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Chicago School Closings--Largest in US History

by Susan Ohanian

The education of Chicago schoolchildren has been hijacked because, taking a page out of his neoliberal playbook, that's what mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted. At the same time he is imposing this crushing blow on neighborhood schools, he's dumping millions to attach a basketball arena to McCormick Place. The Sun Times quoted Chicago-based sports business consultant Marc Ganis, who says he's "stunned" by the mayor's decision.

A basketball arena attached to McCormick Place is financial folly, he said. "Not only is it ridiculous having an 18-event anchor tenant, but it's an anchor tenant that can barely sell 10,000 seats a game. It's not like it's a professional sports team or a well-established college basketball power. It's neither of those two. That's why there has to be something else going on. Because on its face, it's a foolish proposition."

A basketball arena attached to McCormick Place is financial folly, he said. "Not only is it ridiculous having an 18-event anchor tenant, but it's an anchor tenant that can barely sell 10,000 seats a game. It's not like it's a professional sports team or a well-established college basketball power. It's neither of those two. That's why there has to be something else going on. Because on its face, it's a foolish proposition."

Today it's Chicago. Tomorrow it could be you and the kids you care about.

The Broad Foundation offers a textbook on school closings: School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for
Addressing Budgetary Challenges

Anthony Cody provides good background on this. We must ever remember that this isn't just one evil mayor: it's part of a longstanding corporate plan.

Kudos to Marybeth Foley for her detailed coverage of the five-hour board meeting.

BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education holds historic vote to close schools at the end of tumultuous May 22, 2013 meeting

by Marybeth Foley
Substance News
May 23, 20013

Cries and shouts of protest from parents, teachers, and community members filled the air in the fifth floor chamber during the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting on May 22, 2013. The meeting, held at CPS headquaters at 125 S. Clark Street, as usual filled half the seats in the small Board chambers with CPS officials, forcing those parents, teachers, and others who wanted to attend to be relegated to a "holding room" ten floors above.

More than an hour before the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education began, more than a thousand people had gathered in the "Arcade" hallway downstairs from the meeting and outside the building at 125 S. Clark St. They were held back by CPS security, who had been ordered to push around everyone, including reporters. Those who were able to finally get inside the public building where the public meeting was being held were kept away from the fifth floor "Board Chambers." Most were relegated to watching the meeting on closed circuit TV in the 15th floor "holding room." The majority of the hundreds of people who came to downtown Chicago that day didn't want real public schools closed. After seven months of hearings of various kinds, the Board of Educatioin was scheduled to vote on a list that included 54 elementary schools to close, six for so-called "turnaround," and 11 to be relegated to "co-location." The opposition to the closings and other actions was virtually unanimous across the city. But in the end, only five schools of 54 schools that were scheduled to be closed were spared the hatchet.

The spared schools were Marcus Garvey, Leif Ericson, George Manierre, and Mahalia Jackson elementary schools. A one year reprieve was given to Canter Middle School. In addition, Clara Barton Elementary School will not be turned around, but William W. Carter, Thomas Chalmers, Dewey, Leslie Lewis and Isaelle C. O"Keeffe will be reconstituted and turned around.

As originally planned, eleven charter schools will now co-locate with eleven other schools. Belmont-Cragin will be co-located with Northwest Middle, Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School will be co-located with Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School and Chicago Talent Development High School, Disney II Magnet School will be co-located with Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Mary Mapes Dodge will be co-located with Morton School of Excellence, John B. Drake will be co-located with Urban Prep Academy for Young Men - Bronzeville Charter School, KIPP-Bloom Charter Middle School will be co-located with Hope College Prep, Montessori School of Englewood Charter School will be co-located with Luke O'Toole, Kwame Nkrumah Academy Charter School will be co-located with Walter Q. Gresham, Noble Street Charter - Gary Comer College Prep will be co-located with Revere Elementary, and Noble Street Charter - Crimson High School will be co-located with George H. Corliss High School, Noble Street Charter - Orange High School will be co-located with Bowen High School.

