Past Event

Back To School Special: What is Happening to Chicago Public Schools?

The Public Square presents this week’s Cafe Society in partnership with AREA Chicago. Guest speakers from AREA Chicago will be at Pause and the Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday (see details below).

"In 1997 the Illinois General Assembly approved 60 charter schools for the state. In 2004 the city and CPS announced a new initiative, Renaissance 2010, which has the goal of opening 100 new schools by 2010, of three types-charter, contract, and performance. Today Chicago has 27 charter schools with 47 campuses, some designated as Renaissance 2010 schools. The Chicago Teachers Union and some education groups in Chicago have opposed the initiative and charter schools, as a way to weaken the teacher’s union; teachers at charter schools are prevented by legislation from joining the CTU.

CPS began a school closing strategy in 2002, and closed three elementary schools. In 2005 1,116 non-tenured teachers were dismissed from their jobs. This action resulted from a change in the CTU contract with the Chicago Board of Education that allowed principals the right to fire teachers without due process. Transformation continues to occur within our public school system. Just this year more schools have been closed and the Local School Councils are under attack."*
— excerpt from Introduction to CPS by Therese Quinn in the current issue of AREA

Public schools in Chicago are ready to start classes again this September 2nd. In recent weeks, this date has become a catalyst for groups like the Chicago Urban League, which will use the occasion to file lawsuits claiming funding schools based on property tax revenue is unconstitutional and violates the 2003 Illinois Civil Rights Act. At the same time, Reverend James Meeks and Reverend Al Sharpton are calling for a student boycott that day to draw attention to school funding problems. This week’s readings cover the lawsuit and boycotts and include two overview articles about the changing state of public schools published in AREA Chicago’s summer issue about Chicago as an education policy lab. One article deals with teachers who work in social justice-themed charter schools, and the other deals with the background of how CPS became the most militarized school system in the country.

The school funding structure, the growth of charter schools, and emergence of military schools raise varied questions about how we should run our public school system. Should military partnership schools exist? Are they a ploy to recruit students into the military or a good faith attempt to provide a better education for Chicago students? If we are going to spend federal dollars on education, should subsidies be given to charter schools run by private companies? Are teachers going to benefit more from teaching the content they want at a "social justice" themed charter school or by getting long-term pay and health benefits in conventional public schools with unions? Should CPS students boycott the first day of school this year to address the unfair distribution of school funding, or is it unfair to use young people’s education to prove a political point?

Suggested Readings:

Participants are encouraged to contribute to AREA Chicago’s "Notes for a People’s Atlas of Chicago." Visit the website to see examples of other Chicagoans’ maps and to download your own blank map.

AREA Chicago Art/Research/Education/Activism is a publication and event series dedicated to researching, supporting and networking local social, political and cultural movements.

For more information, call 312.422.5580.