The Day After: School Closing News Roundup
By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 22, 2013 3:30PM
Photo credit: Slow911
The fallout builds over Chicago Public Schools’ announcement Thursday they would be closing 54 schools programs and 61 buildings, with more politicians and opponents of the plan speaking out.
Parents 4 Teachers, a group advocating for quality education, is organizing a “NO School Closings” protest from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. today outside City Hall and at the Madison and Washington Street overpasses overlooking the Kennedy Expressway. They’ll be hanging banners and distributing literature describing how the closures will adversely affect the 30,000 students displaced by the plan.
Opponents argued against the plan as a public safety issue as much as one affecting education in Chicago, since most of the schools slated for closure fall on the South and West Sides. Chicago Reader reporter Mick Dumke spoke with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who didn’t hold back in letting Dumke know what a bad idea she thought the plan was.
"You know, schools are community anchors. They're social centers. They're part of a community's identity. And often kids go half a dozen blocks and they're in different gang territory. "The closings are going to take place almost entirely within the African-American community, and given the problems we already have with violence, I think it's very problematic."
Preckwinkle doubted Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy’s plan to keep displaced students safe as many of them will have to travel through gang turf to their new receiving schools. Most troubling for Preckwinkle is her perception the school closure plan appears to be “a deliberate effort to weaken the public schools in order to make the case stronger for charter schools and contract schools.”
DNAInfo Chicago’s Mark Konkol writes about the problem street gangs pose to the plan by looking at the students at Manierre Elementary, who will move to Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts in River North. They’ll have to cross gang turf controlled by the Black P Stone Rangers and Conservative Vice Lords to get there. Ald. Walter Burnett (11th) told Konkol the gang tensions in the neighborhood are generational and revealed a basketball league he helped to organize to reduce the tensions had to be canceled because parents got into a fight.
Progress Illinois has a must-read on how legislation that would have called for a temporary moratorium on school closure was stripped of the language that would have made it effective. State Sen. William Delgado (D - Chicago) the chief sponsor for SB 1571, said there weren’t enough votes in committee for approval and the bill’s language needed to be strengthened. Stacy Davis Gates, legislative and political director for the Chicago Teachers Union, said the move was a “legislative maneuver” intended to keep the bill alive. Gates also hinted that high-ranking lawmakers pressured Delgado to change the bill. SB 1571 would have placed an immediate halt to school closings until after the 2014-15 school year and required CPS to implement a transparent plan for school reform.
The Sun-Times wrote an editorial on the closures that acknowledged the closures will be painful for all involved, but credited CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the team she put together for the series of hearings that led to the final list. “This kind of genuine reaching out, before decisions are made, was a first for Chicago,” they wrote. The Sun-Times pointed out the population decline on the South and West sides makes a legitimate argument against underutilized schools. The editorial calls for CPS to implement the closings over a two-year period.
Columnist Mary Mitchell also praised the work of the commission while asking some hard questions for parents she says are only now speaking out against the plan.
”But to hear opponents tell it, closing schools is just another conspiracy to deny African-American children the right to be educated in their own neighborhoods.
“Where were these people when children sat in stagnant classrooms and fell years behind their grade levels?
“Where were they when these children were trying to learn in deteriorating buildings while new schools were being built elsewhere?
“Where were they when neighborhoods became so dangerous, a lot of these students had to hook up with gang-members just so they could get back and forth to school?
“Education is the only thing that can save these children from a broken life. But instead of fighting to provide children in public schools a quality education, too many of us are fighting to preserve a tired status quo.
“Well, the blame game isn’t working anymore.
“Gone are the days when you could kiss your kids goodbye and send them off to a decent school down the block.
“When it comes to education, parents are demanding choices.
“Indeed, some of them get up at dark-thirty and put their kids on a school bus because they are desperate to give them a better educational experience.
“If CPS has found a way to send students to schools that are performing at a higher level than the ones they are leaving, then we are making progress.
“Frankly, I would rather see the plan blow up in Byrd-Bennett’s face than see the school system continue to educate the few at the expense of the masses.”