Category:  Thoughts

Chicago Public School Closures: Redefining Quality Education

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, and Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, recently announcedthe proposed closure of over 50 Chicago Public Schools in order to invest in “quality education.”

I don’t know what their definitions of quality are but it is not the same as mine. It’s not quality if:

1.) You declare the largest number of school closures ever in CPS history. Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett plan to close 11 percent of the district’s schools at once.

2.) You overcrowd the classrooms. The consolidation of schools will push some classrooms into housing 30 or more students per class. Larger class sizes mean less individualized attention, structure and student focus in primary schools.

3.) You remove children from familiar areas, teachers and friends. Taking away that familiarity will cause chaos and create a long adjustment period for the student.

4.) You add 61 additional abandoned buildings to already struggling neighborhoods. More empty buildings do not encourage economic growth, and neither does taking away a neighborhood’s only school. By failing to offer any reasons for growth, these closures will turn Chicago’s low-income, African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods into wastelands.

5.) You displace 30,000 students from their neighborhood school, 3,600 of whom have special needs. Spending $233 million to do this doesn’t translate into quality education for Chicago kids. 

6.) You send elementary-age students travelling through unsafe neighborhoods which may bring about safety concernssafety concerns. To get to and from school daily, these displaced students may have to travel miles more through dangerous and gang-affiliated neighborhoods.

In fact, school closures in general do not translate into quality education for all district students. A 2009 study conducted by the University of Chicago found that school closures had no academic benefit to students. This round of school closures is not meant to improve the quality of education of these Chicago kids but is an effort to decrease the budget. Kids need true quality education. They are not meant to be manipulated as figures in line-item budgets.

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