Destroying Public Education in Chicago
by Stephen Lendman
It's on the chopping block for elimination. It's happening nationwide. Chicago perhaps reflects the epicenter of what's wrong.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years waging war on progressive politics. He's a former investment banker. He's a corporate predator turned politician. He's an unindicted war criminal. He belongs in prison, not City Hall.
He's Obama's former White House Chief of Staff. Becoming Chicago's mayor fulfilled his longtime ambition. He's notoriously anti-populist. He believes anything government does business does better so let it.
He wants corporate profiteers running as many city functions as possible. He bullies, pressures and bribes union officials to go along.
His schemes involve infrastructure projects, city water, airports, public transportation, parks, community colleges, and public schools.
He's harming Chicago the way Obama and Congress wreck America. Privatizing public schools is prioritized.
Richard M. Daley began it during his mayoral tenure. He called it Chicago's Renaissance 2010 Turnaround strategy.
He planned 100 or more new "high-performing" elementary and high schools by that date.
Under five year contracts, they're "held accountable….to create innovative learning environments under one of three "governance structures:"
(1) charter schools;
(2) privatized contract schools run by so-called "independent nonprofit organizations;" and
(3) "performance schools with freedom and flexibility on many district initiatives and policies."
Under the 1996 Illinois Charter Schools Law, quasi-private/public charter schools are called "public schools of choice, selected by students and parents….to take responsible risks and create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system."
Stealth privatizations plan eliminating public schools entirely. Dozens of charter ones were authorized. Many public schools were closed. Low income areas were hit hardest. Poor kids entirely lose out. Thousands of teachers lost jobs.
Chicago is America's third largest school district. Over 680 public schools operate. So do 96 charter ones.
Total student enrollment exceeds 404,000. They're predominantly African-American and Latino.
Whites, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans comprise less than 13%.
Students from low-income families comprise 87%. Chicago's FY 2012 operating budget approached $5 billion. City property taxes supplied $2.273 billion. Another $1.619 billion was state funded. Washington provided nearly $1 billion.
Emanuel's war on public education continues. He wants it made another profit center. He wants profiteers getting city resources.
In mid-February, 129 school closures were announced. Sixty-one will shut this summer. Doing so reflects largest mass shutdown in US history.
Around 30,000 students are affected. Over 1,000 teachers will be fired. Some will be transferred. They'll be rehired at less pay and fewer benefits.
Kids will lose out entirely. They'll travel longer distances. Classroom sizes will increase. Student performance will suffer.
A Chicago Sun Times  editorial said Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett "is making a big mistake."
Dozens of closures in one year are "too many." Chicago never before closed more than 12 "in a single year."
"The size of this overhaul is mind-boggling."
At stake are 54 closures, transferring kids to other schools, "turning around" six others, and co-locating 23 schools in 11 buildings.
About 138 schools will be affected. Parents, children, and teachers are hit hardest. They have no say.
Barbara Byrd Bennett heads Chicago Public Schools (CPS). She did so earlier in Cleveland and Detroit. She fell woefully short both times. She's a product of the Eli Broad/Bill Gates Broad Foundation.
Its wish list includes:
- standardized testing;
- requiring teachers to teach to the test;
- punishing failure harshly: firing teachers and principals;
- closing schools;
- making public schools charter ones;
- privatizing them entirely;
- ending high school for many poor and minority students after the 10th grade;
- merit pay based on student achievement;
- ending remedial and special education for low-performing students;
- ending teacher pensions, as well as reducing health and other benefits;
- ending teacher seniority;
- eliminating school board regulatory authority;
- empowering private companies;
- destroying teacher unions; and
- ending public education in America, turning it over to profiteers, and letting them run schools by market-based rules.
Doing so destroys what Horace Mann called "the greatest discovery ever made by man." He meant the "common" public school. He believed all students should be educated equally and responsibly.
It reflects democracy. Privatization means the tyranny of bottom line priorities. Commodifying education assures it.
Preparing kids for better futures won't happen. Why bother when profits alone matter and high-pay skilled jobs moved abroad.
Public education's a morally mandated right. In America, it's disappearing. Privatization schemes assure it. Separate and unequal follow.
Human capital is destroyed. Budgets are slashed. Teachers are laid off or fired en masse. Poor kids and parents are hung out to dry.
Republicans and Democrats are in lockstep on policy. It's true at the federal, state and local levels.
Since 2009, over 300,000 teachers lost jobs. More than 4,000 schools were shut. Popular needs don't matter. Expect much more ahead. Public education's gravely compromised. It's fast becoming a wasteland. It may be entirely gone in a decade.
Doing so reflects class warfare. Equal opportunity and freedom are dying. Democratic principles don't matter.
Corrupt union bosses do nothing to reverse things. Collective bargaining rights are eroding. America's no longer fit to live in. Chicago's perhaps the epicenter of what's wrong.
Emanuel and complicit union officials want teacher rights compromised. They want kids denied education. Last September's strike action ended irresponsibly.
CTU head Karen Lewis accepted a deal she should have rejected. Core issues were ignored. Contract terms did nothing to stop privatizations.
Much more damage was done. Principles got the right to hire and fire teachers. Non-tenured ones can be sacked immediately. Others can be terminated in a year.
Class room sizes increased. So did school hours. No additional pay was offered. Other measures agreed on facilitate school closures.
Emanuel called contract terms "an honest compromise." They reflected sellout. Teachers, parents and kids lost. Power brokers and profiteers won.
Chicago public education's a shadow of its former self. It's been that way for years. It's worse than ever now. It's fast disappearing.
It reflects what's happening nationwide. What's too important to lose is vanishing. It's happening in plain sight.
Monied interests matter most. They're wrecking America for profit. Nothing's done to stop them. Future generations will suffer. Earlier times were better. They no longer exist.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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