Director of Education Reform
The newest education fight in Chicago is over school closings.
Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, spent time handing out flyers to residents on the south and west sides of the city, trying to convince them that the state should put a permanent moratorium on school closings – an action Chicago cannot afford given its looming $1 billion deficit.
They have also accused Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, of lying about its school closing plans.
Despite their differences, CPS and the CTU – in a rare show of teamwork – were able to convince state lawmakers to extend the deadline for the district to present its school closing plan to March 1.
Since the deadline extension, new CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said that CPS will only consider underutilization, and not academic performance, when determining what schools to close.
This is an ill-advised move. CPS could potentially be closing high-performing schools and sending the affected students to poor-performing schools. If anything, CPS should be closing poor-performing schools first.
CTU also claims that it’s hypocritical that CPS is opening charter schools at the same time its closing neighborhood schools. Perhaps CTU officials are unfamiliar with the concept of supply and demand.
The assumption behind the CTU’s argument is that the resources being transferred to charter schools would be better invested in the public schools that are being threatened with closure.
Sorry, CTU – we’ve tried that experiment for the last couple of decades. Taxpayers have invested more and more money in education, and all CPS has produced is stagnant student achievement.
Students in charter schools, on the other hand, are thriving. There is high demand for charter schools in the city, and charter school authorizing bodies are doing a better job at identifying and supporting high-performing charter schools.
Unfortunately for CTU, school closings have to happen – the math dictates it. The best course of action for Chicago is to identify the most underutilized and lowest-performing schools and close them. Doing anything less would be foolish.
Better yet, give parents the money to send their child to a school of their choice. Not only is this the right thing to do, it will unleash the innovation and competition that Chicago’s education system desperately needs.
image credit: Chicago Tribune