By law, CPS must announce school actions for the next school year on December 1. Today CPS made their announcements.
Without a robust, authentic community engagement process that creates a real, comprehensive, city-wide facilities plan, CPS should put a hold on closing and opening schools. This will not happen until CPS has an elected representative school board. We understand that CPS has a number of schools with very low enrollment, and that is problematic. This has been exacerbated by CPS irresponsibly opening dozens of charter schools during declining enrollment. Only three of the 39 schools opened since the mass school closings were in areas of over-enrollment. The district lost 30k students in 10 years, yet CPS continued to open more schools and will be voting on another two new charter schools next week.
We question why CPS is closing NTA, a thriving, majority African-American school with 700 students and a strong school culture. We have met a number of students from NTA over the past four months, and it’s clear this is a school that’s been focused on imbuing students with self-confidence, leadership, public speaking and critical thinking skills. CPS should be using this school as a model, not destroying it.
We also question how CPS can close four neighborhood high schools in Englewood next fall leaving not one public high school in the area. They claim they will build a new HS in 2019, but what are students supposed to do next fall? What kind of message does this send to the families in Englewood? We’ve met parents from Englewood schools who say they’ve had zero voice in the process of the closings there and some who did not know of the one year gap with no neighborhood high school in Englewood.
CPS needs an elected school board for so many reasons—the right of basic democratic representation chief among them. This broken facilities management and school action process, however, certainly encapsulates the poor decision-making that results from an unaccountable, appointed board who ultimately do not have to answer to the key stakeholders in our public school system, the families directly served by the schools. Despite having passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly this spring, our legislative leaders failed to bring a bill that would establish an elected school board for Chicago to the Governor’s desk this fall. As this latest school action announcement makes clear, we will and must keep pushing for Chicago voters and public school parents to have the same rights as all other Illinois residents have.
You can find the full list of school actions here as well as dates and times for community meetings and hearings.