July 5, 2017

How Chicago damaged its public schools

Wendy Lecker, Stamford Advocate - Although Chicago claimed to close schools to save money, the savings were minimal — at great cost to the communities affected.

At the same time Chicago leaders closed 125 neighborhood schools, they opened 41 selective public schools and 108 charter schools; more than they closed. Chicago charter schools underserve English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and have suspension and expulsion rates ten times greater than Chicago’s public schools. Even more astounding, despite the self-selecting and exclusive nature of charters, researcher Myron Orfield found that Chicago’s public schools outperform charters on standardized test passing and growth rates in both reading and math, and high school graduation rates.

The Roosevelt University researchers found that the expansion of Chicago charter schools devastated the public school budget, contributing to massive cuts of basic educational resources in Chicago’s public schools. Moreover, many of these new charters have remained open despite falling below the “ideal enrollment” standard used to close neighborhood public schools.

The education policies of Chicago’s leaders force its poor children and children of color to attend under-resourced schools, often at a great distance from their neighborhoods, on a pretext of under-enrollment and poor performance. Officials fail to consider the devastating effects school closures have on educational opportunities or on the health of entire communities.

Chicago promised to use the proceeds of the sales of vacant schools to improve those neighborhoods. Yet, city leaders instead used those funds for school capital projects. A WBEZ investigation found that Chicago’s new school construction and additions disproportionately benefit schools that serve white, middle class students, even though white students are far less likely to suffer overcrowded schools than Latino students, whose schools do not see the benefit of capital spending.”


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