Ben Pavur, Contributor
The fact is clear that the school system in Chicago is in bad shape. The question that exists is how to effectively respond to these shortcomings so the best education can be given to the children of Chicago.
One plan that has been a long-standing idea was to close several schools to save money, and to move underperforming children into better classrooms. As a result, the board of education agreed in late March to close 54 schools in the city. For the supporters of this move, the closings are a necessary step in closing the $1 billion deficit that the school system has, yet from the standpoint of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, this was a bad choice.
The main concern of the teacher’s union is what will happen to the 30,000 students who will now be forced to move from their old school. In many cases, the children will be moved to a school that is farther from their home, and possibly in a more dangerous location.
Another concern voiced by the union is that the teachers students have had for the entire school year will now be changed with only two months left until summer break. As one union leader said, this will be chaos for students.
The Chicago Board of Education said that the list of schools to be closed was based only on the performance of the school itself. The teacher’s union pointed out that the list is mainly based around schools in low-income, minority portions of the city where the board has done little in recent years to aid students.
Talk has already begun within the union about a possible lawsuit that will attempt to force a judge to issue an injunction to stop the closings. According to the Chicago Tribune, the lawsuit will be based upon violations by the City of Chicago on the contracts that exist between the city and teachers. Even the money that is supposedly going to be saved by the city through closing these schools is only going to be about $50 million a year, which, with all of the problems associated with moving students, may actually never be seen, according to the union.
In recent years, many public schools in Chicago have closed in an attempt to save money by consolidating resources, teachers and students. With Chicago Public Schools still running a $1 billion deficit this year, the use of school closings is clearly not the best option.
Another solution that has been proposed many times is to tie the pay of teachers with the performance of their students. This is not a popular option, but at least it will not impact students as much as school closings certainly can.
Brandon White, Contributor
Over my four years of living in the Chicago area, I’ve been able to witness the dysfunction and deficiency that has come to define Chicago Public Schools.
For what the taxpayers pay, they are getting one of the worst deals of any large city in the entire country. The average salary for a CPS teacher is nearly $76,000, the highest in the country. These highest-paid teachers have produced 79 percent of eighth-graders who are not grade-level proficient in reading, and 80 percent who are not grade-level proficient in math.
To add insult to injury, the Chicago Board of Education has a current outstanding debt of $6.4 billion. Last summer, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis led her delusional union members on strike, demanding a 30 percent raise. City officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel recognized this stunt for the absurdity that it was, and refused to give in. Taxpayers had finally had enough of these expensive schools with no results.
Emanuel and the CTU finally came to an agreement that included several cost-cutting measures. As a part of the final deal, they agreed to let the Board of Education close some of the schools that were the lowest performing or that were well below capacity of enrollment. Now that the board is following through on that deal and actually announcing which schools they will close, the CTU has gone berserk in its opposition.
Teachers and residents who will be losing their schools have held rallies and marches to bring attention to what Lewis has called this “racist” and “classist” policy brought on by the “murder Mayor” Emanuel.
That harsh language comes as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the CTU. It continues to be one of the nastiest, most hypocritical, crude and unrealistic unions in the history of organized labor. Time after time, it has put its financial interests ahead of what is best for students. This is easily evidenced by the $6.4 billion debt and the abysmal test scores of CPS students.
The union has refused to consider school choice for students, refused to simply slow the increase in their pay raises, and refused to consider any type of merit pay that could help rid the system of incompetent teachers, of which there are surely hundreds.
I’m glad the board and Mayor Emanuel have stood strong and decided to close these schools. It is a small but necessary first step in controlling the city’s unfathomable budget woes.
One of the most important skills in business is to recognize a bad investment and cut your losses. Chicago Public Schools have proved to be a pathetic investment, and it’s time the taxpayers began to cut their losses.
Students can certainly benefit as well. Many will be sent to larger, more successful schools with necessary resources like a gym, library and computer labs. At the end of the day, this should all be about the kids. And if we can help any child get out of the intellectual deathtrap that is a failing neighborhood school, we should.