Would you support the closing of low-performing and under-enrolled schools? Why or why not?
Gery Chico: Our number one priority must be our children, and that they are getting the best education possible. If a school is chronically under-performing or under-enrolled, despite efforts to address failures and challenges, changes must be made for the interests of the children. Children’s lives don’t wait. That said, we must take progressive measures that provide support to a school that is under-performing. When it is clear that a school is chronically failing, we must have a process that will enable families, community stakeholders, and most importantly children an opportunity to transition smoothly.
Miguel del Valle: We must review and monitor schools that continue to perform at unacceptable levels. We must also review reconstitution plans very carefully to include the schools’ learning communities in this planning. Everyone must be heard during the process of evaluation. The teachers, the parents, the students, and the community at large must work collaboratively before any decisions are made to close a school. It is crucial that neighborhood issues are also taken into consideration. The school board needs to adopt procedures that are clear and fair for determining reconstitution.
As mayor, I would only use school closings as an absolute last resort after all options to work with the community to improve a school have been exhausted.
Rahm Emanuel: There are times when drastic measures are needed to ensure our children are getting the education they deserve. Schools that do not deliver for our kids need to be addressed. I believe turnarounds have been an effective way to address some of our chronically failing schools. One school that I have visited – Dodge – had a rate of only 22 percent of students meeting or exceeding standardized test score standards; under new management for seven years, 82 percent of students now meet or exceed standards. These schools, which are run by CPS principals and unionized teachers, have shown the ability to improve outcomes for our children. Like all solutions, there are problems – we must learn from our experiences and improve on our record.
Carol Moseley Braun: As mayor, it will be my priority to work to improve schools by increasing performance and enrollment.
Patrica Van Pelt-Watkins: Generally, I am opposed to closing our schools. The Consortium on Chicago School Research has shown that, all too often, the only result of a school closure is that children are shuffled around – with little benefit to their education or to the community. I think the answer to addressing low-performing schools is empowering true community collaboration and implementing research-based programs that improve the quality of our children’s education. If a school is under-enrolled, the additional space should be transformed to house community support programs that would benefit the neighborhood and the students. Empowering the community to make the local school a haven of activity and safety will foster community spirit and participation. Safety will become a key factor in raising the pride of the students and the teachers, involving the parents and other volunteers in their own neighborhood school and a healthy configuration will have begun to make the environment a center of all around learning, not just during school hours.
William "Doc" Walls, III: I would not support the closing of any school simply because of a history of low-performance. If the building itself is not structurally deficient or unsound we would demand the administration make the adjustments necessary to support the, Principal, Teachers and Staff, and thereby improve performance. Only those schools that do not meet the small school standard would be closed for under-enrollment. If nothing else, we must provide our Students the stability they deserve.