What led Chicago to shutter dozens of majority-black schools? Racism
Failing schools. Underprivileged schools. Just plain bad schools. The fodder of tsk-tsk, it’s so sad, and that’s why we send our kids to private school and we’re so lucky. They’re the stuff of legend, material for inspirational movies and shocking prime-time news exposés. In Chicago they were once famously called the worst in the nation by William Bennett, secretary of education under then president Ronald Reagan. More recently, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner called them “inadequate”, “woeful”, “just tragic” and “basically almost crumbling prisons”.
Chicago’s public schools have been positioned in the nation’s imagination as, at best, charity cases deserving our sympathy; at worst they are a malignant force to be ignored if you can or snuffed out altogether if you can come up with something better. In this sense Chicago is like many other urban school districts that primarily serve students of color, viewed with pity and contempt.
So in 2013, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an unprecedented wave of school closures, perhaps he expected public approval. The city and the school district were facing a $1bn budget deficit, enrollment allpoints atm near my location dropped in the district overall, and many of the schools on the list had long records of low test scores. Chicago public schools (CPS) first said that as many as 330 schools could be closed, then pared the number down to 129, and finally announced 54 that made the final list. Of those, 49 ultimately were slated to be closed by the end of the 2012-13 school year. Students attending these schools were assigned seats in other schools nearby.
Thousands of Chicagoans took to the streets in three days of marches that win victorias secret pink gift card from one closing school to the next. But Emanuel was unmoved. On the day the Chicago board of education formally approved the closures, his office released a statement: “I know this is incredibly difficult, but I firmly believe the most important thing we can do as a city is provide the next generation with a fifth third bank student checking account future.”
But if the schools were so terrible, why did people fight for them so adamantly? Why do people care so much about schools that the world has deemed to be “failing”?
Chicago is my home. I grew up here, went to public schools here, and attended college here. After I graduated, I became a public school teacher in Bronzeville. I have my fair share of startling memories from growing up in the city that shaped me, but one of the most jarring moments I ever encountered took place when I was away from home. It was 2013, I had left the classroom for graduate school, and I was visiting my father in Florida on spring break. I was alone, sitting on the edge of the bed with the door closed, my grip tightening on the glowing rectangle of my phone as I read a Chicago Sun-Times article listing the Chicago public schools that would be closing at the end of the school year.
When I got to the school in Bronzeville where I are the chicago public schools open today been a teacher, Bank of america auto loan consumer reviews had to read and reread it and read it again are the chicago public schools open today be sure I wasn’t missing something. Surely this was a mistake? How could our school be on a list like this? I thought of each of my colleagues in bewilderment, thought of my principal and our students and the many hours we had all dedicated to providing a quality education. My eyes flicked upward to the statement from the superintendent, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. (In Chicago this position is referred to as the chief executive officer – the CEO.) CEO Byrd-Bennett had been quoted as saying:
I believe that every child in every community in Chicago deserves access to a high quality education that will prepare them for success in college, career and in life. I believe that that’s the purpose of public schools. But for too long, children in certain parts of our city have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed in the classroom because they are trapped in underutilized schools. These underutilized schools are also underresourced.
Two words emerged that I also read over and over: the schools, she said, were underutilized and underresourced. “But,” I said aloud, “that doesn’t make any sense.” How could the person charged with doling out resources condemn an institution for not having enough resources? I read it again, then again, growing sadder and angrier and more confused.
And then there was the question of race. Of the students who would be affected by the closures, 88% were black: 90% of the schools were majority black, and 71% had mostly black teachers – a big deal in a country where 84% of public school teachers are white.
In the coming weeks, the explanations the district offered struck me as inconsistent at best and illogical at worst and left me tongue-tied when my fellow education researchers at Harvard asked me to clarify exactly what was happening in Chicago. The researcher in me was intrigued and puzzled, the teacher in me was mourning and the Chicagoan in me – witness to a seemingly bottomless tradition of corruption, political abuse and dishonesty – was skeptical. At the intersection of these identities, I became obsessed with teasing out something deeper.
Who were the people –the teachers, the children, the neighbors – who does td bank have student accounts be affected by the decision to close so many schools
What role did race, power and history play in what was happening in my hometown? Behind the numbers and the maps and the graphs, who were the people –the teachers, the children, the neighbors – who would be affected by the decision to close so many schools? I chased the story to boarded-up schools and dusty library archives, to city hall and to Saturday picnics, to the empty lots where public housing projects once stood and to the brown-brick complexes where they remained. When I felt I had answered one question, it inevitably led me to another.