The May monthly Board of Education meeting began at 10:47 a.m. with Board President David Vitale outlining the schedule for the May 22 meeting. An "honoring excellence" session would be followed by Public Participation, the CEO's report, Public Agenda items, and end with the Board going into closed session. What this meant practically was that the Board would vote on its public agenda before going into executive session. The public agenda included all of the "school actions" that had been at the heart of seven months of protests and hearings involving more than 35,000 people across the city, and if approved the closings would constitute the largest single school closings in U.S. history.

A teacher of first grade at Jane Addams Elementary School who also attended Jane Addams and Jones High School performed the "Star Spangled Banner.'' Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz said he saw her perform at a Pilsen Parade a few weeks ago and suggested she perform for the Board at its monthly meeting.

This was followed by a moment of silence for children who were Oklahoma tornado victims.

Roll called showed that all six current Board members were present: President David Vitale, Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, and Board Members Dr. Henry Bienen, Dr. Mahalia Hines, Andrea Zopp and Dr. Carlos Azcotia. The Board has only had six of the total possible seven members since Penny Pritzker resigned her appointed position three months earlier.

This was Marquis Watson's final Board meeting as Honorary Student Board Member. Everyone cheered him after he gave brief remarks.

Next, two principals, from Tilden Career High School and Morrill School were recognized for excellence.

David Vitale announced that office hours for those who wish to meet with Board members were mentioned. Public Participation rules for signing up for the next Board meeting were also announced.

After the preliminaries, nine aldermen spoke the largest number to attend and speak at a Board meeting in Chicago history. They were: 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin, 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler, 47th Ward Alderman, Ameya Pawar, 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, and 2nd Ward Alderman, Robert Fioretti.

Alderman Latasha Thomas, a product of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), asked the Board to "take a step back and truly listen to what parents and students are asking for." She wanted to know "How are the children and families better prepared because of your actions?" She asked the Board to not use a saw when it should use a scaffold to support schools. She spoke of the strong commitments at Clara Barton School and the innovative use of space at Altgeld School. She spoke of long walks, gangs in the area, and dangers children would face. She concluded, "We need to be mindful of unintended consequences of what we do here today." She asked the Board to vote no on some of these actions today.

Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., said he spoke with mixed emotions. He spoke of the schools that would be closed, safety issues, the high homocide rate in Chicago, gangs, and crossing busy streets. He said he "didn't agree with all the closings" and "hoped the Board would take into consideration all the testimony."

Alderman Pat Dowell of Bronzeville was glad that the original number of schools would not be closing. She questioned the Board's decision in regard to Dewey School and said a strong safety program was needed for Overton School students going to Mollison School.

Alderman Jason Ervin said the schools need additional support, that the consolidation of Delano and Melody was troublesome (the school on probation is the welcoming school while the sending school is not on probation), that the parents at King School are fearful because their closing school is separated from Jensen School by a viaduct. He said, "We do not want children to leave the system; we are driving them out."

Meanwhile, President David Vitale called for silence from the people to his right who were standing along the wall. When he referred to them as "the peanut gallery," they retorted that he was disrespectful.

Alderman Michael Chandler asked that Pope School and Henson School be removed from the final list of schools to be closed. He said that both Pope and Henson had met standards of improvement. He added that safety and gang issues were also a concern. He asked the Board to vote to remove Pope and Henson from the final list.

Alderman Ameya Pawar asked, "How do we close schools while simultaneously opening charter schools?" He said, "We are incentivizing charter school proliferation. He added, "Ten to fifteen years from now, will we say, what did we do?" He urged the Board to reconsider the decision and give it a year. He remarked that the closings were an unprecedented action, the largest closings as a city.

Alderman Deborah Graham said she did not like the process of schools being pitted against each other, the environment has already been tainted, and children are going home bitter. She mentioned that Francis Scott Key School, which was to be closed, was a national landmark. She strongly suggested that the Board reconsider the closing of Emmet School. She said her community was frustrated and a lot of healing needs to take place. She added that the community was scrapping for survival against each other and asked the Board to reconsider.

Alderman Joe Moreno said he was trying to control his anger. He added there would be no public schools remaining in the whole of East Humboldt Park. He offered an alternate plan from the community, remarking that we "pushed Lafayette School into the pool and then CPS blamed them for being wet." He told the Board that the community is not a blighted area, a lot is going on here. He asked the Board to vote its conscience and hear to continue the vibrancy of the East Humboldt Park community.

