Racism behind the national policies of Arne Duncan and the Obama administration's 'Race to the Top'? CTU notes Chicago closings are part of a national trend of attacking urban public schools and slandering the teachers who choose to work in the nation's most challenging public schools
As community battles against proposed school closings in Chicago continue, the Chicago Teachers Union has issued a press release noting that the pattern of attacks on urban public schools is showing up across the USA, with similar claims being made by schools chiefs in cities as far apart as Philadelphia, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Oakland.
"It's as if the people running these districts are all drinking the same Kool-Aid and concocting the same story to sell to the masses in order to justify closing our schools," said CTU President Karen Lewis in a press release. "The question is who is writing the script?"
A look at the history of the attacks on urban public schools shows that many of the scripts were originally drafted and field tested in Chicago, beginning with the institution of mayoral control in 1995. First under Paul G. Vallas and then under Arne Duncan, the attacks on urban public schools, the replacement of unionized urban public schools with anti-union charter schools, and many of the terms used in the debates — including "underutilization" and "underperformance" — were first heard in Chicago from Vallas, Arne Duncan, and the revolving door of CPS administrators since Duncan left Chicago to implement the Chicago Plan on the national level as Barack Obama's U.S. Secretary of Education in 2009.
Since Duncan went to Washington four years ago, in January 2009, Chicago has had four "Chief Executive Officers" for the nation's third largest school system:
Ron Huberman, an ex-cop, became CPS CEO from January 2009 through November 2010.
Terry Mazany, a charity executive, became "Interim CEO" from December 2010 through May 2011.
Jean-Claude Brizard became CEO from June 2011 through September 2012; and
Barbara Byrd Bennett became CEO of CPS in October 2012 and is currently overseer of the attack on the city's public schools via the claims that CPS has an "underutilization crisis" and is facing a "billion dollar deficit." Both of Byrd Bennett's major talking points have been called lies by independent researchers and the Chicago Teachers Union's research department.
IN A FEBRUARY 11, 2013 PRESS RELEASE, THE CTU STATED THE FOLLOWING:
Chicago's School Closings Fight Is Part of Disturbing Nationwide Trend
CHICAGO-The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has found that Chicago's public schools are among schools in urban areas across the country that are under attack and threatened by school closings, or have been afflicted by closings in recent years. The majority of these schools are in cities with large minority populations such as Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Oakland and Washington, D.C. — part of a damaging trend in the targeting of African-Americans and other students and teachers of color.
"It's obvious that there's a particular demographic in these cities which is comprised of low-income people of color," said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. "These are people living in neighborhoods that are already rife with foreclosures, unemployment and violence, and targeting their schools at not only at the city level, but nationally, suggests a disturbing pattern throughout the entire United States."
In addition to similar target populations, there are also similarities in the criteria put forth by school districts as justification for school closings. In November 2012, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Kaya Henderson announced that 20 Washington, D.C. public schools were targeted for closure by the fall of 2013. Henderson cited low enrollment and underutilization among justification for the number of closings (which have since been trimmed to 15 by the end of the 2013-2014 school year).
In December, the Philadelphia School District announced a plan to close 37 schools — about 1/6 of its total — by June 2013 to reduce a $1.1 billion budget deficit and the number of underutilized and underperforming schools. This scenario is eerily similar to Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) plans to potentially shutter more than 100 neighborhood schools — right down to the claims of underutilization, underperformance and a budget deficit of $1 billion, claims that have been brought into question by the CTU.
A preliminary list of CPS closings will reportedly be released by Wednesday [February 13, 2013] according to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. More than 100 schools meet the district's ever-changing criteria for being "underutilized." CPS cannot, however, "promise" that students will receive a better experience if they attend their designated receiving school — as a recent internal analysis suggests — nor do many parents affected by school closings choose charter school options for their children, despite the alleged benefits of privatized education.
CPS has told the Chicago Board of Education's Commission on Space Utilization that it is putting significant resources into this process, just as many other districts around the country have done in closing schools. So instead of using taxpayer money to support and improve these neighborhood and community anchors, CPS will continue the pattern of wasting millions of dollars in a destructive scheme that will cost our families and communities dearly.
"It's as if the people running these districts are all drinking the same Kool-Aid and concocting the same story to sell to the masses in order to justify closing our schools," Lewis said. "The question is who is writing the script?"
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating complaints that the plans to close or reorganize public schools in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Newark, N.J. and Washington, D.C., violate civil rights by discriminating against African-American and Latino students, as well as those with disabilities. Community activists from those and other cities met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington, D.C. in January to urge a moratorium on school-closing plans until agreements can be reached on alternatives.
Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, was among those who met with Duncan. He said activists would seek immediate action on the civil rights complaints and urge officials to halt school closings and other actions against public education that are contributing to the decimation of urban neighborhoods around the country.
"Racism is real in the U.S.," Brown told reporters during the trip. "There are different rules for the students in our community."
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU's website at www.ctunet.com