Parents dissatisfied a year after Chicago school closings

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July 9, 2014

One year after Chicago Public Schools closed 50 schools, parents still prefer their children’s old schools, which the city treated as “portfolio liabilities” rather than as stabilizing institutions, according to a new report by an educational policy researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The report, “Root Shock: Parents’ Perspective on School Closings in Chicago,” was produced by the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education, a faculty and student group in the UIC College of Education.

Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy, conducted multiple in-depth interviews with 23 parents on the West, South and Near West Sides of Chicago.

Pauline Lipman

Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy. (Click on image for larger file.)

“Through parents’ extended narratives, the study tells the story of school closings from the point of view of parents whose children were affected,” Lipman said.

Lipman found that parents were not satisfied with the changes brought about by the closings. Parents reported having been deeply involved in their closed schools, and some felt excluded by the faculty and staff of the new school. Most found no improvement in their children’s academic performance, and they worried about their children’s safety in the new school and en route to school.

“Parents made many vital contributions to their schools, were proactive, and have a holistic view of education,” Lipman wrote. “Parents distrust Chicago Public Schools, have a critical analysis of the reasons for school closings, and want a voice in CPS decisions and the Board of Education.”

Many parents and other critics argue that the closings were part of a larger agenda to privatize public education, break unions, and gentrify African American neighborhoods, Lipman and her co-authors wrote.

Among her recommendations:

  • CPS should impose a moratorium on school closings, turnarounds and charter school expansion.
  • Plans for school transformation should be research-based and developed by school-based educators and parents with the assistance of education experts.
  • School actions should require approval by the Local School Councils comprised of parents, community residents, teachers and school staff.
  • CPS should support a Local School Council in every school with training by experienced community organizations.
  • CPS should be directly accountable to the public through an elected school board representing parents and communities.

Lipman noted that recent news of teacher layoffs reinforces the parents’ concerns.

“CPS’s recent announcement of 1,000 layoffs of teachers and educational staff is alarming,” she said. “This represents a further disinvestment in neighborhood public schools and confirms parents’ belief that CPS has a larger plan to close neighborhood schools or turn them over to a private operator and privatize public education in Chicago’s African American and Latino communities.”

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