CTU research challenges two decades of corporate lies... Current 'underutilization' claims refuted based on history and facts

The release on November 30, 2012 of the Chicago Teachers Union's 53-page research report — "The Black and White of Education in Chicago's Public Schools... Class,Charters, and Chaos" — not only challenges the current discussion in Chicago over so-called "underutilized" school buildings, but also details the two decades of lies that have been the underpinnings of corporate school reform, Chicago-style.

Chicago's school reform is exposed. Also exposed is the history of mayoral control and the claims by Arne Duncan, who is about to enter his second four-year term as Barack Obama's U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan's elevation to the post of U.S. Secretary of Education was based on the claims that his leadership of Chicago's public schools between 2001 and 2009. The policies of the Obama administration's "Race To The Top" were developed in Chicago.

Two days after the majority of members of the Illinois General Assembly voted once again to cater to the corporate school reform fantasies of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the corporate outsiders who have been appointed by the mayor to run Chicago's public schools, the Chicago Teachers Union released this definitive study that exposes the scandals behind the expansion of privatization and charter schools in Chicago since mayoral control began in 1995.

The release of the report coinicided with the signing by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn of a law, approved by an overwhelming (but not unanimous) vote of the Illinois General Assembly, to give Chicago until March 31 to create a list of schools to be closed because of "underutilization." The previous had demanded that the list be announced by December 1. Also changed was a requirement that Chicago develop the draft of a ten-year facilities plan by January 1.

"A day before Chicago Public School officials were supposed to announce which schools they will close or consolidate, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Friday a bill that extends the deadline until March 31," the Sun-Times reported on December 1, 2012. "The list of proposed buildings to shutter or combine was due Dec. 1, under a previous state law designed to grant affected parents months to decide where to send their children to school."

The press also reported a statement by the latest Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “I thank Governor Quinn for signing this bill and for his support of our work to ensure that the voices of parents and school communities are included at the front-end of this process," she said in a statement Friday. Citing a lack of public trust, Byrd-Bennett created a commission to make recommendations to her in time for the new March deadline." The commission has scheduled three hearings, all at churches run by preachers who support Rahm Emanuel, for December 2012.

The vote to extend Chicago's deadlines ­— overwhelming in the House and unanimous in the Senate — came despite criticism from community activists who worry that the changes will disproportionately target schools full of minority children. The Chicago Teachers Union, which opposed the legislation — and school closings — argued that it’s implausible for the nation’s third-largest school district to try to address 100,000 excess seats in only a few months and with no long-term master plan in place, the media also reported.

Late Friday, CPS also released the final guidelines under which it will make school-closing decisions. CPS did not quantify or define what it means by “underutilized” or “overcrowded”. The first hearing at which the public is invited to speak about utilization will be held Monday, December 3, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Rev. James Meeks's Salem Baptist Church, 752 E. 114th St. The additional hearings are scheduled at the churches of other friends of Rahm.

A November 30 CTU press release stated:

CHICAGO, NOVEMBER 30, 2012 —The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released today a report on the “underutilization crisis” in the Chicago Public Schools system, a crisis that has been manufactured largely to justify the replacement of neighborhood schools by privatized charters. The study, titled The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools, analyzes the mechanisms and effects of CPS schemes that masquerade as educational policy.

While the policy of neighborhood school closings and charter openings has not moved education in Chicago forward in any significant way, the benefits to charter school operators, private testing companies, real estate interests, and wealthy bankers are growing. Far from being a system of reform that improves education, the policy of closing schools in one area of the city and opening schools in another has been the failed status quo in Chicago for nearly 20 years, and key outcomes are:

 Increased racial segregation in schools

 Depletion of stable schools in Black neighborhoods

 Disrespect and poor treatment of teachers

 Expansion of unnecessary testing

 Decreased opportunities for deep, conceptual learning

 Increased punitive student discipline

 Increased student mobility

 Minimal educational outcomes

“When it comes to matters of race and education in Chicago, the attack on public schools is endemic,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Chicago is the most segregated city in the country, and our students of color are routinely deemed as second-class by a system that does nothing but present one failed policy after the next.”

"The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools" has three major sections describing CPS’ failed public education policy.

Part One, “Playing Musical Chairs with CPS Schools—Facilities Decisions and School Actions in the Age of Mayoral Control,” assesses the processes and outcomes of school actions, facilities decisions and charter proliferation;

Part Two, “Students First or Students Last? Setting the Record Straight on the Portfolio District,” investigates the realities of student outcomes, district and charter budgets, charter waiting lists and the Gates Foundation charter school compact; and

Part Three, “Innovation in Name Only: Charter Education,” examines the true nature of charter operators’ alleged innovations—excessive test-focused curricula, harsh student discipline, exploited teachers and reduced teacher diversity and parental input regarding their children’s education.

The study examines the history of school attacks in Chicago, and whether educational apartheid is being implemented under the guise of educational improvement. More than 42,000 students have been directly impacted since CPS school actions began in 2001 and 88 percent of those affected have been African American. Schools where the overwhelming majority of students are children of color have been the primary target—representing more than 80 percent of all affected schools—and Black communities have been hit the hardest, as three out of every four affected schools were economically disadvantaged and extremely segregated African American schools.

In Part Three of "The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools," truly innovative policies that have been implemented in neighborhood CPS schools are highlighted, such as the Children’s Literacy Initiative, Lesson Study and Responsive Classroom. These successes, along with this and other reports of the kind, disprove the notion that privatization is the panacea for Chicago’s public education. While charter operators and their philanthropist backers claim that public education is the problem, there are no consistent results that substantiate the belief that charters create better educational outcomes than neighborhood schools.

The study also unveils the hidden costs of charter expansions by examining the United Neighborhood Organizations (UNO) aggressive charter school expansion. UNO’s ever-growing debt and accompanying high interest is paid out of taxpayers’ pockets. In 2000, UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) had outstanding debt of $1.5 million, but by 2011 its debt had ballooned to more than $71 million. In 2009, the state of Illinois gave UNO close to $100 million in taxpayer funds, however, even with state money, UNO’s 2011 bond issue was still rated BBB (lowest investment grade; just above junk, bond status) and given an effective interest rate of over 7 percent.

“What charter expansion says is that we’ve given up — we’ve given up on public schools, given up on our teachers and given up on the children and families that need us the most,” said CTU researcher Dr. Carol Caref.

When children become commodities and education becomes just another business, we lose the idea that all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, are entitled to a high-quality public education that provides each child with the conditions for success. The privatization and corporate reform experiment has failed. It is time to implement proven measures and reinvest in our neighborhood schools.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at


December 5, 2012 at 12:45 PM

By: Joan Staples

November 30, 2012 Report from CTU

How do we get hold of this report? I am a retired CPS teacher, still a union member and supporter of Substance. There are a lot of us in the community who support true reform of CPS and national education policy. But we need access to the facts. Thank you!

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