Chicago Shows How Charter School Profiteering Bleeds Public Schools Without No Performance Improvement and Higher Segregation

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By Steven Rosenfeld who covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016. Originally published at Alternet

Chicago’s public school system has become a showcase for the negative effects of K-12 privatization, according to a new report that tracks how the city replaced struggling local schools with dozens of charters that didn’t perform better, yet deprived traditional schools of funds, students and public accountability.

The report, “Closed by Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools,” tracks 108 charter schools that opened between 2000 and 2015, a period when Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was shutting struggling schools, cutting district funding and reducing staff. It details and confirms what many charter critics have long said, that lobbying from pro-privatization forces swayed the city’ political leaders to impose top-down reforms that riled neighborhoods, undermined traditional K-12 schools, increased segregation and did not lead to schools with better academic results.

Perhaps most insidiously, the report describes in great detail how the CPS system aggressively shut down struggling schools in neighborhoods where student numbers were dwindling, while allowing better-funded charters to open up nearby, taking a greater share of taxpayer funds that might have been used to rescue struggling schools. The report was written by Roosevelt University’s associate professor of sociology Stephanie Farmer, Loyola University PhD candidate Ashley Baber and University of Illinois PhD candidate Chris Poulos.

“CPS’ approach to saturating neighborhoods with declining school-age population with new charter schools is stripping all middle- class, working-class and lower-income children, families, and communities of education security, where schools are rendered insecure by budgetary cuts, deprivation, or closure,” the report’s conclusion begins. “Education insecurity is the product of the school reform agenda focused on cannibalizing the neighborhood public schools in order to convert CPS into a privatized ‘choice’ school system.”

“While new charter schools continue to proliferate in low demand neighborhoods, all CPS neighborhood public schools experience debilitating budget cuts that lead to the elimination of teaching professionals and enriching curriculum,” it continues. “The most vulnerable communities are stripped of their public school, or their remaining neighborhood public school is rendered unstable by the proximity of new charter schools.”

The impact of these decade-long policies is clear, the authors say, calling for a charter school moratorium in the city, more oversight and public accountability for the charters, and abolition of the state’s charter school authorizing commission.

“Working- and middle-class children are also not getting the resources they need, like relief from overcrowded conditions,” the report says. “The cuts and deprivation across CPS neighborhood public schools underscore the problem of opening too many new schools in a system caught in the vice grips of austerity—there are not enough funds to provide all schools with the resources needed to succeed.”

Report Excerpts

Chicago Public Schools currently has 131 charter schools with over 58,000 students (approximately 15% of the city school district). They get the same per pupil allocation as neighborhood public schools, but also tap federal, state and local grants, private foundation grants, and private fundraising. For the 2015-’16 school year, CPS charter schools received over $700 million in tax dollars, the report says.

What follows are 11 excerpts from the report that support its conclusions.

1. CPS charters are privately run. “In exchange for these tax dollars, a charter operator enters into a three- to five-year contract with CPS to operate a school. Charter schools are not operated by the Chicago Public Schools central office but rather are privately operated and controlled. They have their own board of directors. Charters do not have to abide to the same accountability and transparency standards that public schools are expected to follow. Charters are largely autonomous from the Chicago Board of Education, CPS central office mandates, elected Local School Councils, and public accountability standards regulating traditional public schools.”

2. The city shut under-used schools. The report describes how the Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) created a metric to close schools with fewer students than might otherwise be optimal, and then situated new charters in those same neighborhoods.

“Using the CBOE ‘under-utilization’ metric, [Democratic] Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel shuttered 49 so-called underutilized schools, almost 10% of CPS’ entire school stock. Mayor Emanuel justified the massive closures as a strategy to contend with CPS’ billion-dollar deficit because, as the Chicago Tribunereported, ‘they could not afford to keep operating deteriorating schools with dwindling student populations in the face of a billion-dollar budget deficit.’ Like previous waves of closures, 90% of impacted students were African American.”

3. The mayor sided with billionaire privateers. The report describes how the city’s political elite fell under the spell of the charter industry’s billionaire sponsors, in this case Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates is among many billionaire entrepreneurs who believe that charters can remake public education in ways that mimic corporate success stories, including a major emphasis on teaching to the test—a reflection of Silicon Valley’s metric-centric values. Traditional educators say teaching needs to be more individualized and nuanced. Here’s how the report describes Chicago’s open-ended embrace of charters and Gates, starting with shutting schools over local protests.

