Neighborhood's real public schools were sabotaged by disinvestment and charter expansions... Protests continue against proposed Englewood school closings, expensive new construction....

On Thursday, November 30, 2017, Chicago Public Schools announced its intention to close all four neighborhood high schools in the Englewood Neighborhood: Harper, TEAM Englewood, Hope, and Robeson. Englewood is a poor, black, working class neighborhood on the city’s South Side.

As a “sweetener” on the deal, the Board promises to spend $85 million to build a new high school on Robeson’s grounds. But they do not plan to make it a neighborhood school — it will be a selective enrollment magnet, which will take only 35% of its students from the neighborhood.

Moreover, the new school will only enroll 9th graders when it opens, while the current schools will close next year. That means the current students will be left out in the cold: they are being told to enroll at neighborhood schools that are two or more miles away. Many of these students attend their neighborhood school now because they have difficulty getting to a school farther away. For these students, CPS’s “plan” amounts to denying them any education at all. The students themselves note, with bitterness, that the district is happy to spend $85 million to build a new building, but won’t put that money into the current schools.

The school board says these schools are underenrolled — that is true. Each of these buildings now enrolls 200 or fewer students. And it is also true that population in the neighborhood is dropping. But the Board is responsible! From 2006 to 2018, the total number of high school students in the neighborhood dropped from 3800 to about 3000. But over those same years, 2,500 students from Englewood started attending the seven new charter schools that opened in the neighborhood. Instead of investing in schools that needed the support, CPS opened privately run charter schools to take money and students out of the neighborhood high schools, which were left with the students the charters refused to take.

Harper High school has been repeatedly attacked: it was “reconstituted” in 1999, then “turned-around” in 2008, where all the teaching and support staff were fired. Student enrollment dropped 25% the next year — no surprise there, many students did not feel comfortable around the unfamiliar new adults.

Englewood High School was closed in 2007, then re-opened as a new “small” school. Hope College Prep and TEAM Englewood’s buildings are “co-locations”, that is, the buildings also house a charter school. Those privately run charters will now be able to take over the whole building.

The school board is also proposing to allow a new charter school to “co-locate” inside Hirsch High School – a move that will clearly lead in to that public school being shut down as well. This plan shows CPS – and the Chicago ruling class’s priorities on education. They continue to attack and steal from the students who have the least and need the most. The plan will drive more families from the neighborhood. Harper students staged a sit-in the day after CPS’s announcement. Students and others from the school communities spoke out at the Board meeting the following week.

Harper Student Sit-In Friday, December 1st; photo courtesy CTU @CTULocal1

Students at Chicago's Harper HIgh School began this morning with a sit-in -- then walked out to protest mayor Emanuel's move to shut down ALL public high schools in Englewood, one of the city's poorest and most disenfranchized neighborhoods. #SaveOurSchools #RespectHarperStudents


December 13, 2017 at 1:45 AM

By: David R. Stone

Sabotage of neighborhood schools

To add some details to Ed Hershey's report on how the Chicago Board of Education sabotages neighborhood schools, I have first-hand knowledge from my time as a former teacher at Hirsch Metro High School.

During my 10 years at Hirsch, our enrollment of incoming freshmen steadily declined as the Board allowed the opening of charter schools that aggressively recruited from our neighborhood elementary schools. Many of those students would eventually come to Hirsch after two years or so, when their charter high school pushed out struggling students so the charters could maintain their boast that "100 percent of our senior class is graduating and going to college."

Yet Hirsch was able to compete with the charter schools until the Board started taking away resources -- closing our well equipped radio/TV studio that prepared students for broadcasting careers, shrinking our music program, eliminating our librian's position, and cutting the journalism department's budget so that there was no money to print our yearbook.

In a vicious cycle, the program cuts made it harder to recruit and retain students, and the ensuing enrollment drop led to further budget cuts. Five years ago, as Hirsh's enrollment continued to drop, my special ed teaching position was cut. More teaching positions have been cut since then.

My colleagues who remain are still dedicated to their students. The students deserve better than being pushed out by a new charter school.

-David R. Stone

December 13, 2017 at 6:08 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Hirsch details needed from every sabotaged school

The details that David Stone provides in the above Comment are needed historically so that we can document here at Substance the actual history of what the Chicago Tribune is now calling "Zombie Schools." The Tribune's editorial (on December 12, 2017) fits right in with their union busting, teacher bashing and reactionary editorial position. But if we (teachers, students, former students, activists) do not write, publish and share these histories (there are dozens now going back to the earlier Rahm school closings) they will disappear from the record as surely as other facts of history have gotten wiped out at various times over the past century or two. Think the Trump White House attempt to revive the "Noble Cause" version of the vicious career of Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy. Please add to what David has brought us about Hirsch.

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