Take a recess from closing public schools

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GEORGE E. CURRY

 

(NNPA)—Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has announced plans to close at least 50 schools as a cost-cutting measure. But before any other urban school system follows suit, it should take an extended recess and reflect on what has happened in the past that makes this such a foolish idea.

We can start by looking at what has happened in Chicago. A volunteer group called CREATE —Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education — has produced a briefing paper on past school closings that provides some interesting insight.

First, there is the issue of trust. Based on its past performance, there is no reason to trust the Chicago Board of Education’s financial projections. The board approved a budget with a $245 million deficit for the 2010-2011 school year. But instead of a deficit, the board ended up with a $328 million surplus.

There was a similar pattern for the 2011-2012 school year. The board budgeted for a $214 million deficit. Instead, it had a surplus of $328 million. In each year, the board missed its target by $500 million.

And what about the students who had to enroll in new schools and students who had to receive them? Bad news on both counts.

“A 2009 study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) found that 82 percent of the students from 18 elementary schools closed in Chicago moved from one underperforming school to another underperforming school, including schools already on probation,” said CREATE. “In a follow up 2012 report, the CCSR determined that 94 percent of students from closed Chicago schools did not go to ‘academically strong’ new schools.”

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