Support Efforts to Keep Schools Open

Emmet Elementary School, slated for closure

Target: Chicago Teachers Union

Goal: Support efforts to stop school closures in Chicago

Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel has an interesting idea to curb the $1 billion budget shortfall at the school district: close down 50 schools in the city. Chicago Teachers Union has filed three lawsuits against the city’s school board, which was handpicked by the mayor. The teachers union’s efforts are an act of heroism and should be applauded.

Arne Duncan, who in 2002 was the head of the Chicago public schools system and now is the education secretary for the Obama Administration, introduced the strategy of closing and revamping schools. In terms of effectiveness, the Consortium of Chicago Schools Research, a nonpartisan group of researchers at the University of Chicago, came to the conclusion that this tactic did not deliver needed results. Education for the affected children did not get better.

Rahm Emanuel’s main defense of his unpopular decision is that Chicago Public Schools need to address the $1 billion deficit. The problem is (and CPS has admitted to it) that if the schools are closed, total savings of $233 million will be utilized by receiving schools this year. Another faulty claim is one made by Becky Carroll, CPS spokeswoman. She said that the district would save $43 million annually because of reduction in non-teaching positions and by lower utility and maintenance costs. She failed to mention, however, that the district is borrowing $329 million to pay for improvements to receiving schools. Debt service will cost $25 million every year for 30 years beginning in 2015, and will be paid out of operating budget.

If the schools are closed, this change will primarily affect students of color (as previous school closings have also) and special education students. Issues of safety and access should also be taken into account. Chicago Teachers Union is fighting the district tooth and nail, and deserves support and recognition. Sign the petition to Chicago teachers union president Karen Lewis below to show solidarity with the resistance movement.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Ms. Lewis,

Congratulations on your reelection as the Chicago Teachers Union President. Unfortunately, this is a tough time for the city, where 50 schools are slated for closure. Closing schools is a wrong and ineffective method of reducing the $1 billion budget deficit that the school district claims it has. It will not make education better for students who are affected, and it will primarily impact students of color and students with special needs.

Unfortunately, the “efficiency” rhetoric became mainstream politics. Originally backed by members of the Republican Party, the philosophy of closing down underperforming schools is now supported by prominent Democrats. One of them is Arne Duncan, former head of the Chicago public school system and currently Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration. Claims that transferring students to other schools would do them good are questionable at best. The district will not save any money doing it either, a fact that Chicago Public Schools do not object to.

Your efforts to stop these school closures deserve a long round of applause. Thank you for standing up to special interests, who are undoubtedly behind this scheme, and protecting students and teachers.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Josh K via Flickr

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