Three results of market-based reforms in our schools

I've been churning out a lot of words this month about market-based reforms and the damage they have caused in our district because CPS leaders have a blind devotion to this ideology.

These reforms have been picking up steam, astonishingly, despite their years of poor results, wasted money, resulting irreparable damage, and status-quo entrenchment in our schools. The federal government (read: Arne, just before he left the job and returned here) just gave Illinois $48M to spend on opening new charters, half of which is to be used in Chicago.  Oh joy. We can't even come anywhere near funding the schools we have and now we're obliged to open dozens more.

So what do these reforms actually do in our schools? Does it really make a difference what ideology our school leaders follow?

I can show you three problems from just this past month that are direct results of market-based thinking.

The failed boiler fiasco at Prussing school that sent more than 80 people to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. CPS has chosen to spend hundreds of millions on brass rings derived from the business world like data collection, an "office of portfolio," ever-changing management "networks," mountains of standardized tests and all their accoutrements, and terrible (not to say illegal) professional development--instead of basic facility maintenance. Memo to central office: you are not a nimble sexy Silicon Valley start up with venture capitalists throwing cash at you for snappy innovations. You are an institution whose purpose is to educate children, and you have 600 buildings to maintain in order to keep the children and staff inside safe and sound.

Librarians getting the hatchet all over the system; library space being given over to classroom use. CPS seems to follow the questionable directives of certain corporate tech retailers who think kids don't need books anymore. They need tablets, hand held devices, iPads, and chromebooks (which, I must point out, do cost more than books, and go obsolete much faster). In addition, Rahm is staking $38M (hard won from the FCC) on providing wifi in all the schools so, as Forrest Claypool says, our kids don't have to read a biology book anymore, they can watch surgery online. And CPS loves to spend millions on edtech, much of which is pedagogical crap and needs to be re-upped annually. Meanwhile funding cuts have caused many librarians to be reassigned as classroom teachers as hundreds fewer schools have these services every year.

Neighborhood schools getting important programs and personnel axed and suffering from chronic lack of support. Kenwood High lost its ESL staff, its Academic Center director, and its college resource person this fall. Roosevelt saw AP courses cut from its curriculum. Curie High, an arts magnet, may lose its arts major. Neighborhood schools, you must understand, aren't flashy and don't make lists of the nation's best schools. Funding these schools doesn't provide the payoffs that market reformers love: neither the political and financial capital accruing directly to Rahm associated with charters, nor the national reputation associated with selective enrollment high schools. So while Rahm thinks it's appropriate to plant 24 new charter schools in a system with 12,000 empty charter seats, and open yet another selective enrollment high school in Lincoln Park to the tune of $60M, he refuses neighborhood high schools both basics and things which have given them their own distinctive character for decades.

Things like the music program at Curie. One of their ensembles is Musicality, an amazing a cappella group. I mean really amazing. I heard them sing this two weeks ago. They were even better in person. Anyway, this group here, they're led by Curie music director Michael Gibson, who also films their videos himself on his own camera and edits them on his computer at home. The students practice 3 to 5 times a week after school for almost two hours.

Gibson volunteers his time.

CPS is held together by its teachers while its reform ideology is tearing the district apart. Teachers love what they do, and right now they are doing it without a contract (a situation which is itself--I hardly need to add--yet another result of market-based reform).

If you want a better Chicago Public Schools system please like my Facebook page and join me there for more discussion. You can also follow me on twitter @foolforcps.

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