Second Ward alderman Bob Fioretti detailed the reasons why the Board's case in closing the schools was not substantial enough. Substance photo by David Vance.Alderman Robert Fioretti said at first he wasn't going to testify. He said the opening of thirteen more charter schools have contributed to underutilization. He told the Board that the closing actions are furthering urban blight and destabilization. He said the dropout rate and street violence would increase. He added that the reasons for the closings are constantly shifting and that there is no proof CPS will save any money. He attended a dozen hearings and couldn't remember seeing such a public outcry in defense of schools. He is worried that all those hearings were a charade. (Cheers from audience) He added that he didn't recall the Mayor attending any hearing. He told the Board that no schools should be closed, that some children have been moved multiple times, parents want neighborhood schools with services, that Gold Coast parents get those services, that it was immoral to subject those families again and again to closings, and that it would impact the decision of families to stay or leave the City of Chicago.

Immediately beginning by affirming the long list presented by the nine aldermen, Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President, said, "What they said and more."

"I hope you can live with this decision that is on the wrong side of history," She told the Board. She pleaded for the removal of the "probation" label, what she noted was "a criminal/prison label." She reiterated that the teachers and other staff haven't heard the education plan which should be in place. Trying to cooperate, she said, "We are willing to work with you, but we are not willing to do craziness." Smiling through her remarks, she asked the Board to listen to the impassioned pleas of the aldermen and the more than 30,000 people who had spoken against the closings at the citywide hearings that began the previous year.

Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals' and Administrators' Association, said that what the Board did this day "would play out on the national and international stage."

"I don't envy your accountability today," she continued. "There has been a lack of outreach to principals in the system. Hundreds of programs will be lost." She added that it was incomprehensible that CPS beat the drum for charter schools while continuing to attack the integrity of the city's real public schools and their leadership.

"Is this the only plan available-- to have our children become refugees in their own community?" she added. She stressed that the Board's actions today will push past the point of no return. She said that she was especially worried about Special Education children since she is the mother of and teacher of Special Ed children.

The first public participant to speak was Rebecca Martinez of Cardenas School. She asked people to call the Secretary of State regarding the school closings; a group of people had been arrested in Springfield by the Secretary of State police, protesting the closings to be voted on in Chicago. She observed that at this point, this Board is illegitimate, the mayor is going to get it, and, speaking for the community, "you don't concede on this." Joining her at the podium was Shannon Bannett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), who began to speak. Immediately the Board secretary began saying that he was "out of order," Vitale ordered security to take control, and the first of several wrestling matches at the podium began: Several of the Board of Education's largest security guards ripped the microphone out of the speaker's hands, the podium was pulled back from the railing, and, after a tussle, the people surrounding the podium were pulled away. Martinez and her companions ended by singing the well-known civil rights song, "We shall not be moved."

Jesse Sharkey, CTU Vice-President, waited while the tumult subsided. He then forcefully told the Board that the closings are massive and irreversible and that stability and continuity are what is needed instead. Sharkey said that children need to be able to attend any neighborhood school. He also noted that the Board had broken faith again by placing schools on lists to do "IB" and "STEM", and that the union objected to the loss of jobs by the veteran teachers in those schools. He stressed the importance of keeping children safe. He told the Board that we need massive promises or you shouldn't be closing any schools today.

Sonya Williams and Elisheba Bingham of Clara Barton Elementary School had signed up to speak against the placement of Barton on the "turnaround" list at the mandatory sign-in time, ten days before the Board meeting. Confident that Barton had indeed been removed from the turnaround list, they named many programs in effect at the school.

Alison Burke, of Trumbull Elementary, spoke in detail of how CPS "utilization" information was not accurate, primarily because of the large number of special education students at Trumbull. She said that Cross-categorical programming for Special Ed students (grouping students with different Special Ed learning needs in one classroom) was being proposed as part of the closing plan, but that it would not work. She told the Board that Andersonville, the school community, is very diverse and that the community and the schools were attractive to her family and many others because of those realities.

Overcrowding became an issue immediately an issue, as the Board of Eduction's demographic information and their policy implications were repeatedly called into question.

