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The [Wednesday] Papers

"Despite a $1 billion budget deficit projected by Chicago Public Schools for next year, district officials rolled out a list of investments they will be pouring into schools receiving students displaced by school closings," the Tribune reports.

"District officials said they are closing a large number of schools, hoping to address the looming budget shortfall. They have not released how much it will cost to shut down schools, provide extra security and safety programs for students, and equip receiving schools with upgrades like science labs, libraries and air conditioning.

"Each welcoming school will have the things that parents, teachers and CPS agree students need, such as a library, air conditioning, dramatic computer and science technology upgrades, and counseling and social work support," said school CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a press release issued shortly after midnight.

Shortly after midnight? Quick, check the roofs!

But seriously, that sounds good. By consolidating schools, the district can pour resources into those that survive and finally assure that each facility has science labs, libraries and air conditioning.

Except that closing a spate of schools is as likely to produce such investable savings as the torture panels from Persepolis is likely to shock our city's seventh-graders.

"[A] 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts revealed that many districts that have closed schools have realized few savings in the initial years because of significant costs to mothball closed buildings, transition students, move equipment and add upgrades to receiving schools. The average annual savings in the short run, according to study, were well under $1 million per school."

And that was in cities without the Chicago corruption tax.

From the study:

The money saved as the result of closing schools, at least in the short run, has been relatively small in the context of big-city school-district budgets, with the largest savings achieved when closings were combined with large-scale layoffs. Longer-term savings are difficult to project. In Philadelphia, school officials have downplayed expectations about the immediate impact on the district's bottom line, saying that the amount will be largely dependent on sales of unused buildings.

Selling or leasing surplus school buildings, many of which are located in declining neighbor-hoods, tends to be extremely difficult. No district has reaped anything like a windfall from such transactions. As of the summer of 2011, at least 200 school properties stood vacant in the six cities studied - including 92 in Detroit alone - with most having been empty for several years. If left unused for long, the buildings can become eyesores that cast a pall over neighborhoods and attract vandalism and other illicit activity.

The long-term effect of school closings on student performance appears to be minimal. While there is limited research on the subject, academic studies suggest that student achievement often falls during the final months of a closing school's existence. But such damage generally turns out to be short-lived. And some students wind up going to higher-performing schools and doing better there.

Which leads a reasonable person to ask: What's the point?

"CPS says the schools receiving students will be getting extra tutoring, mentoring, social and emotional learning programs and library supports such as books and digital resources. The receiving schools will also be getting capital investments like lunchrooms, new technology, ADA accessibility and where needed upgraded floors, ceilings and masonry."

Again, that sounds good. But why not just do that with our existing schools? (I'm temporarily ignoring the fact that we've been told for decades that just such investments have been made.)

The whole thing just exposes the trick bag the district (led by the micromanagement of Rahm Emanuel) has put itself in by trying to justify its onrush of crisis management with a series of contradictory claims and rationales. Is this really about saving money? Because that's not going to happen. Improving student performance? Ditto. Personally, I vote for Rahm's ego fueled by a need to justify his existence and his typical Napoleonic overreach combined with a vision unarticulated to the public (directly, at least) of a much-smaller district supplemented with far more charter schools (aka, privatization). Which is something parents have never consented to.

*

Let's be honest: Every school is a science lab, and the kids are the guinea pigs.

*

Meanwhile . . .

"Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the ex-Marine she put in charge of the transition told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that the cost of moving children from closed schools to new ones and improving the buildings they end up in will be paid for within two years using savings from the closed schools."

And the school closers will be greeted as liberators.

*

Meanwhile . . .

Here's CPS chief administration officer Tim Cawley, who received a waiver from the city's residency requirement so his daughter could continue going to school in Winnetka, doing his best imitation of a Comcast customer service rep.

-

This just in: I've located the decision-makers.

-

I hope your school closings go well.

*

Meanwhile . . .

"Six Chicago aldermen opposed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's efforts to shutter schools called on legislators to place a temporary moratorium on closings for at least a year, but the effort fizzled Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

"Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, chaired the hearing because [regular chair and Chicago state Sen. Willie] Delgado sponsored the bill."

Oh, I guess if you sponsor a bill you can't also chair a committee hearing about it because that would be a conflict-of-interest.

"Martinez was an appointee of Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on a commission that held hearings and provided help in guiding the decisions on closings."

Oh.

*

"After more than an hour of testimony, Martinez pressed Delgado to say whether he would remove the moratorium. 'Are we gutting the bill?' she asked pointedly."

And the district, he replied, in my imagination.

-

Local TV Notes
Lake County's Star Trek Landing Party, A Local Face Off Finalist & The Return of Chicago's King Counterfeiter.

Local Book Notes
The Boxcar Kid Of Oak Forest, Poetry As Comedy & Bridgeport Billy.

Fantasy Fix
The Top 30 Outfielders: Not Very Chicagoey.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: As a liberator.



Permalink

Posted on March 20, 2013


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Slow TV Chicago.
POLITICS - Dangerous, Low-Wage Industries Depend On Immigrants, Refugees.
SPORTS - Wrong Foot Louie vs. The Fireball Kid!

BOOKS - Meet Chicago's American Writers Museum.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Meet Limo Bob.


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