“The large number of school closures generated significant parent, school, and community protests. In response to the political fallout, CPS committed to a five-year moratorium on district-operated school closures. Soon after the 2013 school closures, it became apparent that CPS had no real commitment to ‘right sizing’ the school system. At the same time it was mulling over which of its 129 ‘underutilized’ schools to close in 2012, CBOE entered into the District–Charter Collaboration Compact with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this relationship, CPS agreed to open another 60 charter schools in the next five years, even as CPS enrollments were shrinking and existing charter schools could not fill 11,000 vacant seats in their schools. Many of the 40 new charter schools opened since the Gates Compact agreement have been located within 1.5 miles of the 49 public schools closed due to low enrollments.”

4. Many charter impacts, starting with more segregation. The report found what is often the case in communities with charters; that they lead to more segregated schools, as low-income parents seeking the best for their kids respond to industry marketing efforts. The schools, in turn, cherry-pick students, which means they are frequently rejecting special needs children, whether those with disabilities or whose primary language is not English. Those kids are then pushed back into traditional public schools, whose budgets have been undermined by charters.

Here’s how the report discussed this trend in Chicago, starting with the resulting segregation:

“Charter schools are open to all students across the city without entrance exams or tuition. Students must apply to enroll in the school. If there are more applicants than available seats in a charter school, the school must hold a citywide lottery to pick its student body. As such, charter schools do not have to admit local neighborhood children. As a result of this self-selecting application process, charters are more segregated by race and class compared to neighborhood public schools.”

Here’s how the charters cherry-pick students and push more challenging students back to traditional K-12 schools:

“Charter schools also have a history of excluding student English language learners and students with special needs; expelling students for discipline policy violations at 10 times the rate of CPS expulsions; and “counseling-out” poor test takers by nudging these students to drop out and enroll in another school.”

5. Charter academics no better than public schools. While there have been charter success stories, the industry as a whole has not met its over-hyped results. This is a key part of charters’ typical sales pitch to political officials like Chicago’s mayor, who embraced them rather than invest in the harder work of improving traditional schools. Reporters from the city’s newspapers and journalism schools found charters were no better than the schools they replaced. Here’s how they put it:

“Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the Chicago Sun-Timesdetermined that the average Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores by elementary students at charter schools and neighborhood schools in Chicago ‘were in a virtual tie on the reading and math exams.’ Neighborhood schools made stronger gains in reading growth and just slightly higher gains in math growth, relative to charter school growth. In the aggregate, Chicago’s charter and neighborhood public schools have similar levels of student test performance. Any differences in either direction tend to be slight.”

6. Charters seriously disrupt neighborhoods. This finding is the one that most often gets overlooked in the public policy debates about charters and K-12 school reform. Nobody wants to see troubled schools in their community. But instead of taking steps to improve the struggling schools, the city imposed a heavy-handed solution that in many cases did not even include serving the neighborhood’s children.

“Our data shows that between 2000 and 2015, CPS closed 167 neighborhood public schools. Since 42 of the 167 closed schools were ‘turn-around’ schools and were reopened as neighborhood public schools, we excluded those from the total number of neighborhood public schools that stayed closed to the neighborhood’s children. We count the 15 neighborhood public schools that were closed and reopened as new public schools with some kind of exclusive enrollment criteria as closed neighborhood public schools. We also count the 31 closed neighborhood public school buildings that were reopened as new charter schools as closed neighborhood public schools.”

7. Charters undermining surrounding K-12 schools. This pattern is not unique to Chicago, but it’s happening on a large scale there. Because the city placed its charters in neighborhoods with shrinking student populations, they are drawing some students away from nearby traditional schools. That, in turn, undermines programs in those traditional schools by virtue of diverted per-pupil taxpayer funding.

Here’s how the report discussed this trend:

“The largely unplanned saturation of charters in neighborhoods experiencing distress from declining population during the Ren10 years [mostly since 2000] contributed to low enrollments in nearby CPS schools that were later used to justify closing neighborhood public schools. Spatial proximity of new charter schools to closed schools matters. Since charter schools draw their student populations from the surrounding neighborhoods, public schools were forced to compete for students in neighborhoods with declining population. Even if there is not a direct one-on-one, or unilineal, relationship between a new charter and declining enrollments at the most proximate neighborhood school, these charter schools will nonetheless capture some share of children from the surrounding neighborhoods.”

