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Privatizing Education in Chicago

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Posted on May 28, 2013
Democracy Now!

The Chicago Board of Education voted last week to close 50 of the city’s public schools as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to save more than $500 million, or half the district’s deficit. Some 30,000 students will be affected, about 90 percent of them African-American.

Proponents say the closures will affect underperforming and underutilized schools. But a vocal coalition of parents, students and teachers has fought back, saying the shutdowns will force students to walk through dangerous neighborhoods.

Diane Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, a historian of education and best-selling author of more than 20 books, says the move shows that people “have come to accept the idea that closing schools is a reform strategy.” In New York City, the mayor’s office has closed roughly 150 schools over several years. In the 2000s, then-CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan shuttered and opened many of the city’s campuses under the miraculous stated notion that this process would somehow improve them. The latest steps in Chicago will close three of the schools Duncan shut and reopened.

“This is not about saving money,” Ravitch told “Democracy Now!” on Tuesday. “It’s not about giving kids a better education, because there’s solid research that shows that most of the kids who moved in from a closed school to another school, there was no change at all for them. This is really about a privatization movement that’s underway across the country, and I think that Rahm Emanuel wanted to be the biggest, the baddest and the boldest by closing the most schools.”

And the money in Chicago is going to tax breaks for billionaires like Penny Pritzker, Barack Obama’s nominee for Commerce secretary. “Rahm Emanuel actually does not have an educational plan; he has an economic development plan,” Ravitch continued. “And this is where the schools fit in, which is to close public schools and to open more and more privately managed charters.”

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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