In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, former teachers union head Deborah Lynch wrote an editorial on the problem her school, Gage High School, is facing. Many underperforming schools like Gage are being set up to fail in the name of school “reform.” Our first instinct is to say that CPS should shut down underperforming schools and fire teachers at such schools. Lynch puts this kind of thinking in a different context that is linked to questions of labor, unions, and job security.
Schools like Gage High are failing in no small part because magnet schools and charter school siphon off the best students. At the same time, students from schools closed under the banner of reform are funneled into school like Gage. Lynch writes: “We must take everyone. And we do. We also must take students expelled from our neighborhood charter schools, private schools and jail schools.” How can a school succeed in this model, especially when the school system wants to increase class size?
When schools are closed, they are often reopened as non-union charter schools. Faculty at these schools work for lower salary and have no protection from a contract. Based on Lynch’s story and the ongoing financial issues, it almost seems like CEO Ron Huberman and his team want schools to fail. Failing schools and the budget are the Board’s excuses to reform the labor force and cut salaries.
Lynch outlines the problem. Writing in the Reader, Ben Joravsky reports on a possible solution: Parent groups demanding that TIF funds be used to support schools. These funds are controlled by Mayor Daley, and according to state law, they cannot currently be used for operational expenses. Instead, as Joravsky points out, TIF funds support private companies, such as Grossinger Auto Group which received $8.5 million to open a new facility at North and Clybourn, one of the city’s hottest intersections. Parents are asking why these funds, which are taken from property taxes, shouldn’t fund schools. Hopefully their voices will grow louder and stronger.