October meeting showed map of the future... Renaissance 2010 targeted CPS schools two months before January 2009 hit list was made public!

While thousands of parents, students and teachers were caught by surprise when the Chicago Board of Education announced its annual "hit list" of public schools to be closed, consolidated, phased out, or "turnarounded" in January 2009, many groups and individuals in Chicago were not surprised at all.


Because certain favored groups and individuals had been carefully planning the latest round of the attack on Chicago's remaining public schools for nearly a year. And The January 2009 release of the annual list (this year, consisting of 22 schools) was actually the end of a lengthy and secretive process, not the beginning of a process as the public was led to believe.

Anyone mystified by the targeting of the 22 Chicago public schools currently under attack by the Chicago Board of Education in this year's round of school turnarounds, phase outs, closings, and consolidations has to look no further than the 5th floor offices of the Chicago Board of Education's "Office of New Schools" and the kind of secret planning that has gone on in the office of the school system's "Chief Executive Officer" for years for the answer.

The map above, which was prominently displayed at the Chicago Board of Education's media event on October 8, 2008, announcing the "new schools" planned for September 2009 and September 2010, shows the planned locations of the "new schools." But at the October 8, 2008, event, Board of Education officials claimed that the buildings and locations for the "new schools" had not yet been determined. In fact, the planning was already well underway to create the subsequent list of "phase out," "closing", "consolidation" and other schools that would be cleaned out as regular Chicago public schools and then turned over to charter school operators and other "new schools" entrepreneurs once the public schools currently in the buildings were evicted. By the time the list of this year's targeted schools was leaked to critics on January 5, 2009, CPS officials in the Office of New Schools, Demographics, and other offices had been at work for months developing the pretexts under which traditional public schools would be shuttered and flipped into the hands of privatization. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The locations of the school currently under attack have been semi-public for several months -- as the locations of "new schools" that are selected to be opened under the ongoing "Renaissance 2010" program. At two media events (not public hearings advertised because of the impact of the decisions on communities across Chicago), the outlines of what is happening today became clear between April and October 2008.

On April 7, 2008, the Chicago Board of Education hosted a meeting to solicit "Requests for Proposals" (RFPs) for "new schools for the 2009-2010, and 2010 - 2011 school years." (Anyone who thinks "Renaissance 2010" is going to end the privatization and "new schools" juggernaut in Chicago in the year 2010 hasn't been paying attention; "Renaissance 2010" is already projecting itself as "Renaissance 2015").

Then, on October 2008, the Chicago Board of Education hosted a massive media event at the newly remodeled Chicago International Charter School (CICS) "Ellison Campus" to unveil the list of the "new schools" that had been approved. Most of the "new schools", however, did not yet have school buildings. When asked by Substance (this reporter) where the new schools were going to be located, Board of Education Communications Department spokesmen Michael Vaughn and Malon Edwards both said that the locations were "to be determined."

Matching a map that was prominently displayed on October 8 to the locations of the 22 schools slated for closing and other reorganizations since the January 5, 2009, annoucement of this year's targeted public schools, however, it's easy to see that the Board will do a simple two-step.

The first step is to vote at its February 25 meeting to close, consolidate, phase out, or otherwise destroy the schools on this years hit list.

The second step, which sill probably occur at the March meeting of the school board, will be to vote to give the school properties to the "new schools" that have already been lined up and promised these locations.

But if the map displayed for the first time at the October media event was more coherent than earlier, it wasn't the first time such a map was on display. The first time came on April 7, 2008, when Arne Duncan, then CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, hosted a major media event at Englewood High School on Chicago's South Side to release the latest "RFP" list to the selected "educational entrepreneurs" who would be assisted in privatatizing the next round of Chicago public schools.