Heather Yutzy, the Principal at Belding School on the Northwest Side, said that Belding was at 139% capacity and needs help to relieve the overcrowding immediately. She added that twenty schools near Belding have more students than the buildings were designed to hold. She remarked that only two schools near Belding are underutilized --one a charter school the Board built for the Aspira Charter Schools and the other a magnet school. She said that the Aspira Haugan Middle School, a charter school, should have its status revoked and it should return to being a neighborhood school. She referred to the proposed addition of the Disney II Magnet School to the Thurgood Marshall Middle School, proposing instead to utilize the space available at Thurgood Marshall to help the real public schools of the community.

Jackson Potter, of the CTU, remarked that the row of seats behind him at the podium used to be for parents, not functionaries. He said that the banks would be willing to renegotiate toxic swaps. He added that Garrett Morgan School has an elevator for Special Education students, but Ray School does not. He concluded, "Save our schools!"

Magdalene Thurmond, of Duprey School, spoke of the need for a well-rounded public school in the neighborhood. She added that schools are safe havens for children.

Alexander Roi, also of Duprey, asked that Board to "vote your conscience as if these were your children."

Sharon Taylor, of Granville T. Woods School at 62nd and Racine in Englewood, asked the Board, "Would you allow your children to go to Woods in Englewood?" She mentioned that Woods has been on probation for 17 years and has not had a functioning Local School Council (LSC) or Parent Action Committee (PAC). She wanted to know where the money was going. She added that a new police station at 63rd and Loomis is just out the back door of the school.

Nina Stoner, of West Pullman School, referred to the CPS formula for underutilization.

Yvonne Johnson, of Johnson College Prep, said she was a 1979 graduate of the school and added that her child attends Gary Comer and will attend Johnson College Prep in Englewood next. She added that the decision to send her child to a Noble Charter School was the "best decision I ever made, my child is in athletics, plays sax, and is on the honor roll with a 4.21 Grade Point Average (GPA)." She concluded, "I cannot apologize for the choice I made."

Keva Brown, a teacher at the Dewey Academy of Fine Arts, a school which is being reconstituted and turned-around, asked that the school be taken off the list. She listed the programs and the quality of staff at the school. She said that our children need stability, we've already turned our school around ourselves, and our staff is meeting the school needs. She asked the Board to reconsider.

(President David Vitale remarked that there is a lot of noise and it is disrespectful.)

Ladisha Stamps, a parent and an LSC member at Dewey School, opposes the turnaround of Dewey. She said that for the last three years, discretionary funds have been used for high-quality education. She named programs and staff qualifications. She asked the Board to "give us an additional year or two."

Matthew Johnson also spoke against the turnaround of Dewey School.He said the school may need additional support and asked that the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) approach be reviewed. He named the things that Dewey already has done to assure that the students excel and asked for more time.

Andrew Broy, of International Network of Charter Schools (INCS), said that today has the potential of a new era for Chicago. He said 600 charter school parents went to Springfield and other charter school parents will speak today.

Valerie Nelson, a parent and LSC member at Lafayette School and member of Stand for Children, said that now the children at Casals (turned around in 2012) are behaving. She said that last year she was an opponent of turnaround. She remarked that she was once against turnaround at Lafayette, too. She compared children having McDonald's and "loving it" to needing Whole Foods.

Erica Clark said she has no children in CPS, but she is opposed to every school action/closing on this list. She named all the schools that are scheduled to be closed in alphabetical order and sat down at the mic. Security lifted her and removed her as she fell limp. She lost one shoe. As she left with security, the crowd around her chanted, " Every school is my school" and repeatedly called and responded, "Whose school? My school!"

Albert Mendez, a Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) Irving Park School parent of three and member of the Avondale community on the Northwest side, supports charter schools. He asked the Board to "visit us at Irving Park. I will give a tour." He wants equal funding for charters and said unequal funding violates civil rights. He added that without choice, we would have to look elsewhere and walk away from Chicago. He repeated that he wants equal funding.

(Cheers from the audience)

Sophia Ragland, an LSC president at her school, opposes turnarounds.

Neredia Sanchez, of Noble Street Charter School, is grateful for choice and invited Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett to visit and tour. She said she is concerned with the attacks on charter schools and added, "Let's not forget the voices of the children on the waiting lists."

