of class. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Patty Westcott

Teacher Patty Westcott pickets outside Clissold Elementary School in Chicago, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, as a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union continues into its second week. CTU members in the nation’s third-largest city will pore over the details of a contract settlement Tuesday as the clock ticks down to an afternoon meeting in which they are expected to vote on ending a seven-day strike that has kept 350,000 students out of class. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2012, file photo Madison teachers hold a unity rally for striking Chicago teachers at the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin’s attorney general planned to ask a judge Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, to put on hold his decision issued last week repealing major parts of Gov. Scott Walker’s law effectively ending collective bargaining for most state workers. The request comes as school districts and local governments attempt to understand the ramifications of the decision and whether it opens the door to new negotiations previously barred with unions. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, M.P. King, File)

·Chicago Teacher’s Strike Enters Second Week

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 17: Tyler Whitaker watches from a distance as teachers from the Jose De Diego Community Academy, where he is a third grade student, walk the picket line on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Smaller, more subdued groups of teachers picket outside Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, as a strike by Chicago Teachers Union members heads into its second week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek a court order to force the city’s teachers back into the classroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Chicago Teacher’s Strike Enters Second Week

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers attend a press conference by The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Chicago Teacher’s Strike Enters Second Week

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers attend a press conference by The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·A handful of teachers picket outside Shoop Elementary School in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, as a strike by Chicago Teachers Union members heads into its second week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek a court order to force the city’s teachers back into the classroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

·Chicago Teacher’s Strike Enters Second Week

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers picket outside of George Westinghouse College Prep high school on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, left, listens to CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey speak at a press conference following a meeting of delegates Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 in Chicago. The Chicago teachers union decided Sunday to continue its weeklong strike, extending an acrimonious standoff with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over teacher evaluations and job security provisions central to the debate over the future of public education across the United States. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·A young boy holds a placard in support of striking Chicago school teachers as they march after a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in west Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·Striking Chicago school teachers march after a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Chicago. Thousands of striking Chicago public school teachers and their allies packed a city park Saturday in a boisterous show of force as union leaders and the district tried to work out the details of an agreement that could end a week-long walkout.(AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·A young girl plays a toy horn as striking Chicago teachers rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Union president Karen Lewis reminded that although there is a “framework” for an end to their strike, they still are on strike. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union addresses the crowd during a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Lewis reminded that although there is a “framework” for an end to their strike, they are still on strike. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union addresses union menbers during a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Lewis reminded that although there is a “framework” for an end to their strike, they still are on strike. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago teachers union , left, and vice president Jesse Sharkey stand before a meeting of the union’s House of Delegates Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·Karen Lewis

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis arrives for a meeting of the union’s delegates Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Chicago. The city’s nearly weeklong teachers strike appeared headed toward a resolution Friday after negotiators emerged from marathon talks to say they had achieved a “framework” that could end the walkout in time for students to return to class Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

·David Vitale

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale speaks to reporters following negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 in Chicago. After a week of public school teachers striking over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations, Vitale said the district and teachers union have agreed on a

·Public school teachers rally at Chicago’s Congress Plaza to protest against billionaire Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters said that $5.2 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds being used to build a new Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park would be better spent on meeting basic student needs. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·A large crowd of public school teachers rally at Chicago’s Congress Plaza to protest against billionaire Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters said that $5.2 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds being used to build a new Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park would be better spent on meeting basic student needs. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally following a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Teachers picket outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally before a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

·Thousands of public school teachers and their supporters rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from being a board member of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·Children in strollers join thousands of public school teachers rallying outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, protesting against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

·Two-year-old identical twins Colton and Lucas Jordan join thousands of public school teachers and their supporters as they march along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, protesting against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

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The Color of School Closures

Posted on: Tuesday April 23rd, 2013

Mass school closings have become a hallmark of today’s dominant education policy agenda. But rather than helping students, these closures disrupt whole communities. And as U.S. Department of Education data suggests, the most recent rounds of mass closings in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia disproportionately hurt Black and low-income students. 

What can you do to end these discriminatory and unacceptable school closures?

·                  Share this infographic with your friends on Facebook and Twitter – start the conversation in your community!

·                  Send us your stories and data about closings in your district.

·                  Learn about alternatives that support students rather than close school doors on them.

There is no evidence to suggest that school closures work. Despite what policymakers say to justify these mass closures, reports have shown that the majority of student who are affected do not get placed in high performing schools. And though closures are often touted as a way for districts to save money in tough economic times, those savings often fail to materialize and can in reality cost taxpayers millions in hidden costs.

What is the alternative to closing schools? Evidence-based policies that provide students, schools and communities with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed, including:

·                  Wraparound academic, health and social services to help struggling students get back on track

·                  Recruiting, training and retaining high-quality teachers in every classroom

·                  Equitable school funding systems so that those who face the toughest hurdles receive the greatest resources

·                  Universal high-quality pre-K so that all students start school ready to learn

·                  Expanded learning time, including after-school and summer programming

·                  Turning schools into community hubs that provide expanded services to both students and community members

For more information, check out this report from Communities for Excellent Public Schools, “A Proposal for Sustainable School Transformation.”

Here are just a few of the many groups organizing against school closures in the cities highlighted in the infographic. If your organization is doing anti-closures work, let us know and we’ll add it!

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