8. Charters don’t follow the rules set for other schools. Part of the sales pitch by education privateers is that charters should be freed from government regulations and allowed to innovate. What that often means—apart from creating a management class where fiscal self-dealing has become a national pattern—is charters don’t have to follow the same rules and accountability standards as traditional K-12 schools. Here’s how they put it when the issue was deciding which schools would be forcibly shut down or stay open:

“CPS appears to have operated with a double standard by determining whether a neighborhood public school should remain open based on utilization factors while CPS did not adhere to this standard when rolling out new charter schools. Instead, CPS opened new charter schools in areas that were experiencing distress from declining population and school closures. In other words, CPS was not concerned about ‘right-sizing’ the system when it came to opening new charter schools in neighborhoods already under distress.”

The report strongly suggests that political decisions were made to tip the balance in favor of privatization by Chicago’s establishment. It continues:

“Furthermore, it is questionable whether there was a need for the new charter schools opened in the 2010s. During the 2010 and 2015 period, existing charters were not filling their seats. While it is the case that somecharters have more applicants than available seats, other charters have an abundance of empty seats. Illinois Raise Your Hand (RYH), in conjunction with Apples to Apples, conducted their own independent investigation of CPS data, looking at student enrollment in charter schools. Using CPS’ underutilization standard, Apples to Apples determined that in the 2012-2013 school year ’47 percent of CPS charter and contract schools had student populations below the CPS threshold for ideal enrollment.’ This meant that nearly 11,000 seats in charter schools remained empty as the city was closing 10% of public schools while opening another 40 new charter schools.”

9. Opening unneeded schools—and giving them more money. Here the report shows how corruption unfolds with serious anti-democratic consequences. It’s not enough that Chicago charters were given the go-ahead to open in areas where the city’s standards wouldn’t allow traditional schools to do likewise. The city decided to allocate more money for charters than for traditional schools—even in a budget crisis where traditional K-12 schools were facing funding cuts. Here’s how they put it:

“In 2012, Chicago Public Schools implemented a 5% increase in per-pupil allocation for charter operation expenses and a large increase in the per pupil stipend to cover charter facility expenses. The increase to charters’ per pupil allocation occurred at the same time CPS cut $100 million from neighborhood public schools. While neighborhood public high schools experienced a 14% decline in their budgets (even though student enrollments only declined by 2%), charter schools enjoyed a 12% budget increase (even though they were enrolling 10% more students).”

10. Helping charters buy buildings the public won’t own. This is another dimension of how charters have a dark underbelly of fiscal self-dealing with no parallel in the traditional K-12 sphere. The charters, using a mix of for-profit and non-profit arms, tap public funds to acquire real estate they end up owning. Here’s how the report describes that giveaway:

“The public not only finances charter school operations but it is also on the hook for paying for charter school facilities. Charter schools acquire their school buildings through a variety of mechanisms: some rent their building from a non-CPS source, some lease from CPS, and others pay for new construction. Charters that rent from a non-CPS source receive a per pupil allocation from CPS to cover the rent. When charter networks opt to construct a new building, they too get a per pupil allocation to cover the cost of the facility. Since taxpayer dollars are the primary revenue source used to pay back charter bonds, charter school debt is effectively off-the-books public debt. However, the public does not have ownership rights of charter school buildings. Rather, charter operators retain ownership. Since charters contribute to the conditions where public schools are closed, the public is effectively paying for new and to some degree redundant privately-owned schools while their existing public buildings are being shuttered.”

11. Meanwhile, Chicago ignores overcrowded K-12 schools. This is another insidious result from the warped educational landscape charters have brought to Chicago. While there’s taxpayer money for privatized schools, there’s a corresponding lack of public funds available to help dozens of traditional schools deal with overcrowded classrooms and sub-standard facilities. Here’s how they put it:

“The impact of stretching limited funds across multiple schools contributes to school closure and budget cuts but it also impacts overcrowded schools. CPS has 68 overcrowded schools that cannot get the resources they need to educate their children. Overcrowded classroom conditions can be claustrophobic, noisy and prevent the teacher from having sufficient one-on-one time with each student. For example, the Better Government Association identified Avalon Park Elementary School on the South Side as one of the most egregious examples of overcrowded classroom conditions, where in 2015, they had a kindergarten class with 51 children and a first-grade room with 48 kids. To relieve overcrowding in schools, schools often resort to drastic measures such as holding classes in hallways, closets and even staircases.”

