Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Mayor Emanuel, and Becky Carroll, the CPS spokesperson, have used the justification (among many others over this year) that we must close schools that children are in under-utilized schools. They have even blasted the Chicago Teachers Union, saying that "union leadership remains committed to a status quo that is failing too many children trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools."
As a high school history teacher in Englewood for the past six years, I agree that we must break the status quo. We (parents, teachers, and tax payers of this city) must break the status quo that CPS and our mayor allow to go on. The status quo of having a mayor control the school system. If, as a mayor, you have to close any schools you obviously are failing running the schools. If, as a mayor, you have to close the most schools in the history of our country you have obviously failed at running the schools.
The status quo that allows the mayor to give lucrative deals to his friends like dodgy head of UNO Charter Schools Juan Rangel, who in turn has had millions of dollars of state funding cut off, because he was caught giving tax payer money to his relative's businesses.
We have to break the status quo of having the dubious distinction of being the only school district in the entire state with an appointed, handpicked -- not elected -- school board. The mayor not only controls the schools, but then he gets to pick who will be on his school board. The appointed school board is made up of people who do not send their children to public schools and in some cases do not even live in the city. As I teach my students, this is called Paternalism. An outsider who claims to know what is best for everyone.
Speaking of outsiders and the status quo, we also are on our fourth CEO in five years. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who replaced Brizard, who replaced Manzany, who replaced Huberman in 2009, is not even from Chicago. In fact, she is still registered voter in Ohio. So like the school board someone not from Chicago telling Chicago parents and students what to do. To see Byrd-Bennett's true policies just look to her brief but damaging time spent in Detroit.
The notion that students are trapped in under-resourced schools is partly true. I disagree with the trapped part of the statement but the under-resources part I strongly agree with. CPS and the mayor say to get more resources for our schools we must close 50 schools. Yet the status quo is allowing some schools to be fully funded using TIF money and other schools like mine and many in the black and brown neighborhoods of this city to not be fully funded.
You see, with TIFs, the neighborhoods with more political clout are allowed to keep their TIF money and have it used for the purposes it was intended such as funding schools. In other neighborhoods the TIF money that is supposed to be used for schools is actually be siphoned from the neighborhoods that really need it and that money is taken downtown for building things like the $100 million River Walk, $300 million to a private university to build DePaul's new stadium, $55 million for the new Maggie Daley Park.
The status quo allows the mayor to take from the poor and give to the rich. The status quo allows school board members like Penny Pritzker to use TIF money to build new hotels while having her bank accounts located in the Bahamas. This means that the status quo allows her to make decisions for schools, take money earmarked for schools, and then not pay taxes that in part should be helping schools.
So when the regurgitated rhetoric comes from our CEO, mayor, or anyone high up in CPS about the Teachers Union wanting to keep kids trapped in the status quo, remember that the Teachers Union is made up and run by 40,000 people who work with students and have committed our professional lives to improving the opportunities for our students. We want our kids to have every opportunity and resource possible. We have a plan for education in this city, unlike the mayor. We demand that instead of closing schools to get the resources our kids should have had all along that the status quo of how the resources are allocated be changed. Since teachers are forced by law unlike the appointed school board and certain higher ups in CPS to live in Chicago these are our children. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, while talking a good game and using catchy sound bites, is really just pretending to care about other people's children, because like her CEO predecessors, she will be gone shortly too.