Our posting of March 29 (“Hit Again”), about the mistakes being made in the guise of reforming education, struck a nerve with readers.  And since then, writers with wider audiences have offered similar commentaries, including DeWayne Wickham writing for Gannett as his words appeared on LSJ.com on April 3, 2013:

“The fight against public school closings has become the new civil rights battle in this country – and rightfully so.  Faced with a billion dollar budget deficit, Chicago’s public school system is the most recent urban district to announce a massive closure of schools.  The city intends to shutter 61 elementary buildings, nearly all of them in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

“That’s a penny-wise-and-pound-foolish decision that condemns the neighborhoods surrounding these soon-to-be-boarded-up schools to further decline.  ‘We have resources that are spread much too thin,’ Todd Babbitz, the chief transformation officer (no kidding that’s his title) of Chicago’s troubled school system, told the Chicago Tribune.  Over the next decade, school officials predict that these closings will save the school system $560 million.  But first the city will have to spend $233 million to move students into classrooms elsewhere.

“Even if the school closings actually produce savings, the damage they will produce to the neighborhoods left without public schools will be catastrophic.  While poverty and crime have decimated the population of many inner city neighborhoods, shutting down schools in those troubled areas will depopulate them even faster.  The result will be a growing expanse of urban wastelands that could well deepen the budget deficits of the cities that are closing public schools.

“Politicians and school officials must be challenged to justify their school closing decision beyond the deal making of Chicago’s City Council.  The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division is investigating complaints that claim the decisions of several urban school districts amount to a civil rights violation.  If the school closings don’t violate the letter of the law, they sure seem to trample upon its spirit.  For example, officials in Chicago and elsewhere should turn these school buildings into hubs for nonprofit organizations and other public services.  Why not use the empty space to house police substatations, public health clinics, recreation centers and a mayor’s station?

“School systems in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Newark have announced plans to close public schools, and in every case blacks and Hispanics will bear the biggest burden of these cost-cutting measures.  These decisions signal an indifference to the damage such policy decisions will have on the neighborhoods.

“‘If we don’t make these changes, we haven’t lived up to our responsibility as adults to the children of the city of Chicago,’ Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.  That’s a pretty shortsighted analysis of a problem that will render large swaths of Chicago’s black and Hispanic neighborhoods uninhabitable education wastelands.”


# Steve
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 5:08 PM
Blacks and Hispanics have suffered for decades under the old system. This is pure fact.

Keeping failing schools open serves only those who would benefit most: the MEA. Fighting reform shows an inability to let go of a system very fruitful to MEA - who seeks to keep dues contribution at the maximum rate so more money can continue to be funneled into political races to elect politicians who will vow to keep things just as they are in return for those political contributions. It could not be more obvious.

Recent emailing by superintendents across the state cherry picked data to make a false, and frankly dishonest, case for charter failure. Aside from being dishonest, it was a remarkably inappropriate use of school property and funding as no opposing opinions could be considered. This was no accident - opposing voices are not welcome in the education community, from the superintendent to the union janitor.

It's our moeney. We deserve accountability and not to be shut out of the debate by arrogant administrators.

Brad Snowball
# Brad Snowball
Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:41 PM
There's a common theme here. Take a close look at the administrations of these cities under discussion in this article. They are all about centralized government control, wealth transfer through higher taxes for social programs and failure to hold constituents and public servants responsible for bad behavior, poor decisions and inept performance. They will be the first to demand increases in school funding, when examples abound where unrealistic increases in spending per pupil have not improved the end product.

Those who have the means are fleeing these environments and those who do not are stuck there, which ultimately feeds the vicious cycle of perpetual poverty. Until taxpayers rise up and realize they are being grouped (and duped) for political advantage, until they demand better from their "leaders" and until they set higher standards for themselves and vote these people out of office, these are the outcomes we can expect as a cause and effect.

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