Conclusions

The report’s authors note that the issues Chicago faces are a microcosm of national trends. There has been no shortage of local activism that’s called on the city’s school chiefs to refocus their priorities and reinvest in traditional neighborhood schools, they point out. In 2016, voters in two Chicago wards approved non-binding resolutions calling for a citywide moratorium on new charters. This is the proposal that the NAACP’s national board of directors called for last year and is also supported by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Perhaps no one should be surprised that billionaires like Bill Gates can exert disproportionate influence in public policy arenas—even when Democrats are the governing class, as is the case in Chicago. Charters have also prospered in deep-blue California, despite vigorous protests from labor unions and community groups. The report shows how Chicago’s political leaders have given the industry a veritable blank check. Look at how they describe what charters need to do to get approved:

“There is no citywide school facilities plan that determines where the most need is for new charters. As the process works today in Chicago, when charter schools apply for a charter license, they do not have to include a specific address where they will locate the school. The Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) blindly approves new charters without determining if there is a need in that neighborhood or if it is best fit for the overall school system. The lack of planning is one of the reasons why redundant charter schools have saturated neighborhoods with declining school age populations.”

This is how education privatization works. There’s nothing stopping Bill Gates and all the regional and national education franchises from investing in private schools. They simply don’t want to. Instead, they want a slice of the billions taxpayers are spending each year to educate a community’s children. Right now in Chicago, as this latest report shows, that is $700 million annually creating more problems than solutions in public education.

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34 comments

    1. George S

      NC articles are evidently written on the fly with no editing. Multiple verbs, no verbs, strange constructions–it makes for very irritating reading, as one reads multiple sentences over and over again.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, we have no budget. You act as if we can afford editors. Where did you get that idea?

        Do you contribute to the site? I see no evidence that you do. So no bitching about a free service.

        Did you notice when this article was posted, as in the middle of the night? Have you missed my saying I have no personal life, am chronically time stressed, and on the verge of burnout? I am at the limit of what I can do physically. If you find our writing offends your sensibilities, you should read another site.

        Other blogs have occasional mangled formatting and even headlines. I’ve even seen an ungrammatical headline on the front page of the New York Times and grammar errors in other MSM pubs which do have paid editors. Get over it.

        And the fact that the headline had an extra verb didn’t show in the backstage, which is where posts are written and edited. The headline is a separate field, and it only shows as few words, so I can’t view long headlines in full when editing.

        Reply
        1. MB

          Kudos, Yves, for everything you do. NC sets the bar incredibly high for independent reporting, independent thought, detailed assessments and hard hitting analysis. I do hope George S contributes 1/10th in his lifetime that you have done.

          PS, please take care of yourself and don’t burn out. Take a vacation. You are a bright light in this world.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I’m sorry I got snippy, but there are polite and less polite ways to flag our too-frequent typos, and the comment above was in the not nice category.

            Reply
        2. SeanL

          Maybe subconscious counter-signaling – typos signal quality commentary so good you don’t need to worry about typos.

          Reply
        3. Sue

          None of the sporadic typos have ever impeded my comprehending the articles. Additionally, hypercorrect English tends to sign that the writer works excessively for the grammatical structure instead of the structure working for her. George S,although this one seems to be a very inclusive blog, perhaps is not the cup of tea for you to sip

          Reply
          1. Sue

            “tends to sign”
            -was I mocking grammarian George S?
            -was I careless & tired & meant to say “tends to signal”?
            -did I purposely create a new figure of speech?
            The only definite thing is that Yves does her best & her best is pretty good

            Reply
  1. Larry

    The conclusion nicely wraps up what the charter school movement is really about, especially when combined with the teach to the test mania. Giving rich investors a slice of the public funds that go into public education via direct control and ownership and secondly by requiring a high IT burden to administer and score in school tests. Double bonus in that it undermines a solidly middle class and slightly progressive class of workers in public school teachers, who have proven to be a powerful political force in Chicago and other cities.

    Reply
  2. Will Shetterly

    Typos in headline: “Without No”. “Undermines Bleeds”

    Makes it harder to tweet!

