Education Apartheid: The Racism Behind Chicago’s School Reform

September 14th, 2012

Published on Occupied Chicago Tribune, by OCTRIB, Sept. 12, 2012.

Dyett High School students are not allowed to enter the front door of their school. Instead, the more than 170 students at the Southside high school enter through the back. From there, they must spend their day pushing through other students in the one open hallway, after half of the building was placed off limits. 

“Just imagine, all these students in one hallway trying to get to where they’re going … everyone’s just trying to get through each other,” says Keshaundra Neal, a junior at Dyett and a student organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) … //

… A Corporate Renaissance:

In Bronzeville alone, where Dyett is located, 19 schools have been closed or turned around since 2001, often replaced by charter and selective-enrollment schools that admit students from anywhere in the city, further displacing neighborhood students.

Renaissance 2010 institutionalized the idea that closing public schools and pushing their students into selective-enrollment or charter schools would solve the problems afflicting urban education. The 2004 project, started by then-mayor Richard J. Daley and CPS CEO Arne Duncan, planned to close up to 70 of the worst performing schools in the city and reopen 100 new schools, with two-thirds as charters or contract schools.

Renaissance 2010 was called “perhaps the most significant experiment in the US to reinvent an urban public school system on neoliberal lines,” by education academic Pauline Lipman. She places the education changes in the context of Chicago’s push to become a Global City: “Ren2010 is a market-based approach that involves a high level partnership with the most powerful financial and corporate interests in the city.”

Eight years after Renaissance 2010 was launched, Chicago has 96 charter schools, 27 turnaround schools, and a record summer of gun violence under its belt.

The numbers show a stratified society. More than two-thirds of all African-American students in Chicago, and more than 40 percent of Latino students, attend schools where more than 90 percent of all students are of the same ethnicity.

These schools are the first to be closed or turned around, and the last in line to receive extra resources. Of the 160 schools in Chicago without a library, 140 are south of North Avenue. Predominately white and affluent schools receive the majority of capital improvements. Often, as with Herzl Elementary School this past year, students at underserved schools see sorely needed construction begin only after CPS has decided to give away the building to a charter network or AUSL.

With black and Latino communities facing the brunt of the recession, and the poorest residents among them living in a state of permanent depression, students from these communities bear the results of economic segregation. In 188 schools in predominately black neighborhoods, 95 percent or more of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. One-third of Latino students go to schools where more than 90 percent of students qualify. Only 3 percent of white students can say the same.

The racial inequalities in school funding affect teachers as well as students—school closures and turnarounds, where a targeted school’s entire staff is fired, have been forcing African-American teachers out of their jobs. In the schools closed this year, 65 percent of their teachers were African American. Since the era of reform accelerated, the number of African-American teachers has declined by 10 percent, while that of white teachers has increased 5 percent.

The quality of education that Chicago students receive varies greatly by which school they attend, and on the resources provided to those schools. Here’s a breakdown of two very different, but typical, school environments … //

… In 2008, Dyett had one of the highest rates of college-bound graduates among CPS schools and was recognized nationally for its restorative justice program. Just three years later, the college-bound rate was below CPS average, and the restorative justice program was defunded.

As the teachers’ strike loomed, Michael Brunson, recording secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union, told supporters that a socially just school system may be visionary, but it’s attainable.

“To imagine that is not to create something new,” he said. “It’s to take back what was lost.”
(full text).

Links:

The Driving Force Behind Anti-Americanism: Humiliation and Rage in Libya, on Counterpunch, by VIJAY PRASHAD, Sept. 12, 2012;

Alexander Cockburn (6 June 1941 – 21 July 2012) was an Irish American political journalist and writer. Cockburn was brought up in Ireland but had lived and worked in the United States since 1972. Together with Jeffrey St. Clair, he edited the political newsletter CounterPunch. Cockburn also wrote the “Beat the Devil” column for The Nation (his website) as well as one for The Week (for ersonnel webs see External links) in London, syndicated by Creators Syndicate … (full long text on en.wikipedia);

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