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;


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