Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Behind the Chicago's school closings: Rahm's gentrification

Greg Hinz at Crain's unintentionally gives us some clues about the real reasons for Rahm's mass closures of neighborhood schools and their replacement with privately-run charters and selective-enrollment schools. It has much more to do with reshaping the city's demography, pushing out the poor and people of color from the inner city and replacing them with a new class of young, tech and finance professionals.

Writes Hinz:
 Take, for instance, the paradox that the city has grown wealthier even as it has lost hundreds of thousands of working-class residents, most of them minorities. 
As Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economist Bill Testa put it, it's good that minorities finally can make it anywhere, including the 'burbs. Everyone should have choices. At the same time, it's undeniable that one reason working-class people are fleeing the city is that the influx of wealthier newcomers is driving up prices.
To some extent, that's classic gentrification because, when those with money fight for space against those without, the money folks almost always win. Forcing lower-income folks out to inner-ring suburbs via pricing pressures can be a real disservice, if only because the suburbs are much less equipped than the city with public transit to get people to work.
Of course, Chicago's gentrification didn't begin with Rahm. It goes as far back as the 1950s and old man Daley's regime. The demolition of Chicago's public housing in the 80's and 90's and the forced migration of thousands of black families out of the west and south sides, out to inner-ring suburbs, began under Richie Daley. The city now has only five census tracts of majority high-income earners, but vast swaths of majority low-income households.

Chicago now has only 5 census tracts of majority high-income earners, but vast swaths of mostly low-income households.  (Chicago Magazine)
Daley together with the Civic Committee and then schools CEO Arne Duncan, also cooked up the Renaissance 2010 school debacle and the unbridled expansion of privately-run charters and new selective enrollment high schools at the expense of neighborhood schools.

Renaissance 2010 was a dismal failure in terms of improving Chicago's public schools if that was ever its real intent. It was quietly junked and replaced with the current strategy of mass school closings in mainly black and Latino communities under the banner of under-utilization.

The Sun-Times confirmed today that 90% of the students impacted by CPS school closings are African-American.
Of those 129 schools located mostly on the South and West sides, 117 are majority black. And 119 of them have a percentage of black students higher than thedistrict average. At the 129 schools on CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s list of schools that could be closed this year, 88 percent of the students are black. Schools with at least 90 percent black students account for 103 of the 129. Just nine are majority Hispanic.
Byrd-Bennett insists that "race is not a factor" in the process to close schools in an effort to “right size” the district. Rather, she says, the population decline has led to “under utilization.” But it's not hard to see how the destabilizing of neighborhoods through gentrification and the accompanying concentration of wealth and resources in the downtown and South Loop area of the city, has pushed low-income families out of their former communities leading to this population decline.

Many other targeted schools aren't under-utilized at all but are in cusp neighborhoods targeted for gentrification. CPS has also artificially intensified the crisis by redefining under-utilization to mean classrooms with fewer than 30 students and overstating the numbers of lost school enrollment.

All part of the plan.

1 comment:

  1. Hard to believe we've done away with so much of the public educational system; is the market system really a good fit for everything? What is lacking when viewed from afar are the good paying steady jobs in industry, lost due to inept monetary and trade policies, perhaps poor planning in transitioning to 21st century facilities, and blind faith in "free trade" global policies which favor the wealthy over labor. Those neighborhoods in poverty once had lively sources of income in the industries next door, and a renaissance in real solid industrial jobs is what Chicago needs to bring up pay, revenue, and self-esteem, and the schools will rebound as well. Schools tend to be tailored to the needs of the local economy, and when both work hand-in-hand, the incomes will rise again. Plenty of incentives can be built into public schools to yield excellent results, the business of promoting the commons is in the public realm, if we fund fully and incentivise accurately public schools. Leave market forces to marketable goods, and education to the public good.