Billionaires push 'Powerhouse' charter high school while West Side crumbles... Daley, Duncan continue charter attack on city's public schools

If a person views Chicago in horizontal bands running from Lake Michigan to the western edge of the city, one of the most shocking things about our supposedly “global city” is that for a large stretch of it there are now almost no public general high schools for the average child in the communities that are populated mainly by African-Americans.

Nevertheless, instead of filling a need that is actually there, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Schools CEO Arne Duncan, and representatives of three of the richest families on earth (Gates, Ford, and Pritzker) staged a major media event on October 3, 2007, to celebrate the creation of another boutique charter school in Chicago’s black community. While more than a thousand eight graders are now being forced to attend high school outside of their communities (from Lawndale through Austin), the people who own and operate Chicago are expanding schools that exclude, rather than include, children.

The media event on October 3 was the announcement that the so-called “Powerhouse” charter high school would become a “Ford Learning Center.”

Present at the event were Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Mayor Daley, Arne Duncan, Rufus Williams, and representatives of the Gates and Pritzker fortunes. With a large number of TV cameras covering the entire event, the assembled wealth outlined another “new school” for Chicago that was to be part of “Renaissance 2010.”

The old powerhouse that had provided power for nearly 100 years to the Sears complex at Homan and Arthington in Chicago was being converted — at a cost that has not appeared in any public documents at Board of Education meetings — into a thing called the “Powerhouse Charter High School.” Powerhouse Charter High will follow a curriculum in use at a “Ford Learning Center” high school in Dearborn, Michigan, home of Ford Motor Company.

During and after the well-organized media event, no one asked why Chicago’s Lawndale community needed a second boutique public school. Last year, Collins High School, less than a mile to the east, was closed. The Collins facility was taken away from the community as a general high school and turned into an “application only” charter school. The Collins “campus” now houses the “North Lawndale College Prep” charter high school, and soon the powerhouse will house the Ford school. 


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