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Robert Winner

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Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is closing 54 schools

Barbara Byrd Bennett Chief Executive of CPS announced that 54 schools will be closed at the end of the school year because the system has a 1 billion dollar deficit in a story carried by NBC News. Ms Bennett stated " the district is 20 percent under capacity — almost 100,000 students — leaving many schools half-empty. The district will save $500 million to $800 million for each school that is closed, she has said in community forums and news interviews leading up to Thursday's announcement."

I am no math genius but if I multiply 500 Million by 54 schools I get 27 Billion and if by the high estimate of 800 Million I get 43 billion. That would suggest a over kill to me. Further I could not find a decrease in Chicago population ...

Where did these kids go to? Is closing 54 schools really the answer? What are the options?

Since this is happening in many large cities .... In order to be better informed and better prepared what would you suggest to fix the existing problems?

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  • Mar 26 2013: I lived in Chicago up until last year and my sister taught at a charter school in Englewood, a high-crime, low-income neighborhood.

    I have not kept up with everything in this recent push but I know that a huge part of what the city is dealing with now is cleaning up the mess former Mayor Daly left them in. He went on a binge of privatizing revenue sources to get windfalls to make budgets work and then jumped ship when there weren't any more quick fixes. I don't know enough to have an opinion of Rahm Emmanuel's mayorship, but I do know he inherited a really rough situation.

    Also inflaming this issue are the racial and class tensions in the city. The schools that are getting closed are in black and brown neighborhoods that also happen to be least served by the public transit system. When the transit authority wanted to do work on the Red Line section that serves the mostly black, mostly poor South side, they implemented a plan to close the tracks for months and use shuttle buses in the interim. In the past when they've done major construction on El lines in the white and middle class Brown Line, there has been no interruption in service. It might be that schools need to be closed. I know that the politicians know that the poor and the undereducated will whine and fuss and make noise but closing schools in middle and upper class neighborhoods would undoubtedly lead to an all out political war and plenty of lawyers on the scene.

    My read on the actual rationale for the situation: When someone has to pay the price, it's always the poor's turn.

    The best fix I can suggest is Family Literacy programming. Family Literacy is a wonderful model that enables parents to reengage with education and gain the confidence to step up to the plate as their child's first teacher. Education is too big a job for the school system. Always has been. Always will be.
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      Mar 26 2013: Josh, I was in Illinois during the Evert Dirskson and the original Daly political machine. I can tell you that there has always been racial and class issues in Chicago and much of Illinois. Richard J Daly (daddy) ran the most currupt administration in America using the strong arm of unions. He made the same promises of being for the poor and programs for the black to achieve equality ... he made these promises over and over ... things continued to get worse. Rahm Emanuel was a campaign fund raiser for Richard M. Daly and part of the Democratic machine in Illinois. He help to broker the 10 year union deal under Daly. There is nothing new in Chicago politics ... it is still crroked ... it still preaches relief to the poor, black, and browns ... it is a micro of the federal government where the 1% are to blame (class division) and the poor need more programs (that the economy cannot support and is voted against by republicans attempting budget controls and reduced spending). Daly and Emanuel are becoming multi millionares at the expense of the people and blaming others.

      Your read: "the poor pay the price" is accurate ... it is all a political game. Cutting education is part of the sequestrain BS and blame will be laid at the feet of republicians who "failed" to vote the way the administration wanted thus causing the problem ... this will be the major issue in the next election.

      As a Independent I see problems at both sides politically. But the Daly / Emanual machine will continue to roll and will remain blamless and the people will continue to drink the koolade and vote them back in.

      Thanks for the reply ..... glad I moved ..... Bob.
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    Mar 24 2013: Has there been a drop in the birth rate? You can have static poulation but a drop in school age children.
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      Mar 25 2013: I found the following statement which may serve as an explaination:

      The decline came as new condominium towers have risen along Chicago’s skyline. Those buildings often are filled by singles and retirement-age couples who no longer have children at home, resulting in smaller households than the families who move out of the city to find cheaper housing and jobs,

      I do, however, have a problem in the article. School budgets are submitted yearly. So did 100,000 kids move out of town last year in order to cause a one billion dollar deficit and a 20% capacity rate drop?

      I tend to think there is a lot more to this story and the politics of both sides are seeking favorable public opinion which is common with political issues.

      My opinion .... it is a wonder that anything is ever resolved when the facts are seldom evident or available.

      Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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        Mar 25 2013: It does seem like a degree of mismanagement. The public school system I work in has the schools funded per student down to the point where we can lose a teacher mid-year if the student numbers drop.
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          Mar 26 2013: We fund schools based on seat time. If a student skips, transfers, or is out on sick leave then money is subtracted by the number of hours the student was not there in the seat. As you say if the funding reaches a specific level then a "non" core course may be dropped. As an example say the first on the drop priority list was Art then all Art classes would be rescheduled to other courses and the teacher would be laid off in accordance with the terms set forth in their contract. Each teacher is told where they are on the "bubble".

