Apr 14, 2014
A year after Chicago Public Schools closed 50 elementary schools, the attack on public education in Chicago continues.
The school board wants to take the new building parents won for Ames Middle School when they protested overcrowding at Ames Elementary, and turn it into a military high school. The parents got a referendum to defend the school on this spring’s primary ballot and 68.6% voted for Ames. But the school board has so far ignored the vote.
The school board also wants to “Turn Around” three elementary schools – that is, fire all the teachers, administrators, janitors and lunchroom workers, and replace them with a completely new staff. Management of these schools will be turned over to the Academy of Urban School Leadership, a private entity with ties to the president of the school board, and the schools’ chief administrative officer.
As with Ames, the communities at these schools are not taking the attacks lying down. At one of them, Dvorak, the Local School Council organized the school community to join hands around the building. At a community hearing later in the evening, parents and community members denounced the school board’s turnaround plan as a “land grab” aimed to push working class residents out of the area, which is close to downtown.
At another of these “turnaround” schools, Gresham Elementary, the principal pointed out that the school board’s claims about “a failing school culture” were lies. Gresham’s test scores are low, but they have improved in the past few years. Like almost every other Chicago public school, Gresham is under-funded. The residents called for the extra turnaround money to go to the school and its current staff, to continue the improvement.
These parents have pushed back in a small way, which the mayor and school board have ignored so far. To defend our schools, workers will have to take up the fight much more broadly.