David Montgomery, a Science teacher at Calhoun North School, said it is a high-performing neighborhood school and should be labeled Level 1 according to CPS standards. He said the scores have increased and are better than charter schools which opened in 2009.

Jymetta Pensons, a PAC member at Mahalia Jackson School, spoke of keeping Mahalia Jackson open.

Antoinette Sea-Geralds, of Charter Parents United in West Englewood, has a daughter attending Gary Comer College Prep and stressed that it is a PUBLIC school. She spoke of a rally that was held on May 8 and of 53,000 postcards that were sent to CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, requesting equal funding for charters. She said she was tired of being blamed for the choice we made. She added that we are not for school closings, all we want is equal funding. (The audience booed.) She said that she has petitions signed by 10,000 parents asking for equal funding.

Keti Tuthorn, of Courtenay School, compared the closing of schools by CPS to "The Hunger Games." He said that 100% of eighth-graders are at or above on the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT). He offered an alternative plan to the closing and remarked, regarding Courtenay School, "I have a dream that there's one hero on Board."

Katie Reed, of Courtenay Elementary, had a proposal regarding Courtenay School and Stockton School. She said there are 200 on the waiting list and a principal is now being hired. She mentioned a December letter that said Courtenay would not be closed. She said that they were later blind-sided. She asked the Board to vote no today; a better plan is needed.

Rosemary Vega, of Layfayette School, (the audience responded "whooo!") asked CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to look at her while she talked to Barbara Byrd-Bennet. She spoke of discrimination against Lafayette and mentioned that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was a grandmother. She said, "You have grandchildren; think of these children. Look at your heart when it comes to attacking our children and hurting our community." She added that our community has come together and you (CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet) are discriminating.

(The audience chanted, "No school closings!")

Jeanne Olson, a parent and a member of Apples to Apples who has a background in consultation and research, compared utilization to a scalpel. She said Special Ed has been made invisible. She asked the Board to vote no on the closings if they are in doubt.

Mary Beth Cunat, principal at Wildwood School, said the school was overcrowded and is at 175% of capacity; the overcrowded situation is expected to continue through 2017 and mobile classrooms were supposed to be a temporary situation. Because of the overcrowding, she said they would lose their library, the students now eat in the gym but will eat in their classrooms next year, and the seventh and eighth grades will be combined next year.

Ursella Cherry, of Marcus Garvey School, remarked that data drives institutional practices. She said that she wants all students o be career and college-ready. She added that the Wall Street Journal recognized the school yesterday.

(At this point, Board President David Vitale corrected the camera section for talking.)

Stacy Godbold, of Marcus Garvey School, said that Marcus Garvey was a model for schools for social/emotional learning and that all students are mentored. There are PEACE centers in the hallways.

Wanda Wulburn, of the Harvard School of Excellence, said we are raping our children of their heritage. She asked that AUSL Schools, Harvard and Stagg, be considered and remarked that they are still public schools.

Karl Hubert, of the CTU, a teacher, and a citizen, referred to the court case "Brown versus The Board of Education." He said that the South pushed back against Brown versus The Board of Education by closing schools, rather than complying with the court decision. He added that "history does repeat itself." He quoted Plato and Aristotle regarding when we have justice.

Ronald Jackson, of Tilden School and an LSC and NAACP member, expressed concern that CPS didn't inform anyone of the sex offenders in the neighborhood. He said that 1,000 will be released from prison this year and asked, "Where's the CPS plan?" He said, because of complying with the adage, "If you See Something, Say Something," he was arrested.

(Cheers from the audience!)

Jaton Hould, of Overton School, said changes were made within the school to enhance education. He said he is not against Mollison School, but parents chose Overton, the academic scores were raised and they will keep fighting to the end.

(Applause and cheers from the audience)

C. J. Hawking, a United Methodist Pastor and member of Arise Chicago, told the Board, "You are not bound to any decision. You are free to vote against the closings of these schools." She said that the Montgomery bus owner had to make a decision to allow blacks to seat wherever they wanted in the bus, the captain of the Ohio National Guard had to make a decision not to shoot, Bull Connor had to make a decision not to have the dogs attack, and you (the Board) today have a moment to reconsider. She asked the Board to take a step back and show you care. She added, please note, our prayers are with you.

