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MEDIA WATCH: Tribune editorial continues to push for maximum school closings based on two lies -- the 'whopping deficit' and the fictional '108,000 empty seats'

The Chicago Tribune had a brief period where it could be relied upon for some kinds of accuracy, but for most of the last century and a lot of this one, the Tribune was a right wing propaganda rag where facts were bent to push a very reactionary political agenda. With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday approaching, it would be interesting to read a full confession from the Tribune about how a Tribune reporter (and the newspaper's editors) utilized slanderous leaaks from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to try and undermine the reputation of Dr. King, especially during Dr. King's active days in Chicago.

Although the Tribune is doing a decent job unearthing the disgraceful days when Sam Zell owned the place and tried to be a one-man newspaper wrecking crew, much more is necessary. Meanwhile, the following editorial gives the flavor of the month (and year) from the Olympus of the current ruling class.

TRIBUNE EDITORIAL... January 14, 2013

The blue ribbon commission that's supposed to help Chicago Public Schools decide how and where to close underused schools produced a long list of "don'ts" last week.

Don't close any high schools.

Don't close schools with more than 600 kids.

Don't close middling schools that are "on the rise" academically. Don't close schools that have already gone through consolidations. Don't close schools that are adding grades. Don't close schools that are close to "efficient" capacity. Don't close the best-performing schools.

Whew! After all those don'ts, how about the answer to the obvious question: How many schools remain that could be closed to help fill a $1 billion CPS budget gap?

The commission didn't say. Nor would CPS officials venture a guess. How frustrating.

Remind us again, who thought this advisory process was such a good idea?

Commission Chairman Frank Clark and CPS officials can't even agree if the commission is supposed to produce a target list of closings. CPS says yes, Clark says no.

Please.

The commission's final report isn't due until March 31. But a CPS official tells us that schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is likely, as early as this week, to issue a preliminary list of schools that could be closed. Yes, that's right. An actual list with actual school names.

That would be a smart move. It would relieve thousands of parents, students and teachers at schools that don't make the list. Others will get notice, and time to gear up to make the case why their school shouldn't be on the final list come March 31. That would be the best, most transparent way to make these painful decisions.

The math hasn't changed since the commission started its round robin of community talkfests. A staggering 330 schools, half the district's schools, are underutilized, meaning they are below 80 percent of what the district has determined to be the ideal student population. That translates into 108,000 empty seats. The system spends millions of dollars to keep those buildings — nearly half built before 1930 — heated, lit and repaired.

We'll give the advisory commission credit, at least, for its willingness to take an earful from parents, teachers and community groups incensed about potential school closings. The preliminary report acknowledges the obvious: All those empty seats "have academic costs. Students in underutilized schools are more likely than other CPS students to be in split-grade classrooms. And spreading limited resources among a large number of underutilized schools makes it harder to ensure that kids have art, music, physical education, well-stocked libraries and well-maintained playgrounds."

Yes, there are good reasons not to close certain schools. Obviously the system should preserve its best-performing schools. It should weigh student safety as a factor.

But enough with the don'ts. CPS does have to close a whopping deficit and produce a balanced budget. That will require closing underused schools. Whatever the commission recommends, the board of education has to make the ultimate decision on which schools will close. It's time to start leveling with parents and students.



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