Friday, September 27, 2013
Over the summer, I posted on a series of stories and lawsuits focusing on the massive school closings in Chicago and their effect on teachers and special needs students, in particular. The district's rationale was that those schools were underutilized and the district needed to make more efficient use of its resources. Now, the district is claiming that it has overcrowded schools in various neighborhoods, some of which were actually ones that it previously considered closing. Its response to overcrowding: calling for charter applications. On Monday, the district publish a formal request for proposals for charter schools. The district argues that there is a distinction between under-utilization, which lead to school closures, and overcrowding, which is the impetus for the current intent to expand charters. Of course, those are two different concepts, but it is equally obvious that, if a district closes more schools than necessary to address under-utilization, it creates overcrowding. Understanding this basic concept, many in Chicago are crying foul and saying this just verifies their long-held suspicion that the district is operating a concerted plan to private education. As stories from other cities like Washington, DC reveal, Chicago is not unique, but part of a larger pattern where school closings and charter school openings are operating in a symbiotic fashion. Some think this is a good thing. If the charter schools are improving the education system and opportunities of children on the whole, I would agree. My research, however, suggests that while improving the system on the whole may be part of the rhetoric, charter school policy rarely pays attention to systemic issues and, as a result, has negative repercussions on the system as a whole in many locations.