    Reply
    1. hemeantwell

      Chicago Shows How Charter School Profiteering Undermines Bleeds Public Schools Without No Performance Improvement and Higher Segregation

      eek. It’s as though the headline reflects a dismal charter school education (smiley). How about “Chicago Shows How Charter School Profiteering Bleeds Public Schools and Leads to No Performance Improvement and Higher Segregation.”

      Reply
  3. Jim Haygood

    Cognitive dissonance:

    Penultimate paragraph: “There is no citywide school facilities plan.

    Final paragraph: “This is how education privatization works.

    Why would Bill Gates “invest” in public schools when their management is broken and lacks any incentive to improve?

    It’s awfully hard to sell Chicago public schools on the merits when their pension underfunding is so drastic that it may eventually bankrupt the city.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      Maybe Gates would be better off “investing” his money in improved management, teacher pay, and community involvement. Instead of encouraging the denouement of publicly funded schools by promoting his “uneducated” ideas on how to teach children. The solution to “broken management” is NOT private grifting of public funds, but improved community involvement, awareness, and better administrators (with incentives). Something the Charter School model does not proof the rule.

      And the merits of CPS has little to do with pension underfunding. Teachers have kept their part of the bargain with their monthly payments into the system. It is city/state politicians, and inept pension administrators, that have put the system “underwater”.

      Reply
  4. SeanL

    I’m really surprised at the lack of electoral support for public education in the USA. In Australia the conservative Federal government has had to roll over and support a redistribution of funding toward low socio-economic schools and reaffirm its support for public schools. (Federal budget tonight)

    If interested I’ve done quick blog post on some of my research into social preferences of Australian parents – part of a larger study into the behavioural economics behind how parents choose schools -> Australian parents seem to be in general strongly egalitarian.

    https://themisbehavingeconomist.com/2017/05/09/social-preferences-of-australian-parents/

    Reply
    1. Mickey Hickey

      In Canada Primary and Secondary education is a Provincial responsibility. In 7 provinces the schools are not religion based. In 3 provinces the schools fall into two categories Public (secular) and Roman Catholic. This is based on laws drawn up to establish confederation in 1867. Funding is composed of 50% coming from Provincial general revenue and 50% from property taxes where the taxpayer opts for Public or RC. Under no circumstances can a taxpayer funded school charge extra. School Boards span municipal boundaries which reduces the opportunities to favour or penalise low, moderate or high income groups. Teachers are usually paid a flat rate over wide areas and schools are maintained to the same standard over similar areas. In my opinion a school where the teacher and maintenance costs are equealized is as good as its student intake. Competition of parents to move to high performing school catchment areas in high priced neighbourhoods is intense. Presumably children of parents who will move heaven and earth to get their children into a “good” school results in a competitive environment where some children benefit. I notice that parents where the wife and husband are professionals have their children Kumoned, Magic Mathed and Reading readied to death starting in Junior Kindergarten. There is an evident fear that their child will not get into and be successful in University and their lives will be ruined. I grew up on a farm in the West of Ireland and my Mother’s hope was that I would get a job in out of the rain. I recently listened to a group of professional mothers complaining about a Grade 2 teacher who did not give out home work every day and was stingy with the As’. He is an excellent teacher and they were advising the Grade 1 mothers to make sure their child was not assigned to his class. The beauty of it is the other Grade 2 teacher smells of Mary Jane often enough to cause me concern, I kept mum on that of course, they will enjoy the glowing report cards no doubt.

      Reply
    1. Carla

      Absolutely. Everything in this country is about race. But the crappification of public education is the most obvious case.

      Reply
      1. sufferinsuccotash

        Next most obvious is health care. If people who are my racial inferiors get the same health care that I have, therein lies a disturbing implication, namely that we are equal.
        /clutches pearls…

        Reply
  5. oho

    Kinda burying the lede that Clinton-Obama Democrats are just as culpable/guilty as the GOP. If I was the Teachers’ Union, I’d want a refund on my campaign contributions and reimbursement for my members’ phone banking time.

    (I get a feeling that Trump’s agnostic about the issue—and certainly willing to throw that bone to his base)

    Reply
  6. Kalen

    In last decades, years of every empire everyone who still has an instinct of self-preservation as embedded liberal value of rampant individualism steals and steals and steals some more, of course not from big thieves of oligarchic establishment who do mass stealing but from from smaller thieves and most of all from people with moral backbone who cherish community values and reject consumerism and greed, but most of all they steal from commons and education system or what’s left of it is such a important commons.

