Sunday, December 15, 2013

Drowning In Choice

Tomorrow CPS holds the first of two community meetings at 125 S. Clark Street for plebians citizens to give feedback on new community schools. New community schools mean, of course, charters. Given the fact CPS closed 50 schools despite much community protest, we suspect many new charters will get the green light. Under the guise of choice, CP$ gets to close and open school at their whim.

While there have already been 10 charter schools approved, WCT attended a Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) forum for Be the Change Charter School (BCCS). This school hopes to siphon funds away from the communities of McKinley Park, Bridgeport, Pilsen, and Bronzeville in order to provide an elementary school promising, "Peace, voice, and action." While CPS schools may not explicitly state these words in their mission statements, a great number of teachers and schools are already helping students realize these actions with the presence of restorative justice and service learning initiatives. 

The usual corporate eduspeak was on display from the BCCS design team: choice, equal access, high quality educational option$, success for all, choice, and yet more, choice. However, their design team made up of former CPS teachers, are working to add a few new phrases to the eduspeak lexicon. As their design team informed the crowd, "We want a $ymbiotic partnership to effect $ystemic change" as well as, "Success will no longer be traditionally defined." We're still scratching our heads about what a symbiotic partnership effecting systemic change would look like.

Despite the picture of urban educational harmony BCCS painted for the crowd, the McKinley Park NAC pointed out some serious drawbacks to the BCCS plan:
  • A scattered teacher recruitment process (only a few ads place in the paper) that would hinder the hiring of experienced teachers.
  • An "overwhelming" reliance on standardized tests (what about that non-traditional definition of success?).
  • Inconsistencies between proposed budget and actual monies needed to operate. However, a "no strings" attached grant from the reform-y Walton Family Foundation has been secured.
  • Current fundraising levels unable to meet needs for planned expansions (from $15,000 for their first year to $100,000 at year 4).
  • Only 85 of 114,000 community surveys returned indicating "yes" to the desire for another school in the area.
  • Questionable facilities: though they've retained the services of a commercial real estate broker the current proposed location is rental space in the Bridgeport Arts Center.  The Archdiocese will not sign letters of approval to use their existing neighborhood facilities. 
  • No aldermanic support from Alderman Balcer, Alderman Cardenas, or Alderman Solis.
The community doesn't want any part of the peace, voice, and action BCCS has on offer based on the Q&A session:
  • Q: Are you aware that you are taking money from the neighborhood schools that already exist? A: Yes, we are, but we're offering choice.
  • Q: How do you feel about ultimately lowering the academic quality of the whole community since you are taking money from neighborhood schools? A: The way funding works, it's the money that follows students. This is another high quality option.
  • Q: How can you ensure success? A: We've designed it that way. We will effect change.
  • Q: Are you saying change is not possible at CPS schools? A: No, it's possible. We just want more diversity.
  • Q: Since you are selling a product, are you saying you're better? A: We're not better, but we're another option. We are meeting a need.
Many such questions were directed at the BCCS by the audience, as well as boos and shouts of, "We don't want another school!" 

Office of New Schools analyst Emily Metz tried to put a stop to the rightful inquiries of the audience saying that if anyone had a specific question about CPS, it should be directed to CPS. Additionally, other people on her staff attempted to belittle the concerns of the community by: rolling their eyes at those asking questions, giving the cut sign if a speaker went on too long, and to one person said, "Do you have a question, wrap it up!"

The greatest demonstration of choice is often the choice to say no, CPS proves once again they have no intention of: ceding charter choice in favor of strengthening their neighborhood schools, choosing to genuinely invest in their communities by investing in neighborhood schools, and choosing to end the rampant corruption that charters engage in. 

Choose wisely, CPS.


  1. Great post. Take a look at the following for further insight into BCCS, especially the piece at the Chicagoist:

  2. Yep, same old storytelling. How do they answer to adding a charter across the street from prosser?!

  3. @ 11:31 PM - Thanks reading our post, and providing additional links. The conflict of interests noted would be shocking anywhere else but Chicago!

    @ 9:19 - Thanks for reading. The answer, of course, to anything in public education these days in *choice* and the educational profiteers at the Board plan to give Chicagoans plenty of it!