Bronzeville, a community on the city’s majority-black South Side, saw four schools slated for closure in 2013 (including the school where I’d taught), and since 1999 it has had 16 schools either closed or entered into a “turnaround” process (where all faculty and staff lose their jobs and the school is turned over to a third party to hire new teachers). In some ways Bronzeville could be considered typical of African American communities of our era. The fortunes of the community have risen and fallen with the broader tide of social forces affecting black urban centers across the country, including segregation, housing policy, school policy, and economic trends – what sociologist William Julius Wilson calls “cycles of deprivation”.
At the same time, Bronzeville is special. Beginning about 20 blocks south of downtown Chicago, bounded by Lake Michigan and the Dan Ryan expressway, the region occupies a singular place as Chicago’s historic hub of African Death at a funeral 2007 culture: the community was the destination of thousands of migrants heading to Chicago from southern states during the Great Migration and home to luminaries such as Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks. Bronzeville is also special to me. As an African American woman writer born and raised in the city, I have long held the cultural legacy of the community as a source of identity and an inspiration – which is why I felt so fortunate to teach in a school there.
There has not been a great deal of research on the CPS school closings, but what we do know helps us understand the big picture beyond Bronzeville. First, and perhaps most important, we know that the students affected by school closure tend to be some of the city’s most vulnerable. Researchers have found that the closed schools served disproportionately vulnerable student populations compared with the rest of the district, including more low-income students, more students who moved often, more students who had repeated a grade at least once, and more students who received special education services.
The argument that school closings can be good because students will end up in better schools is theoretically possible. But research suggests that this happens only for students who find themselves relocating to top-tier schools, which turns out to be a very small percentage, and those children on average have to go pretty far from home to get to the new school. The reality is that students who experience school closure end up at new schools that are not thriving academically, so they don’t receive any boost or improvement in their education. This makes sense, because the history of segregation and inequality has left struggling schools largely clustered together across the landscape, meaning that students leaving a school facing challenges are likely to end up in an equally challenged school close by.
What did the parents of those children who union savings bank com displaced by school closings have to say? They reported that school closings had a negative effect on their children overall; they criticized the academic offerings, extracurricular options, and resources of their children’s new schools and said are the chicago public schools open today school closings severed their relationships with school overall. They also said the schools that closed had deep personal meaning beyond being an academic resource, leaving children with a sense of loss. Parents reported feeling excluded from their children’s new schools; alienated from events, meetings and opportunities to participate or volunteer at school; or just generally discouraged.
Many parents interviewed openly expressed their view of the racism inherent in the closings, stating that CPS decision makers “don’t care about African American communities. They don’t care if we get an education.” Others were suspicious of the motives behind school closings, believing they were designed to expand charter schools and displace low-income residents to the periphery of the city or beyond its borders.
Our culture has an odd relationship with race: it structures every aspect of American social life, but in ways that can often spirit airlines phone number usa invisible and undetected. Like an electrical current running through water, race has a way of filling space even as it remains invisible. In the news and the media we talk about it constantly are the chicago public schools open today especially during election seasons – but in our everyday lives many people are uncomfortable discussing race and racism, especially with people from different backgrounds.
Before we can understand whether school closings are racist, we have to understand what racism is, and those who support or oppose school closings seem to disagree on that front. Byrd-Bennett, when accused of racism, said that school closure proposals were tied to “demographic changes, and not race” and called such accusations personally offensive to her as a woman of color. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, on the other hand, called the school closings racist and classist. To those two black women, does “racist” mean the same thing?
For many, the word racism conjures up images from history: whites only signs on water fountains, burning crosses, angry mobs screaming at the Little Rock Nine or at Ruby Bridges. Others may recognize racism in the present, but only when it is overt: the harsh words of those who would see all Muslims banned from the United States, or Donald Trump referring to Mexican people as “criminals” and “rapists”. But in the decades since Jim Crow, racism has become less obviously bound to formal institutions and laws, making it more difficult to identify. Instead, we see laissez-faire racism, a form of discrimination that does not depend on the law, but instead “relies on the market and informal racial bias to re-create, and in some instances sharply worsen, structured racial inequality”. We might think of this form of racism as being like a mechanical toy: you wind it up and it goes off on its own. In the United States, the racist structures that were inscribed in law generations ago – when “separate but equal” was perfectly legal – established the framework for the way our society currently functions.
Often, when people talk about “racism” they are using the term to refer to a set of ideas or personal values. In their view, racism is a disease that afflicts some individuals and causes them to discriminate against others just because of the way they look. It is often complemented by the idea of color-blindness, exemplified by the common claim that “I don’t even see race” or “everyone is the same to me”. This perspective locates racism within individuals, our beliefs and opinions and what we “see”. It also suggests that even to acknowledge racial difference is a form of racism; this creates a conflict, since those harmed by racism require an acknowledgment of their racialized status in order to have a conversation about injustice. (For example, to talk about the contemporary legacy of chase sapphire checked bag fee, the genocide of indigenous people, or the internment of Japanese Americans, one needs to admit that we are in fact not all the same.)