    This is how modern capitalism started in England in XV century from great theft of commons. As Balzac posited “behind all great fortunes there are greater crimes”.

    Soon, we would be able to spot a criminal solely by looking at his/her bank account.
    Oops we are already there.

    As far as educational system is concerned I found very refreshing look as well as scathing criticism of corrupted principles and devastating implementation of educational system in a social context.

    https://contrarianopinion.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/education-blessings-of-enlighten-serfdom/

    Reply
  7. FidderHill

    Yves, surely there is at least one study somewhere which has something good to say about charter schools. Why this relentless campaign to demonize all charter schools?

    Most of the problems seem to involve for profit charters — which account for only 13% of charter schools across the country. 67 percent of all charter schools are independently run non-profit, single site schools; 20 percent are run by non-profit organizations that run more than one charter school. No one is making money off 87% of the charter schools.

    http://www.publiccharters.org/get-the-facts/public-charter-schools/faqs/

    Don’t we have to ask ourselves why so many parents are willing to try charter schools? Does that not reflect the longstanding failure of the public school system in many communities to provide an education that is not troubling to parents?

    I taught at two different public high schools 40 years ago right out of college. I was idealistic and committed. The rigidity and bureaucracy of those two schools drove me out of the profession. Twenty years later, enrolling my own child in my supposedly high-performing public school system in suburban Los Angeles, I found exactly the same rigidity and bureaucracy that I left behind decades ago. Nothing had changed. I organized parents in my school to campaign with our local school board and superintendent to reform — and faced a brick wall. A number of us who led this effort gave up and placed our children in charter schools.

    It’s now 40 years after my teaching experience, and I see no sign that the public school leaders nationally believe there is any need to change. I note that most of the studies critical of charters use the same phraseology as this new post —
    “Reporters from the city’s newspapers and journalism schools found charters were no better than the schools they replaced.” In other words, even these for-profit charters (which I’m opposed to, as well as vouchers) are no worse than the public schools. So many parents think — why not give them a try?

    The constant refrain of charter critics is that charters are draining much-needed funds from public schools. Without question, they have. But the deeper question is — why did our public school system do such a poor job all those years before the advent of charters, when they were better funded? And why do the administrators of those schools continue to fail to recognize that something is seriously wrong with the way they organize and administer public education?

    Reply
    1. Anon

      Not all public school systems are “failing”. Many suburban public school systems are doing fine, thank you. (Does the “why” of that statement need further explanation?) Suburban school systems (today) have plenty of outside funding (well-to-do parents), plenty of off-budget extracurricular activities (parents), and facilities and teacher corps that are above average. The inner city has no such advantage; so facilities, teacher corps, and administration are of “marginal” utility. The kids pay the price.

      No big deal, unless, of course, the national goal wasn’t equal educational opportunity for all. Trying to square the circle (see: Pythagorus) of educational opportunity for all in a tribal (some would say racist) nation is going to take more time. effort, and money than we’ve been giving it.

      Reply
      1. flora

        +1.
        From the link I posted above:

        “Out of the 54 [Chicago] schools proposed for closure in 2013, 88 percent are overwhelmingly attended by African-American students, and only 125 of the 16,119 total students – 0.78 percent – are white. The racial and economic polarization of Chicago was visible in the announced closure of George Manierre Elementary, where the surrounding neighborhood includes both the townhouses of one of the city’s poorest public housing projects and burgeoning condominiums worth millions of dollars. “

        Reply
        1. georgieboy2

          George Manierre is a very weak school, but it was not closed. Attendance had dropped from about 800 students to 300 by the time it was put on the chopping block. Zero parental participation. (Going to parent-teacher night is very dispiriting if you are a parent — you walk the halls alone and the teachers greet you like a long-lost relative…) The parents at the nearby school (Jenner) objected to having the kids from Manierre join their kids. Such parents as could be found to speak up at Manierre objected to having their kids walk an extra half-mile over to Jenner.

          So please tell me, did the racists try to close the lousy school and mix the black kids in with the white kids nearby, or did the racists keep Manierre open and keep that from happening?

          Also, until 2014 charter schools in Illinois were funded — by statute — at 75% the per capita spending in public schools.

