Jan 22, 2018
On a cold Tuesday early in December, 60 students at Hirsch High School walked out. They carried signs reading “Give us our programs back” and “No charter school,” while they chanted “Save our schools!” Hirsch is a neighborhood high school in Chatham on the city’s South Side, serving an overwhelmingly black, working class student body.
The students were protesting the Board of Education’s plan to place a charter school inside the building – what the Board calls “co-location.” They know that the placement of a charter program within their building would be a death sentence for their current school. Two of the high schools in nearby Englewood, TEAM Englewood and John Hope Academy, had charter schools “co-located” in the building – they are now among the five schools the Board proposes to close next year.
The student population at Hirsch has dwindled: from 937 in 2007, to 390 in 2012, down to 137 today. The Board drove this process, speeding it along the last four years by tying school budgets directly to enrollment. With conditions at high-poverty neighborhood schools degrading, CPS held out charter schools to parents as the answer – at least for those students able to navigate the application process. But then many of the students who enrolled in the charters find themselves pushed back out – back into the starving neighborhood schools they left.
In 2010, the school won the city’s football championship. It no longer fields a team. Band and pre-law programs, the journalism program, the radio/TV studio, and the librarian have also gotten the ax.
This is the education that the city of Chicago offers to more and more working class students. And when the school does close, the city will be offering many students no education at all.