The agenda of Chicago Public Schools Chief Education Officer
Jean-Claude Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is arguably a sped up version
of the Daley administration’s education policy: more confrontation with
the teachers union (on matters like the longer school day) and promotion of alternatives to neighborhood public schools, like charters.
How this citywide agenda impacts discrete communities will be better understood December 1 when CPS releases schools they plan to close due to poor performance. In anticipation, a group of community organizations released their own agenda – A neighborhood’s agenda for schools – at a press conference Tuesday at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association headquarters.
of the things we are asking for is not to close schools,” said Jitu
Brown, an education organizer with the Kenwood Oakland community
The agenda, signed by nine community organizations, has other specific policy recommendations: a focus on hiring and training teachers from that neighborhood school’s community, more bilingual teachers, more guidance and mental health counselors, more art classes, and less emphasis on standardized tests.
Most important, less public money directed to charter and selective enrollment schools – and more money directed to neighborhood schools, where the vast majority of Chicago children get their education.
It’s not clear how this agenda can influence CPS policy. Joanna Brown, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s lead education organizer, said that she recently attended a meeting with Jamiko Rose, the district’s chief officer for family and community engagement, and Beth Swanson, Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education.
“I was present along with a number of other organizations,” Brown said. “They said, ‘You know, this is interesting’ and all that, but we haven’t seen any follow-up yet.”
Follow-up from both sides might become urgent when these community groups learn what schools in their neighborhood are scheduled to be shuttered. CPS, which has closed about 50 schools over the last ten years, has not hinted which schools are on its closing list.
An analysis from Catalyst Chicago found that a staggering 140 of 675 CPS schools are eligible to be shut down. These are schools put at level three of a three-level evaluation metric, a measurement based largely on Illinois Scholastic Assessment Test results.
Moreover, almost all of these schools are in low-income, African American communities like Austin and Englewood or low-income, Latino neighborhoods like Little Village.
Christina Torres, a member of the Local School Council at Logan Square’s Funston Elementary – a school that is on the potential closing list, argued that these schools should be a given a chance by getting the money and personnel needed for success.
“We need more resources not a turnaround or another school closing,” Torres said, listing specifics like more art and music classes as well as qualified bilingual and special education teachers.
Image: Logan Square Neighborhood Association