By releasing its preliminary hit list of 129 neighborhood schools that remain on the block for closure at the end of the 2012-2013 school year and proceeding with a second round of community meetings to garner feedback on how to best manage its manufactured utilization crisis, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has told Chicagoans that if they want a school to stay open, they will have to fight for it. They will have to beg for resources that should be available to all, and in a sadistic game put forth by CPS where individuals and their lives are mere pawns, parents, children and teachers are pitted against one another in a battle for a basic citizen right—a neighborhood school.
It is, as one local activist put it, much like the post-apocalyptic scenario created in the 2008 novel “The Hunger Games” by author Suzanne Collins.
Video after the jump.
Video from the 2/16/2013 School Closing hearing on Chicago's north side. Schools that specialize in special education and working with homeless students are pitted against each other for scraps from a starved budget.
In the book, boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, where the participants fight to the death until only one child remains. As the intensity and stakes grow higher in the quest for survival, and some children are seen as appealing for their prowess, it becomes easier for those in power to secure the money and supplies to help them live.
Our public school system creates a similar paradox, where it high stakes test scores that are designed to “prove” that children are worthy of resources, instead of viewing them as one of life’s most precious resources.
Rahm Emanuel to announce the winners of the Chicago Hunger Games at the end of March.
The 129 neighborhood schools on the CPS hit list include schools that were subject to CPS actions just last year, like Herzl Elementary in North Lawndale, which was a turnaround school and is now in danger of being closed permanently. Herzl families—punished for another year—are forced to muster the energy for a new “Hunger Games” fight for survival, and as the March 31 deadline approaches, time is running out. The actions CPS is considering could have been part of a process that started in January, as mandated by law, which would have provided ample time for a transition, but this is just the latest incident in a decade of failed education reform policies in Chicago.
Releasing the number of schools still under consideration is not a plan—what is CPS’ plan for potentially closing more than 100 schools and sending children to receiving schools? Where are the specific safety protocols? Children are rambunctious, and as many of Chicago’s elementary school teachers will tell you, violence does not start in high school. Students affected by school closings also lose 3-to-6 months of learning and there is no certainty they will be sent to a higher-performing school. We are concerned about the children impacted by these closings—some of whom have been through this process multiple times—and the subsequent effect on their communities.
Much like “The Hunger Games,” CPS families have not been given a choice; they’ve only provided a chance. Our children, their families and teachers deserve better. They deserve a guarantee