          In general, the schools proposed for closing in 2013 were the ones where attendance had dropped well below 50% of capacity. Have you ever worked in a half-empty building? Were the black/hispanic/white parents who managed to get their precious children into magnet schools (run by CPS, fully-unionized) and charter schools (partly unionized) racist? Are these parents wrong to try to improve the learning environment for their children?

          By the way, the CPS superintendent at the time of these 2013 school-closing discussions was Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a black female recruited by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Was she being racist? (As a side note, she did just get sentenced in 2017 to jail for her role taking money from a Skokie buddy of Rahm’s to sign a huge no-bid “consulting” contract with him — now, that was a scandal!)

          Also btw, Manierre’s building was found in 2016 to have lead in the drinking water, one of more than 30 such buildings in Chicago.

          Reply
          1. flora

            Historical racism in urban housing has lead to urban school districts of concentrated poverty primarily in housing areas that are largely non-white. Closing mostly non-white and very poorly financed urban schools now can be a question of wealth and finances instead of direct racism. For a good look at how past urban housing policies affected urban housing/school districts watch this recent PBS Frontline docu.
            https://mountainlake.org/poverty-politics-and-profit-preview-frontline-npr/

            Interesting that the effort to build more affordable housing with public-private partnerships has resulted in huge looting of the taxpayers’ dollars. Not unlike, imo, the public-private partnership charter schools.

            Reply
            1. flora

              The similarity being: tell the local governing entity your plan will cost $10 when it will really only cost $6. Get $10 from govt, spend $6 and pocket $4, or transfer the property ownership, bought with public tax dollar money, to yourself and your investors. That $4 is theft from the public, imo, does nothing to improve housing or schooling.

              Now admin officials are talking about closing over 1000 VA facilities and replacing them with public-private healthcare options for Veterans, to give Veterans “choice” in healthcare. This, after budget cutting the VA to the point that services degraded. The perfect neolib play: underfund or otherwise impair public service or function, declare public service unfit for purpose, push public-private (see looting opportunity) as the answer.
              http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/va-may-close-1100-facilities-privatize-more-veterans-healthcare

              Reconfiguring VA facilites or public schools doesn’t require private companies. The fed or local governing agencies could do a this reorganizing job without including unaccountable, for-profit private companies.

              Reply
  8. Vatch

    In a closely related issue, in the race for Dallas Independent School District 2, there will be a runoff election on June 10. The incumbent candidate, Dustin Marshall, sends his children to private school, which seems peculiar for a public school board member. His opponent, Lori Kirkpatrick, is endorsed by Our Revolution.

    From Lori Kirkpatrick’s website:

    [She will] Fight against any program devised to take taxpayer dollars and divert them to private education entities.

    That seems to be a statement against the charter school movement. For more on the election, there’s this:

    https://ballotpedia.org/Dallas_Independent_School_District_elections_(2017)

    Reply
  9. ZMO

    So why no need for charter schools in affluent areas like, say, coastal Orange Co. in Southern California?
    Why— because students are at grade level, speak fluently and have parents who are very participatory in their childs education. If you took those kids to the inner city theyd flourish and if you took inner city Chicago or Compton (so Cal example) kids to OC–they’d struggle. Take Compton teachers and place them in to the inner city and vice versa–theyd excel or struggle depending. Its almost always not the teachers–its almost always the students and parents. That is the reality of the issue.
    Charters see success by taking the best and excluding the worst. Thats their key to succeed. Also is recruiting young idealistic teachers willing to work long hard hours, making school hrs. longer–this doesnt last as these young charter teacher are soon disillusioned and leave. As this piece and other studies (Stanford study shows no statistical difference in educational achievement) show–the charter school movement is simply about appealing to parents and diverting public monies to private shareholders.

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  10. robnume

    This is the ultimate “grift.” Having taxpayers pay for private schools, and that is what charter schools are, make no mistake about it, is the grift that keeps on giving. I moved away from San Diego County when my kids were beginning public school because the charter grift was really taking off here en masse in the early 1990’s.
    Chicagoans have really let Rahm Emmanuel absolutely ruin that city. I do not understand it because I’d throw a bum like him outta the place tout suite.
    Great article, Yves. Thank you for all you do for us, especially those of us who do not have even a little discretionary income to help your site along. I wish I had a bit to share, but if you’re ever in San Diego and need a meal or a place to stay please know I’m a hospitable and caring person and I can at least offer you or anyone here in need of same that little bit.

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