By David Evans, Regal Radio
It’s sad to see a profession that deserves more respect, one that I aspire to become a part of soon — the profession of educator — torn apart by the powers that be in Chicago due to the state’s pension crisis and what is being perceived by many as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempts to privatize public education.
The July 17th decision by Chicago Public Schools to lay off over 2,100 teachers and support staff, compounded with June’s layoffs of 850 teacher and support staff as a result of the closure of 49 schools closure is not only a demoralizing blow to Chicago Public School teachers but a disservice to the more than 400,000 Chicago Public students who rely on them for instruction, food services, security, etc. Most of the students affected by the school closings and teacher layoffs are black and Hispanic children, the majority of schools scheduled to be closed are located on the south and west sides of the city where they make up most of the school population.
North side schools, while not shuttered, have not been spared from roughly $70 million dollars in education cuts — Albany Park High School and Von Stueben High School each faced budget cuts that may require each school’s principal to lay off the school librarian, as well as require students to bring their own toilet paper to school. However, north side selective enrollment schools Blaine, Bell, and Audubon were offered an extra $100,000 by the local school councils (LSCs) once they protested cuts made to their 2013-14 school budgets. (It is necessary to note that of the three, only Bell accepted the extra $100K). Of the 135 schools that received supplementary CPS funds after budget cuts, the majority of them were located on the north side.
The layoffs of CPS teachers and support staff, while difficult to digest, is still understandable due to the district reportedly facing a billion dollar deficit, by CPS estimates. These layoffs become less understandable in the face of news that Mayor Emanuel intends to use $55 million dollars in tax incremental funding (TIF) to finance the building of a 10,000 seat basketball stadium for DePaul University, as well as a hotel in the McCormick place area, also there is the expected $5 million dollar tax break to Vienna Beef to relocate from the north side of the City to the Bridgeport neighborhood on the south side. Emanuel cited that the Vienna Beef subsidy allowed the company to save 250 Chicago jobs, but he’s said nothing about the loss of employment of two thousand teachers.
At the July 24th CPS Board Meeting parent group “Raise Your Hand” protested the CPS cuts along with the Chicago Teachers Union and parents at the Thompson Center downtown, calling on Governor Pat Quinn to oppose the public financing of the DePaul stadium at McCormick Place and re-direct money to plug the budget hole at CPS. CTU has even gone as far as seeking a legal injunction to stop the CPS closing of the 49 schools and appealing to the United Nations to stop the Chicago Public School closings, but they have so far been unsuccessful in barring the closings.
Parents and educators have not been the only ones decrying the closing of CPS schools and their potential impact on the city’s students. CPS product and Detroit Pistons point guard Will Bynum revealed his worries to the Chicago Sun-Times that the downsizing will force students to travel through unfamiliar gang territories to get to their new neighborhood schools, a constant issue brought forth by community members. Bynum believes that closing traditional schools and diverting money to charter schools is a bad idea as well and suggests to provide more resources to the public schools that currently exist.
Privately funded charter schools, such as Noble Charter School Network, Urban Prep, Gary Comer College Prep and the city’s upcoming Bridgescape Academies, headed by none other than Magic Johnson, have sprung up in recent years to take the place of traditional public schools, whether they will be successful and truly Csuit the important needs of Chicago’s poor and working class communities is unknown as of now. One thing is for sure, though: public education has been irrevocably changed by the recent closings by CPS administration. How it will affect the children of Chicago, time will certainly tell.
Follow David on Twitter @davidevans9 and Regal Radio @regalradio1