The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago:
Fight against Charter School Expansion

Oct 12, 2015

On July 23rd, hundreds of people packed the auditorium of Kelly High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side to voice their anger at plans for a new Noble Street charter school in the Brighton Park neighborhood.

But instead of listening to the residents of the neighborhood and canceling its plans, the school board organized two meetings on the proposed new charter school outside the neighborhood, at a community college a few miles away. The Noble Street organization packed these meetings by busing parents and students from other Noble charters in other neighborhoods. But opponents of the new charter mobilized as well. The Brighton Park Neighborhood Council brought about 100 people to each event, and teachers from at least six nearby schools also came to protest.

Dozens of Brighton Park residents later packed the local alderman’s office to ask him to pull support for the Noble Street expansion and to support neighborhood schools.

Then last Thursday, hundreds of opponents of the new charter faced off against another crowd mobilized by Noble Street at a hearing at Chicago Public Schools headquarters. At this hearing, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council presented the school board with 6,500 letters against the new charter.

The media made it seem like these were just competing demonstrations – but the reality was that the people FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD were overwhelmingly against the new charter school. Noble Street is a massive organization. The fact that it can use its resources to mobilize a few dozen or even a few hundred people has nothing to do with whether the people in Brighton Park want a new charter school.

At one of these events, teachers’ union organizer Rebecca Martinez expressed the sentiment of those opposing the new charter school: “The community is clearly saying we don’t want a Noble charter school on the Southwest Side, am I correct? Thousands of people have said no to Noble but you continue to disrespect the community.”

Parents, teachers, and students on the Southwest Side are angry because the city has been cutting funding for education for years. Kelly High School has had millions of dollars cut from its budget in the last two years, and dozens of teachers have been laid off. Nearby Kennedy High School had $305,000 cut from its budget this year, after millions more in cuts over the last four years. It’s the same all over the city. These cuts mean more kids in a class, fewer decent supplies, and fewer of the programs that engage students, from art to sports to a range of academic subjects.

Chicago Public Schools’ administration justifies these cuts by saying funding is linked to enrollment. In other words, these schools have had their budgets cut because their classes aren’t crowded enough!

But the proposal for a new charter school in the same neighborhood proves their lie. If the schools were really “underutilized” as CPS claims, how would it help to add one more school to compete for students?

No – the reality is that CPS has been cutting every school’s budget because the government at every level wants to hand that money over to the corporations. The push for charters is part of the broader attack against public education. And that attack is falling on all of us, not just in Brighton Park, but in the rest of Chicago and in the rest of the country.