Rahm Emanuel’s Reform of the Chicago Public Schools


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty-(Rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We often hear the term “school reform” used often by politicians of all stripes.  Chicago’s politicians are no different when it comes to talking about and taking action on so-called school reform.  Recently, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is a big fan of the charter school program and a former investment banker, decided that the best way to “reform” Chicago Public Schools was to close 49 schools and terminate 550 teachers and another 300 school staff employees!

“On June 14, the Chicago Public Schools sent layoff notices to 850 school employees, including 550 teachers. The layoffs will hit hardest at those teachers working in African-American and Latino communities. These are the communities that were targeted in the system’s recent decision to close 49 schools – the largest single school closure in US history.” Truth-out What is interesting to me is that while Mayor Emanuel has hammered the Chicago Public School teachers union and Chicago Public schools, he has made sure that Charter schools will be a big player in the City of Chicago.

“Emanuel, a former Congressman and investment banker, has become a darling of the US education reform lobby by implementing its demands for privatizing the public education system through establishing charter schools – privately owned, for-profit schools that receive public financing – by attacking the CTU, and most recently, by pushing forward the huge school closure.

The number of charter schools – which receive public money while being freed of many work and collective-bargaining rules – has doubled in Chicago since 2005, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. There are now about 100 of them in the city. The Emanuel administration has called for 60 new charter schools by 2017. ”  Truth-Out

While no one will argue that the Chicago Public Schools do not need improvements, why is it that politicians insist that educating our children should be done by for-profit corporations?  Mayor Emanuel is actually continuing a “reform” program first initiated by Mayor Richard Daley and now Education Secretary, Arne Duncan.

“Daley began the privatization of the school system by closing so-called “underperforming” schools, mostly in black and Latino neighborhoods, and firing large numbers of teachers. Between 2001 and last year, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district closed about 100 schools. Arne Duncan, the CEO of CPS during many of those years, was appointed Secretary of Education by President Barack Obama, who himself rose out of the Chicago political system.” Truth-Out

Is it just a coincidence that most of the schools closed by the last two Mayoral administration’s were in black and Latino neighborhoods?  Are the charter schools a way of attacking the Chicago Teachers Union?  The problems that the CTU and Mayor Emanuel had during the last strike were well documented.  The Teachers Union now has 550 fewer members and there may be more terminations to come. Round 1 to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Why are charter schools the latest rage in the education arena?  Why would alderman and mayors around the country be sold on the idea of for profit education, paid for by taxpayer money?  What facts did the Emanuel administration use to make its claim that Chicago needed to engage in the largest single school closure in history?

“Critics accused the board of using false and misleading claims to justify the closures. They say 46,000 students, not 30,000, will be affected. The board claims public schools had lost 145,000 students. In reality, enrollment had declined by 75,000, and 47,000 of those students had gone to charter schools, making the real figure 28,000. Most of Chicago’s student losses occurred 30-40 years ago at the height of deindustrialization. The school district claimed what it said was a $1 billion deficit made closures necessary, but in fact, since students don’t disappear and other schools will require more funding, there will be no cost savings from the closures.” Truth-Out

If I understand the numbers correctly, the Mayor may have used bogus numbers to make his claim that public schools needed to be closed en mass while Charter schools are increasing in number.  Could the lower average teacher salaries at charter schools be part of the reason Emanuel and other politicians are fawning over the alleged promise of charter schools?

At least one study provided numbers that seems to claim that charter school’s promise of improvement is all wet.  Especially when you compare apples to apples.  “Research on charter schools paints a mixed picture. A number of recent national studies have reached the same conclusion: charter schools do not, on average, show greater levels of student achievement, typically measured by standardized test scores, than public schools, and may even perform worse.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found in a 2009 report that 17% of charter schools outperformed their public school equivalents, while 37% of charter schools performed worse than regular local schools, and the rest were about the same. A 2010 study by Mathematica Policy Research found that, on average, charter middle schools that held lotteries were neither more nor less successful than regular middle schools in improving student achievement, behavior, or school progress. Among the charter schools considered in the study, more had statistically significant negative effects on student achievement than statistically significant positive effects. These findings are echoed in a number of other studies.” Education Justice

If for profit charter schools are not performing better than public schools why would politicians be in favor of them?  The best answer I have to that question is to repeat the statement made by the infamous “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame.  “Follow the Money”!

Mayor Emanuel, have you no shame?

