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11 ways Chicago is the beating heart of the disastrous charter school agenda

by Steven Rosenfeld - Alternet  |  05/15/2017

Chicago’s public school system has become a showcase for the negative effects of K-12 privatization, according to a new report that tracks how the city replaced struggling local schools with dozens of charters that didn’t perform better, yet deprived traditional schools of funds, students and public accountability.

The report, “Closed by Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools,” tracks 108 charter schools that opened between 2000 and 2015, a period when Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was shutting struggling schools, cutting district funding and reducing staff. It details and confirms what many charter critics have long said, that lobbying from pro-privatization forces swayed the city’ political leaders to impose top-down reforms that riled neighborhoods, undermined traditional K-12 schools, increased segregation and did not lead to schools with better academic results.

Perhaps most insidiously, the report describes in great detail how the CPS system aggressively shut down struggling schools in neighborhoods where student numbers were dwindling, while allowing better-funded charters to open up nearby, taking a greater share of taxpayer funds that might have been used to rescue struggling schools. The report was written by Roosevelt University’s associate professor of sociology Stephanie Farmer, Loyola University PhD candidate Ashley Baber and University of Illinois PhD candidate Chris Poulos.

“CPS’ approach to saturating neighborhoods with declining school-age population with new charter schools is stripping all middle- class, working-class and lower-income children, families, and communities of education security, where schools are rendered insecure by budgetary cuts, deprivation, or closure,” the report’s conclusion begins. “Education insecurity is the product of the school reform agenda focused on cannibalizing the neighborhood public schools in order to convert CPS into a privatized ‘choice’ school system.”

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