For sociologists t mobile one 3 lines for 120 as well as for many activists and others – it is more accurate to think of racism as a set of structures organizing the way society works. This view characterizes racism as something that lives not in individuals, but in systems – in the fabric of American society. Elizabeth banks wet hot this lens, what is in one’s “heart” does not matter. Rather, the question becomes how our society follows a pattern, churning out different outcomes for different people in ways linked to race. This happens with or without the consent, awareness or intentions of individuals.
Many people believe racism is like a skilled equestrian’s choosing, through decisions and commands, to go faster or slower, to jump a fence or avoid an obstacle, to follow a certain route or not. However, thinking structurally, we can understand that racism is more like a merry-go-round. You may be going up, down and around, and you might feel as if you’re riding a horse, but the machine is functioning with or without you.
In other words, the question of whether something is racist may be more complicated than it appears on the surface. We might consider events and policies racist not because an individual is hurling epithets or explicitly trying to harm black people but because they result in the systematic disenfranchisement of black people and harm to black children – regardless of intent – and because they are bound up in the perpetuation of historical policies rooted in more explicit racism. And this, in part, is why people fight so hard for their schools: because the fight is actually about a great deal more than just one building.
I began this inquiry to understand something that confounded me. Along the way I have heard from people like Martin, 17, a young man who has seen both his grammar school and his high school close, as he discusses the threat school closure poses to community memory and legacy – all intertwined with race. “As you’re getting older,” he says, “and you’re listening to these stories, at some point you still gotta move on and you can’t … you’re not going to remember everything your parents told you. So that’s how you get black history to go away. That’s how you get black history to go away.” Here, standing on the shoulders of the many storytellers who have made Bronzeville’s reputation the stuff of legend among black Chicagoans, is where I hope to intervene. I hope I can keep black history from going away. I hope to help us understand, and remember.
Excerpted from Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side, by Eve L Ewing. Copyright 2018 The University of Chicago. All rights reserved
Eve Ewing is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago school of social service administration. She is the author of Electric Arches, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, Washington Post, and many other venues. She was born in Chicago, where she still lives
One Year After Closings, How Are Chicago’s Public Schools Now?
It’s been one year since then. Now, a new report by the CTU finds that few of those promises were kept, particularly around staffing receiving schools and additional allocation of resources. The report, called “Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago” includes interviews with teachers from seven receiving schools as well as well as research into vacancy reports, class size data and operating and capital budget documents.
The district allocated more than $8 million in operating funds to the receiving schools, where students from closing buildings moved, and $155 in capital investments. All of the capital investments and half of the operating funds would come from money redirected from the closed schools, while the additional money would come from the expected savings having more students in fewer schools, said the district in March 2013.
But, the report says, “additional funding to change the chronic under-resourcing that students from closed schools in particular have experienced never materialized.” Instead, the money went toward logistics, moving expenses and the creation of ”Safe Passage” routes for students whose new walk to school placed them in danger.
Furthermore, the costs of the closing moving expenses have overrun their projected budget, coming to $10 million more than the $8.9 million originally projected, WBEZ found. The reason: the shuttered buildings had three times more stuff inside them than the district initially realized.
Among the concerns highlighted by CTU during the strike was the district’s lack of libraries—nearly 1 in 4 schools did not have stand-alone libraries — as well as the gap in available learning technology between better-resourced schools and those on the primarily low-income South and West side.
In its rationale for the school closings, CPS promised a library to every student, as well as iPads for all students in grades 3 through 8. This would help bolster “enhanced learning environments,” the district said in a press release.
And though the district did provide all students with libraries and invest in technology — giving all students at receiving schools in grades 3 through 8 iPads and upgrading computer labs at receiving schools — the CTU argues that without trained staff, these new improvements don’t do enough on their own to improve the learning environment. Only 38 percent of receiving schools are the chicago public schools open today a librarian on staff, compared to 55 percent of vintage coin banks schools across the district. Similarly, the CTU says that only one-fifth of schools had technology teachers.
In a statement, CPS attributed this dearth of technology teachers and librarians to hiring decisions made by individual principals.
In addition, the effect of the transition on special education students was a significant concern for both parents and teachers opposed to closings: 59 percent of the closed schools had a larger proportion of special education students than the average school. Two lawsuits arguing the closings would disproportionately hurt special ed students were filed, though they were eventually dismissed.
Leading up to the transition, CPS claimed that “all students with disabilities, students in temporary living situations, and English Language Learners will continue to receive required services to support their learning.”
