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School closings loom as major issues in Chicago and Springfield... Actions at October 24 Chicago Board of Education meeting?

The Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 was successful, and the union has a contract that expands the power of teachers in the schools and forestalls the further expansion of the "Principal as Chief Executive Officer" model of school governance. But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still committed to a policy of eliminating public schools and privatizing as much of the public work as he can get away with, so the attacks on public education — and public workerss — union now move again to Springfield as well as Chicago. In Chicago, the Board of Education will meet on October 24 to again claim a budget "deficit" that does not and has not existed. Within five weeks after that meeting, the Board will be releasing its lists of schools to be closed by December 1. Until then there will be a great number of speculations as to which schools will face closing.

While teachers and students at the city's real public schools were returning to work in late September and early October, the mayor and his appointees were planning the continued expansion of the city's charter schools at the expense of the real public schools, despite the conclusive evidence that Chicago's massive charter schools experiment has failed. Hence, the battle lines are being drawn in several ways.

The claims of the charter schools can no longer be made, and if schools are to be evaluated and closed in Chicago, for the next three or four years all of the evaluations and closings should be at the city's charter schools. Instead of growing, the charters should be shrinking, with the remaining charters in Chicago put under true scrutiny and actual accountability.

The research work of the Chicago Teachers Union is contributing to this effort, and has resulted in a "Legislative Alert" from the union.

But all of the public arguments to close schools, either as a budget balancing program or for the good of the children, have been proved false.

The CTU sent out a legislative alert on October 18, 2012.

Legislative Alert

Charter Expansion, Chicago School Closings, and the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force

Summary: Public Act 096-0803 was enacted in October 2009 and created a task force to “ensure that school facility-related decisions are made with the input of the community and reflect educationally sound and fiscally responsible criteria” in the city of Chicago. The CEFTF has been meeting since 2010 and has developed models and guidelines for school actions.

Alert: School closings, turnarounds, consolidations, phase-outs and other actions have not dramatically improved educational outcomes for students in the affected schools, though evidence suggests that violence and community dislocation have dramatically increased as a result of these actions. For 2012-13, Chicago Public Schools officials have signaled multiple times that further school closings are in the offing, ostensibly because of budgetary pressure and excess school capacity, but as an October 11th Tribune article noted, more likely as a stealth way to expand charter operations.

Further, HB4277, a bill to increase funding to charter schools, was defeated in the spring session but may reappear during the fall veto session. And it should again be defeated.

CTU Position: Support a moratorium on school closings. . We Urge a NO Vote on HB4277.

Rationale:

1. School closings do not result in major savings – School officials have pegged savings from closed schools at $500,000 - $800,000 annually. Even if the district closed 100 schools, annual savings of $50 million - $80 million constitute only 1 – 1.5% of the district’s operating budget, and those savings do not reflect increased costs for transporting students, emergency response costs associated with increased violence, or the costs of fracturing a school community.

2. Charter operations do not result in major savings, either - The Gates Compact signed between the Gates Foundation and Chicago Public Schools in November 2011 did exactly what HB4277 was to do — raise the per pupil expenditure for charter operators. The Gates Compact resulted in a 5% increase in funding to charters, about $23 million this year. This money came directly from traditional public schools.

3. CPS “manufactured” the crisis — through its aggressive charter operation expansion campaign, CPS created excess capacity in the system through construction of new buildings and the acquisition of others. CPS created more than 100 new schools in the past ten years. Underserved communities are now being asked to foot the bill for a policy in which they are the victims – their schools are being closed.

4. CPS’s leadership team is in disarray – The team in charge of school actions is ill equipped to manage a project of the proposed scope:

a. School actions team members have never taught or previously worked in schools. One previously worked for Boston Consulting; another, hired two months ago, previously worked as a marketing manager.

b. Planning and public disclosure is haphazard and violates the spirit of the law: Illinois law requires a 21-day public comment period and a draft of proposed guidelines by November 1. CPS is refusing to release draft guidelines and the public comment process is being completed exclusively online or via phone conference. No in-person public hearings are currently scheduled. Such a process effectively kills any public input (the heart of the law), as many people do not have access to the internet or are unable to participate in a massive conference call.

5. Students suffer – Multiple research studies demonstrate that student mobility negatively impacts student achievement. Forcing students to change schools ensures that educational outcomes will be worse. In fact, a University of Chicago study on school action sites from February 2012 demonstrates that any long term improvements in math and reading were minor and that long-term school absences increased in many of the high schools that went through a school action.

6. Charters are not an educational solution - Charter operations enroll fewer special education students, fewer English language learners, and fewer hard-to-educate students, and they produce results that are indistinguishable from traditional public schools.

7. Lost “Local Control” – CPS has ignored impassioned testimony by hundreds of members of school communities over the past ten years. Uniformly, these parents, students and school staffs oppose actions taken against their schools; yet, unproven school closings led by disconnected non-educators continue. Furthermore, charter operators make this problem worse: charter schools in Chicago have no local school councils or other forms of public control, and no elected official, parent or community member had any input into the Gates Compact. This form of governance effectively takes policymaking away from the public and gives unbridled power to private interests.



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