News Release

Shutting Down Chicago Schools


Reuters reports: “Thousands of demonstrators rallied in downtown Chicago on Wednesday to protest the city’s plan to close 54 public schools, primarily in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods.” See: news stories and videos.

Professor of educational policy studies at the College of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Lipman is author of The New Political Economy of Urban Education Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. She said today: “The massive school closings proposed in Chicago are an assault on African American public education and on black communities. Disinvestment, destabilization, and disenfranchisement — that’s school ‘reform’ for black children.” Lipman has criticized the “appointed Board of Education, comprised of bankers, CEOs, and real estate magnates” in Chicago.

Weiss is national coordinator of Broader Bolder Approach to Education. She just co-wrote the piece “Closing Schools Despite the Data,” which states: “Mayors and reformers would have us believe that school closures, like the 54 recently announced in Chicago, will save districts money while improving outcomes for students who are moved out of ‘failing’ schools. The problem is, districts have been closing schools for many years — in Chicago, for over a decade — and it’s clear that they won’t accomplish these goals. In fact, the opposite has happened.

“According to the Consortium for Chicago School Research, a leading research authority on education in Chicago, Arne Duncan’s closure of dozens of schools as part of Renaissance 2010 provided no benefit to students, since the vast majority were simply transferred from one low-performing school to another. A recent brief on closures from CReATE notes actual damage — transferred students, who felt stigmatized, had lower test scores and higher risks of dropping out. The Consortium did find improved outcomes for the six percent who landed in academically strong schools and found supportive teachers, but that doesn’t help the 94 percent who stagnated or lost ground, nor make up for the disruption to those children and families. It does not compensate for the spikes in violence when established gang routes were disrupted, nor for the inability of other schools to cope with repeated influxes of new, struggling students (some moved four times in just three years). …

“The damage isn’t limited to Chicago. In Washington, D.C., where Chancellor Kaya Henderson recently announced the impending closure of 15 more schools, impacts from prior closures are no more promising. One of Henderson predecessor Michelle Rhee’s first decisions as Chancellor of DCPS was the closure of 23 ‘low-performing’ and ‘under-enrolled’ schools. Parents and policymakers were told that closing the schools would save the district $23 million that could be used to hire more teachers and enact new programs, and that students affected could move to better schools. After the closures, Rhee reported that the total cost had been less than $10 million. However, an audit put the price tag at closer to $40 million — no savings, lots of unanticipated costs — not even accounting for the loss of an estimated $5 million in revenue when parents switched to charter schools as a result of the closures, nor the added burden to families of transporting children to farther-away schools. Moreover, on average, students’ new schools had even lower odds of making Annual Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind than the schools they were moved out of. The closures simply resulted in longer commutes, higher costs for struggling families, and fewer incentives for disengaged students to stay in school.”