Marianna Chavez, a charter school parent and member of CPU, wrote a letter to a main local newspaper in the last few days regarding taxes and charter schools not getting their fair share.

Ebony Carr, a proud Bronzeville charter school supporter, spoke of her children who attend CISC Bucktown School. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that we look forward to meeting you.

(Someone called out, "The devil is a liar.")

Josh Radinsky, on the citywide LSC advisory board advised the Board to take a one-year hiatus, after multiple meetings with CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and members of the cabinet. He remarked that this is a policy for black children in Chicago. He called the closing plans a "hasty and distractive plan."

Anthony Williams, of Mayo School, asked the Board to reconsider. He said that our children cry every day, "Will our school close?" He said there is money for the Red Line, for Navy Pier, and for casinos. He asked, "What do you think will happen when you close these schools? Is this fair? You have a chance to stop this."

Michael Colwell, a seventh and eighth grade Math teacher at Ericson School, said the school is not under-performing or under-utilized. He asked that the Board give Ericson School a reprieve and thanked them for that. He likened the decision to close the schools to an educational death penalty.

Danielle Horton, of Westside Against All School Closings and LSC President at Marconi School, said that Marconi has higher scores than Tilton School and asked, "How is Tilton the receiving school? How come we weren't the receiving school?"

Lastly, Beverley Catherine stood arm-in-arm with her sister, Evelyn Mireles. She is a member of the Garrett Morgan School community and mentioned that Garrett Morgan was the inventor of the stoplight. She asked that Morgan School be taken off the list. She led a prayer, "Thank you, Lord, for Arnold Mireles for whom Mireles Academy was named, and asked that the Board be given the answers they are looking for. She concluded, "Guide us all."

This concluded public participation.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett then spoke of the closings and the Board's reasons for their decisions.

An officer representing the Chicago Police Department spoke of Safe Passage and the expansion of Safe Passage coverage to other agencies.

(Ronald Jackson repeated his previous statements and was escorted out.)

Chief Transformation Officer, Todd Babbitz, gave a power-presentation report on the numbers of hearings, hearing officers, etc.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett spoke again, pausing repeatedly, and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding "Doing what is right."

(Someone called out, "How do you sleep at night?")

Board President David Vitale spoke next, followed by comments from each Board member.

After this, a vote of the closings took place, with only the number from the Board agenda being read and voted on.

The meeting ended almost five hours after it began.

Chicago Board of Education votes to close 49 elementary schools, 'turnaround' five elementary schools, and force eleven schools into 'co-location' in the largest number of closings of real public schools in American history

George N. Schmidt
Substance News, May 22, 2013

The Chicago Board of Education voted at its May 22, 2013 meeting to close 49 elementary schools, 'turnaround' five elementary schools, and 'co-locate' eleven schools in the largest attack on the real public schools of a major American city in history. One speaker pointed out that the only precedent for the destruction of so many schools, most of which serve African American students, came in the segregationist South in the years following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, but Chicago schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett told the Board that she resented the implications that her recommendations were racist and quoted Martin Luther King Jr., telling the Board that they had to do what was "right."

Of the original "Hit List" of 53 schools, four were removed and one was re-scheduled to close in one year, rather than in June 2013. The other 48 schools will be closed in June 2013, and their students are supposed to go to so-called "welcoming schools."

The Board's vote came after the Board members voted individually against closing Marcus Garvey, Leif Ericson, Manierre, and Mahalia Jackson elementary schools. The Board also voted not to subject Barton Elementary School to "turnaround."

The dramatic vote came after seven months of protests that even CPS officials admitted mobilized more than 30,000 people who came out at hearings and in other forums in opposition to the move.

Prior to their vote, each of the six Board members gave a little speech about why he or she was doing the "right thing" by voting in favor of the massive Hit List.

The meeting itself was checkered with loud protests from speakers and the public, and more than a half dozen speakers were forcibly removed from the podium by Board security.

Prior to the vote, nine aldermen, the largest number in history to speak at a Board meeting, spoke in opposition to the closings.

Also speaking against the closings and other actions were Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union and Clarice Berry, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. Like Byrd Bennett, most of the top executives at CPS today are from out of town with no Chicago teaching or administrative experience. These include "Chief Transformation Officer" Todd Babbitz, who gave a Power Point presentation showing how CPS had straightened out problems noted by the hearing officers after the hearings on the proposed closings.

