by Michael Wille
Following a contentious 7 hour hearing on Wednesday, the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to turn around 10 failing schools and close or phase out 7 others. These schools had been seriously under performing over the last 5 years even with increased financial support from the city and the state. Nevertheless, protestors at the meeting lambasted the board’s actions. Rev. Jesse Jacksondecried the outcome saying “this is Little Rock, 1957.” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewiscondemned the decision as one of “educational apartheid.” Dyett School Council member Juit Brownsaid, “It’s racist and we expected it.”
CPS officials reacted differently. CEO Jean Claude-Brizard said the process was “the most respectful” he had ever seen. Former state superintendent and current board vice president Jesse Ruiz offered the following explanation:
“There’s been a record of these schools not performing and not serving our students as well as they should for years. And that’s unfortunate. It’s also unfortunate there are more schools like them. The worst thing I felt bad about today is that we couldn’t do this for more kids.”
Despite a lack of measureable progress and improved quality by the 17 schools, the union and other community activists plan on fighting the closures, taking their case to both the state legislature and the courts. That’s disappointing news for students trapped in other failing and poorly performing public schools. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on costly court cases and lobbyists, the union should take a radically different approach to help the city’s underprivileged students. This includes supporting reforms that are consistently getting results: effective charter schools like the Noble Street Network, targeted opportunity scholarships and innovative digital learning programs.
The divisive rhetoric of the past needs to end immediately and be replaced with a grown-up conversation that puts children first.