          I am certain that mismanagement is a part of most "business" issues ... however I also believe that the budget cuts at the federal level are political and that they are designed for blame in future elections. It would be easy to select thousands of ineffective programs for elimination prior to reducing education funding. Even programs that have not went into effect could lose funding until funds become available. Why education?

          Thanks for the response. Bob.
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    Mar 24 2013: Let's see how charter schools go, it might work.
    • Mar 29 2013: They go well, or not, based on who is running them and how the comparison is made to other students of the same ability at the start. However, that is not the issue here.

      If there are no students for the seats, they do fairly poorly. So one must ask where these students have gone too.
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    Mar 23 2013: There is something seriously wrong with the USA. News like that depresses me. Why not redesign the school systems, consolidate, cut down the frills? It's like I'll either have a feast or go fasting.
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      Mar 23 2013: History is a great teacher. For years America has been under assult of Communism / socialism. The president of the American Communists stated that he no longer had to run for president as the democratic party had embraced his platform. We have slowly envoked social programs and converted millions to generational welfare being dependent upon the government for their existance. President Carter and President Clinton made the banks provide loans to people who did not meet minimum qualifications for home ownership and never had the capability to maintain or repay the debits incured. President Carter removed education from the department of health, education, and welfare and made it a cabnet post. The decision making left the community elected oficials and became federal government decisions made by political appointees and infusions of cash were given based on pledging your alliegance to the party. Failure to do their bidding still endangers funding. Unions became the major influence in education and a political powerhouse by promising blocks of votes from a marxist organization.

      Our administration has selected the keynesian model of economics which embodies big government, deficit spending, extensive social programs, and power at the level of elete leadership positions that are exempt from all laws and bear no responsibilities for their actions.

      Yes there is something wrong with the USA. What is happening in Chicago is just a symthom of the desease that has infected us. We have reached a point where our debits have exceeded our GDP and our leadership asks for more money to maintain programs and continues to borrow from other nations as our employment drops, business go bankrupt, manufacturing goes overseas, and taxes increase. Our leadership does not see this as a problem and those who are getting a free ride support and vote for those who are destroying America.

      We are the present day Argentina of 1916 .... doomed.

      Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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        Mar 23 2013: I will be very keen to hear the assessment of the situation from someone younger than you. I have many friends in your country and keep getting alarming news but never imagined it this bad.
        I come from a state in India that was ruled by Leftist coalition for over 3 decades so I have first hand experience what communism can do to free enterprise and business.
        Just about a year ago students in Canada came down to streets to protest excessive hike in college fees. Why don't people protest?
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          Mar 23 2013: Why no protests. We are arriving at a point where the majority are receiving "free" stuff and the minority have little influence. With fewer tax payers and more people on the dole the ride cannot last long.

          Young people are aquiring big debits and the government is attempting to forgive all of those debits and the Fed is buying up all opf the acid debits aquired during the housing boom.

          Thanks for the reply.

          Bob .... apparently the old guy.
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          Mar 26 2013: The "excessive" hikes would STILL have left the students in Quebec paying significantly less than their counter-parts in the rest of Canada, so I have little to no sympathy for them...
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        Mar 23 2013: I had no intention of looking down upon your seniority sir, just thought younger generations might have a version. I'd implore you to have trust that something will work out.
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          Mar 23 2013: That is what we have been discussing .... things have worked out. Just not what I had wished for.

          No offense take on my age.

          Bob.
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    Mar 23 2013: Thank you for the reminder of the importance of basic arithmetic as one way to measure the honesty of government officials.
  • Mar 23 2013: Don't count on anyone telling us the full truth or doing something because they know what they are doing. This is twenty-first century America and some of the enemies of public schools don't want success anyway. This was easily predicatable decades ago just like our current economic problems. Did any of the experts warn us? Jimmy Carter and the Real President Bush warned us about coming problems. Did either get reelected? Does anyone really appreciate a Casandra or a problem solver? Don't slay the messager is an old request and still true. Who is more dangerous to Chicago schools - its enemies or its friends? Look at Jerry Brown's recent progress in California to see that smart help can really help.
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    Mar 23 2013: Privatize the schools and audit the budget.

    Is this part of the sequestration BS?
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    Mar 22 2013: They are setting the scene for full charter school implementation? or they have been given the hard word to tighten the belt. Could it be they want to push for home online schooling? I don't know much about whether charter schooling has spread across the States but it's starting to be set up here in nz, our education minister was pushed to make cuts and our recent earthquake that damaged a large portion of one of our cities opened an opportunity to close some of our rural schools and start the process for charter schools.

    Is Chicago being made out to be the States ghetto city Rob? I know that sounds horrible but that's the feeling one gets when you hear anything from the media.