President Lewis' Statement on the Board's Decision to Close 50 Schools

Today is a day of mourning for the children of Chicago. Their education has been hijacked by an unrepresentative, unelected corporate school board, acting at the behest of a mayor who has no vision for improving the education of our children. Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy. Evidence shows that the underutilization crisis has been manufactured. Their own evidence also shows the school district will not garner any significant savings from closing these schools.

Click here to download photos from today's board meeting.

"This is bad governance. CPS has consistently undermined school communities and sabotaged teachers and parents. Their actions have had a horrible domino effect. More than 40,000 students will lose at least three to six months of learning because of the Board's actions. Because many of them will now have to travel into new neighborhoods to continue their schooling, some will be victims of bullying, physical assault and other forms of violence. Board members are wishing for a world that does not exist and have ignored the reality of the world we live in today. Who on the Board will be held responsible? Who at City Hall will be held responsible?

"Members of the Board of Education, the school CEO, the mayor and their corporate backers are on the wrong side of history. History will judge them for the tragedy they have inflicted upon our students; and it will not be kind.

"Our fight for education justice has now moved to the courts, but it must eventually move to the ballot box. The parents are amazing leaders in their school communities and because of this administration's actions we have all become closer and more united. We must resist this neoliberal savagery masquerading as school reform. We must resist racism in all of its forms as well as the escalating attacks on the working class and the poor. Our movement will continue."

Chicago School Closings: The Largest in US History

by Diane Ravitch

Never in U.S. history has a local school board -- or any other board, appointed or elected -- chosen to close 49 public schools.


That's what the Chicago Public Schools did yesterday.

Thousands of parents, students, and teachers objected, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his puppet board didn't care.

Yesterday was a day of infamy in Chicago and in the history of American education.

School boards exist to protect, improve, and support public schools, not to kill them.

The New York Times has written about this story and twice said that the school closings were the largest "in recent memory." The Times wrote this despite my telling them -- twice -- that these were the largest mass closure ever. I wish the reporters would explain whose "memory" they were relying on. Just yesterday I explained in an email that no public school district had ever closed 49 schools at one time. On this issue, the "Times" is not the newspaper of record but the newspaper of "recent memory."

Why does it matter? The phraseology removes the truly historic destruction that Rahm Emanuel is inflicting on children and schools in his city. He is wantonly destroying public education. He is punishing the teachers' union for daring to strike last fall. He will open more charter schools, staffed by non-union teachers, to pick up the kids who lost their neighborhood schools. Some of them will be named for the equity investors who fund his campaigns.

Rahm and his friends will laugh about the way he displaced 40,000 kids.

Erasing History In Chicago and Other Places

by Mark Naison

May 23, 2013

The Chicago School closings are part and parcel of a strategy for remaking the American metropolis as a center for spatial and economic transformations which will further cement economic inequality. One key component of this strategy is demographic inversion- moving the poor out of the center city into the periphery, where they will no longer be able to physically or politically threaten the global elites who will be working and playing in the redeveloped Center. This process is already well under way in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington and Milwaukee- with the result being that more poor people now live in suburbs than in cities- but for poor people who remain in cities, the elite's preferred strategy is intrusive, "stop and frisk" policing and the transformation of public schools into sites of draconian discipline where compliance and obedience are the preferred behaviors, strategies taken to the highest point of perfection by some of the nation's most celebrated charter schools.

Where do school closings fit in this elaborate strategy to scatter and neutralize the poor? Public schools in poor neighborhoods, even those whose test scores mark them as "failing," are important centers of community life, places where different generations of people interact and mark their connection to historical space. They contain memories of families raised, community arts forms celebrated, sports victories won, powerful friendships forged. If you ignore those experiences and reduce the school to its failures, you erase a communities history and make that community easier to divide and disperse

Underlying School Closings is a world view which marks off residents of poor communities, not just the schools in them as failures, people who have to be dispersed, incarcerated, disciplined and divided for the Global Metropolis to prosper

It reveals the profound moral bankruptcy and cynicism pervading neo-liberal economic policies, whether they have a Democratic or Republican facade.

— multiple authors
Substance News and multiple blogs




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