At the entrepreneurial media event to announce that Chicago was requesting "RFPs" for "New Schools" to open in 2009 and 2010, Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan (above at microphone) was surrounded by those who have promoted the "New Schools" activities in secret from the communities who regular public schools would be taken away to house the "New Schools." Those behind Duncan during the media event at what had been Englewood High School (but which is now the "Urban Prep" charter school, which excludes many from the community once served by Englewood High School) included (far left) Joshua Edelman ("Chief Officer, New Schools" at CPS), Tim King (head of Urban Prep, directly behind Duncan on the left), Phyllis Lockett (behind Duncan on the right), CEO of the "Renaissance Schools Fund" which promotes the privatization of Chicago's public schools, and Alderman Willie Cochran (white suit). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Surrounded by privatization supporters, and entertained by the boys from Urban Prep (a charter school that was given the Englewood High School building), Duncan announced the massive privatization plans for September 2009 and 2010.

While the remaining public school students inside the Englewood High School building were still completing their last semester at the general public high school that had produced such major alumnae as Lorraine Hansberry, Duncan and those around him made sure the media attention at Englewood that day was focused on Urban Prep. Urban Prep is the highly touted all-boys school headed by Tim King, the former Catholic School official.

The remaining public school students in Englewood would graduate in June 2008, without any of the fanfare that has been accompanying Urban Prep during the years before it will have its first graduation.

Spinning the "choice" story against public schools and towards charters

Without noting that Urban Prep does not serve the same general public school population as Englewood High School had for 100 years, Arne Duncan went into near-raptures about how much the RFPs would increase "choice" for Chicago children. Duncan didn't mention that Urban Prep actually limited choice for the students it could refuse to take (or kick out) from the Englewood community.

Duncan was joined at the event by Phyllis Lockett, head of the "Renaissance Schools Fund," a private foundation which has raised $50 million from the enemies of public education to promote privatization. Most of the money from the "Renaissance Schools Fund" has gone to charter schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools, often assisting those schools in undermining the local public schools. Other joining Duncan included Alderman Willie Cochran, Joshua Edelman (Chicago's "Chief Officer for New Schools"), and Urban Prep's Tim King.

The charter school 'Waiting List' Big Lie

As Chicago has radically expanded charter schools, it has become more and more difficult for Chicago school officials to proclaim any real advantages to charters over regular public schools. While the people whose dollars support the "Renaissance Schools Fund" often have an explicit anti-union agenda, they cannot proclaim that as their main reason for contributing to Chicago's "school choice" programs. During both the April and October media events, as usual, Duncan cited the so-called "waiting lists" supposedly in existence for Chicago's charter schools as proof that there was a market demand for the expansion of the "choice" he was promoting. For several years, Duncan has been proclaiming that the proof that parents wanted charter schools was the existence of these supposed "waiting lists." But if such proof were valid, it could be tested against an equal claim to regular public schools. And no such proof actually exists, except in Chicago's charter school marketing claims.

When this reporter asked Duncan how big the waiting list was for Chicago's Whitney Young Magnet High School (a selective enrollment magnet school in the traditional public school system), Duncan again dodged the question by saying, "I'll get back to you on that."

"I'll get back to you on that" never takes place when Arne Duncan is doing the getting back. Washington, D.C. reporters will be learning the same mantra in the coming months.

Since Duncan began promoting the lie that the supposed "waiting list" for Chicago's charter schools in 2006, I have been asking them to give the figures on the "waiting list" for Chicago's magnet high schools. Such a list would reveal that the public schools are far more competitive than the charters Duncan had been promoting.

Even after Arne Duncan left for Washington, D.C. to promote the privatization of public schools as U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, the attack on public schools under the smokescreen of "choice" continued back home in Chicago. The "communities" that were listed in April 2008 and October 2008 to receive "new schools" are now the communities under seige as the Chicago Board of Education moves to close more of their traditioinal public schools and turn the public's buildings over to private operators like the "educational entrepreneurs" who were assembed with Arne Duncan on April 7, 2008, and October 8, 2008 as the "New Schools" railroad roared ahead at high speed.

The only people who weren't let in on the "choice" and "New Schools" secrets were the parents, teachers, and others in the communities who were about to have their public schools taken from them so that the "Renaissance 2010" schools could open in their places, just as "Urban Prep" has taken over the Englewood High School building. 


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