Hearing on school closings shifts to talk of quality, equity of education

November 17, 2011

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(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)
A Shoesmith parent "We do not want to continue with the s tatus quo."

Dozens of community members came to a South Side hearing on school closings Wednesday evening.

The closings in Chicago have become a painful annual event; the school district has shuttered more than 85 troubled schools in the last decade to reform the system.

Wednesday night’s hearing was on new criteria for shutting down schools. But many saw it as a moment to comment on the quality of education their children get.

"You can go to the North Side schools, and it is totally different than the South Side education," one speaker told school officials.

A number in attendance were affiliated with Pastor Marrion Johnson of Come Alive Ministry of Faith, who said he supports school closings.

"If schools are not producing the way that they should produce, then our children are the ones that are suffering as a result of that," said Johnson.

Some speakers read statements criticizing teachers, administrators and elected officials for only "looking out for themselves."

The audience applauded a call for smaller class sizes. And the biggest applause of the evening went to longtime activist George Schmidt, a former teacher, after he gave CPS officials and the audience a fiery primer on Chicago school closings, which he described as “a ten-year disgraceful history that has primarily screwed the black children of Chicago….”

Jamiko Rose, the new cabinet-level officer overseeing community engagement in schools, said CPS agrees that “at least for the past decade, we feel like the system has been failing your kids…. We all agree to that.” Rose said the situation calls for swift action so students quickly move to better schools.

An analysis by the magazine CATALYST-Chicago found more than 140 schools, most on the South Side, meet the district’s new criteria for being shut down.

CPS will release the list of schools to be closed by December 1.