Additional References:  Edudemic.com;  Washington Post;


151 thoughts on “Rahm Emanuel’s Reform of the Chicago Public Schools”

  1. YES follow the money. ALWAYS follow the money. Common Core, Charter Schools, Vouchers etc. All for the money machine not education. And lets not forget one other thing. CONTROL. The federal government wants COMPLETE control of our children. Charter Schools do not have elected school boards. They promise the parents control instead of the school board but truth be known. Once they shut down all the public schools and eliminate all elected school boards they will shut the doors to the parents like a bank vault. And who will you go to…….Rahm Emanuel. Think again folds. Control of your kids is what they want and unfortunately parents will probably give it up willingly. We have fallen right into their hands. We have children then willingly hand them over to day care and then school. Parents of today think all they have to do is have the kids and then hand the responsibility of raising them over to someone else. Heck they even think it is my job to pay for their daycare. I say if you cannot afford to stay home and raise you kids you shouldn’t be having them in the first place. If you go to work and cannot afford daycare then DO NOT HAVE THEM. it is not my job or the governments job to raise your kids!!!

  2. RWL,
    DOMA should never have become law in the first place. Clinton should have vetoed it even if his veto might have been overridden.

  3. Also, FWIW, I agree on the Pledge issue. I quit saying it grade school. It’s nationalistic statist bullshit. At least a pledge based on the Constitution would be a pledge to principles. That I’d be down with.

  4. Bron,

    Methinks you are mistaking authoritarianism and totalitarianism. While authoritarianism is usually a feature of a totalitarian state, the authority they may indoctrinate fealty to is not always the state, but often an individual (see dictatorships). However, if your concern is the indoctrination of children into authoritarianism on the road to totalitarianism? Today, that may be a legitimate concern, however, such a component of public education is not required and most certainly wasn’t how things were done when I was in grammar and secondary schools.

  5. Gene H:

    No, all I am saying is that all totalitarian states teach subservience to the state, to the leader, to the collective or society if you will. It is a mark of a totalitarian society.

    I dont even like the pledge of allegiance. If we pledge allegiance to anything it should be to the Constitution.

  6. Bron, Presumably there’s a visitor’s list in these gents electronic jail. I’ll make sure I put you on it. Could you smuggle in some good prosciutto? It really would be fascinating to see what the rules in their jail would be like.

  7. Bron,

    You seem to assume that subservience to the state is a prerequisite component of a public education. I’m a product of both public and private education and, although loyal to the Constitution, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a subservient bone in my body. That wasn’t just a product of private schools. Then again, when I was in school, they taught Civics.

  8. nick:

    If you got busted and went into electronic jail, I would miss your anecdotes.

  9. lottakatz:

    your answer is what I fundamentally disagree with.

    Totalitarian societies are very big on teaching subservience to the state and that individual desires are selfish and base.

    The Declaration says we have a natural right to pursue our happiness. He is talking about the individual, not about society.

  10. Swarthmore mom,

    We were fortunate. We sold our house without a broker. The sister of one of my best friends bought it.

    I wish you luck. Real estate values have been rising steadily in my neck of the woods. There have been bidding wars. Some of the houses are going above asking price. One of my friends sold her condo in Somerville (MA) in less than a week for $20,000 above asking price.

  11. Elaine M. Good to see you, Elaine. We are still in the fixing up and getting rid of stuff phase. Currently waiting for the painters to show. Hope to have the house on the market soon.

  12. Like I said, nick. Call it a hobby.

    You seem to keep mistaking that I care about your opinion of me though and keep making it personal with words like “control freak”.

    I love the blog and I love the few rules it has that allow it to function in a way practically unique on the web. Naturally it follows that I’d be interested in seeing the rules complied with. Fairly obvious, really.

    The control you chafe against is the control of the rules. Rules which protect the otherwise huge freedom encouraged here from needless disruption. Disruption of the kind you’ve seemingly been bent on since your arrival. Rules that most everyone else has no issue with complying with when participating in this community.

  13. No I am not arguing against publicly funded education… I don’t think tax dollars should be used at charter or private schools…..

    I’m just saying what I recall from school… That’s all… I was aghast….

    In as much as the thought about owing land… You just have a better right to it than the next guy….. But if you don’t pay your taxes or the government decides they want it… They can take it….

  14. rafflaw,

    My granddaughter is napping at the moment. I thought I’d take a little time out of my schedule today and spend it on the blog. We’re still not completely settled in here. There’s lots of “stuff”–including furniture–that we still have to get rid of. It’s a good thing we have a big barn where we can store some of that stuff.

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