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CTU: New Schools Chief Owes Chicago’s Children an Apology

by Sarah Hainds  |  02/01/2012

Dear Editor:

This weekend, CPS played a vital role in promoting the 5th annual New Schools Expo at Soldier Field. The purpose of the expo is to help parents navigate the complicated process of trying to get their children enrolled in “new” schools, although half of the schools that had booths are over ten years old.

It is clear, CPS does not want to promote enrollment at our neighborhood schools anymore and supports private programs that creep toward the privatization. New Schools for Chicago (NSC) Chief Executive Officer Phyllis Lockett told the Chicago Sun-Times, a student who cannot get into magnet or charter school is “unfortunate” and “relegated to a neighborhood school.” [NSC (formerly the Renaissance School Fund) was started by wealthy members of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club about 10 years ago with the purpose of raising money to help CPS fulfill its vision of 100 new schools through the Renaissance 2010 initiative.]

Ms. Lockett owes the children of Chicago’s neighborhood schools an apology. She knows more than anyone how many resources have been drained from the schools on the West Side and South Side of Chicago because of the proliferation and promotion of charter and contract schools.

The amount of time and energy spent on promoting the one-day school expo alone is just a glimpse into the tremendous disparity in funding and resources that these “new” schools get compared to neighborhood schools. Imagine where our schools could be today if only the New Schools Fund had spent its resources on our neighborhood schools.

And, why do we even need an expo if each of these new schools supposedly has a long waiting list? Why is CPS teasing parents by showing them what they can’t have; and that can’t be ethical or moral.

A public school loses enrollment due to housing and economic factors that push families out of the neighborhood while the school’s attendance boundary continues to limit who is allowed to enroll and aggressively marketed charter schools open nearby. CPS then blames the low-enrollment on the fact that “parents are voting with their feet.”

Our low-performing technical and career high schools no longer have technical and career programs – why would students choose to attend them when instead they can go to the “Bulls” high school academy or to a “college prep” high school, complete with bells and whistles but in the end fare no better than the school they just left?

Sarah Hainds
Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Teachers Union