A couple years ago, we at Black Agenda Report wondered why the closings of 40 public schools over three years in Philly and 50 schools in Chicago were not national news. The answer of course, was that corporate media and politicians from Romney and Obama down to black mayors and state legislators agree that public education ought to be handed to business groups and charter schools even though privatization is enormously unpopular.
The privatization of public schools is a public policy whose name is almost never spoken, and which is covered in the media as little as possible, and when some coverage is unavoidable, in misleading ways.
“If CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News gave the school closings and privatization story a fraction of the coverage they gave deceptive and dishonest pro-privatization movies like Waiting For Superman and Won't Back Down, the outrage against the move to privatize education would be unstoppable.”
The one year anniversary of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's closing of 50 Chicago public schools passed last week with only a couple stories in local media and no mention we could find anyplace outside Chicago. This too, is. Corporate media have no interest in revealing the truth, in revisiting the lies and broken promises of privatizers, and most of our black political class, from the National Action Network and NAACP to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, depend on grants, donations and campaign contributions from the privatizers.
The Chicago Teachers Union, practically the only institutional force in that city that honors its obligations to parents, students and communities as well as teachers, released a thoroughly researched report titled Twelve Months Later, The Impact of School Closings in Chicago. Assembled from operating and capital budget documents, position files, vacancy reports, interviews with teachers and a mountain of class size and other data, the report is available at the Chicago Teachers Union web site, www.ctunet.com, that's www.ctunet.com, I'll give the address again at the end. It is a damning indictment not just of Mayor Emanuel and his hand picked Chicago Board of Education, but of similar policies forced upon parents and school communities across the country by the bipartisan drive, called Race To The Top under the Obama administration, to privatize education.
The mayor and his stooges claimed 50 schools needed closing to save money because of low enrollment, and that transferred students would benefit from hundreds of millions in new money spent at the receiving schools – the schools transferred students were sent to. All that turns out to be a lie.
In the real world, the report shows, receiving schools only got a tenth of the “transition money” to spend on those new students, some $230 per pupil. By contrast, new Chicago charter schools got a dozen times as much, $2,770 per student. Only 38% of the receiving schools have librarians on staff, so the libraries in schools which have them cannot even be used for their intended purpose. Receiving schools got computer lab upgrades but only a fifth of them got a tech teacher. They got iPads but no instruction for teachers on how to integrate these into the children's learning. And of course, the shuttered schools and receiving schools are exclusively in poor communities, with a media income of $36K per year, compared to the $53K per year in the rest of the system's schools. In Chicago of course, the poor are almost entirely black and brown.
Among much else, the CTU report points out the creative, community building uses to which some schools were putting their so-called “underutilized” facilities to before the shutdowns, as well as the incredible chasm between the funds Chicago spends on its upper-tier selective enrollment schools – 3 of which got $68K per pupil in capital funds, compared to $3800 in the receiving schools.
The powers that be are not especially creative. The same lies Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools told the world to justify these closings are being repeated in New York, Philly, Atlanta, Los Angeles and scores of other US cities. By recording, recounting and reviewing these lies, comparing them to facts on the ground, CTU, the Chicago Teachers Union is doing an important service to students, parents, teachers and communities around the country. Read their report, Twelve Months Later, The Impact of School Closings in Chicago at their site, www.ctunet.com, that's www.ctunet.com and keep it in mind when the mayor and school board in your town tell you the same lies.
For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
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