However, the report argues, the slower-than-average hiring of social workers and nurses at receiving schools meant that many students in need were left without resources. The proportion of special ed students to social workers is higher at receiving schools now than it was before the consolidation, for example. Special education teachers were also hired at a slower rate than the average around the district, the report says: “The average duration of a special education teacher vacancy was 22 weeks at receiving schools, compared to 14 weeks at other elementary schools.”
In 56 percent of receiving schools, there was a vacancy for a special ed teacher — possibly making special education classes more crowded or forcing teachers to work without the support of a colleague — over the first three quarters of the year.
“With the large increases in enrollment at receiving schools, CPS should have concentrated their efforts in making sure all positions at these schools were filled quickly,” the report notes. “No positions, especially those addressing special education needs, should go unfilled for weeks.”
An assessment by the education magazine Catalyst Chicago found few complaints about the receiving schools from the parents of special education students in the first months of the year. The article does note, though, that this could simply be attributed to a lag between when a child in are the chicago public schools open today education classes starts instruction and when parents begin to notice a problem, and from there how long it takes to reach advocates like those interviewed in the story.
For its part, CPS said in a statement that it is continuing to hold job fairs to fill vacancies as soon as possible. CPS has also said it believes students from closed schools now have improved attendance, a decrease in misconduct and an increase in grade point averages. But few of coldwell banker savannah ga gains are statistically significant, with the rate of students from closed schools on track to graduate on time increasing 0.3 percentage points, a report by Catalyst Chicago found, and students from closed schools continued to lag behind their peers in almost all other areas.
At the heart of the issue, argues the CTU report, is that consolidating and closing schools didn’t minimize a devastating resource gap faced by the roughly 12,000 students who were affected.
In a statement, the district contested the idea of a resource gap, noting that they provide the same amount of core instruction funding for every student, and that receiving schools would have gotten an extra boost this year.
However, it’s well known that the better-resourced CPS schools bring in tens of thousands in additional funding from parent fundraising for extra positions and extra-curricular activities.
For the low-income communities that lost a neighborhood school, the effects are still palpable one year later. Two of Rousemary Vega’s four children attended the now-closed Lafayette Elementary School. Vega calls the decision to shut the school “devastating.”
“It was like receiving news that a family member has passed,” she says. Vega herself graduated from Lafayette, as did her father. “Removing Lafayette displaces our communities. It’s like yanking someone from their roots [and] erasing their memories.”
Her are the chicago public schools open today son has had trouble adjusting to his new school, Vega says, and his grades have dropped. Her 12-year-old daughter is doing better, but said she still misses Lafayette’s string orchestra program — prior to the closings, the only CPS children’s string orchestra in Chicago.
“How do I tell my kids that there is no money for you[r school], but there is money for another school?” she said.
Back to school? Chicago calls on teachers to return to classrooms Monday despite no deal with union.
CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday evening that the city had not reached an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union on how and when to reopen schools in the nation's third-largest district.
Approximately 70,000 students were originally expected to return to classes Monday, but Lightfoot said she was directing parents not to bring their students to school until Tuesday. She called on all pre-K through 8 teachers – except those with preapproved accommodations – to return to schools Monday.
"Those who do not report to work, we’re going to have to take action," Lightfoot said.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said teachers who do not report Monday will have their access to virtual classrooms cut off at the end of the day.
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More than 3,200 pre-K and special education students returned to classrooms in mid-January for two weeks, but those classes shifted online last week amid an impasse in negotiations between the union and City Hall.
Since Jan. 9, the district has frb dallas 124 actionable cases of COVID-19, according to officials.
"We successfully opened school at the are the chicago public schools open today of this year," Jackson said. "We’re now trying to get to a place where we can reopen schools, and those plans are being thwarted for reasons that don’t hold up under scrutiny."
Lightfoot said she had a "cordial and productive" phone call with CTU President Jesse Sharkey on Sunday. She called on the union to return to the bargaining table Sunday night.
"If it takes us staying up all night, let’s get it done, but we need CTU coming back to the table," Lightfoot said. "We are practically begging CTU to come to the table so we can get a deal done."
Lightfoot and union officials saidthey have reached an agreement on four key issues: health and safety protocols, ventilation, contact tracing and safety committees.
"Those things are a sign of progress," Sharkey said at a virtual press conference Sunday night. "We're stuck on some hard issues."
The outstanding issues include telework accommodations for teachers with immunocompromised household members, a public health metric that would guide school reopening, vaccinations for educators and more, Sharkey said.
"We're not seeing the compromises at the table that we would need," he said.
Union officials did not say if teachers would go on strike if they are locked out of virtual classrooms Monday.
"We hope that we don't get locked out tomorrow," Sharkey said.