If Not Renaissance 2010, Then What?

There are lots of things wrong with the closing and opening process that many of you know well. The closings have created an awful lot of upheaval, first for students and now more noticeably for teachers. Etc., etc.

But without Renaissance 2010, there's no influx of private and foundation cash over the past five years, and there's no real mechanism for changing schools that have not been changed by more moderate means (leadership changes, curriculum changes, etc.). Without NCLB, Ren10's big brother, there's no big increase in federal education spending to help make up for the anemic state and local budgets that CPS gets (and a school system that fails to attract the vast majority of white and/or middle-class kids in the city).

This is the conundrum for opponents of Renaissance 2010 -- coming up with an alternative that is reasonable on the substantive side but also appealing enough that lawmakers with throw money at it and parents will buy into it. Politicians aren't just willing to fund schools anymore, especially with the illiteracy and dropout rates that many schools (and districts) have. And kids shouldn't have to wait for schools to get better. "Protect my job" is not a convincing argument.

Sure, Ren10 opponents can try and fight off the closings. But what does that accomplish, really, besides making opponents (and their funders) feel important? Teachers get to keep their jobs, sure. But not closing schools or opening new ones won't make schools better. That's not a school improvement strategy. Lawmakers will just walk away from the schools, flat funding them or worse. Ditto for parents.

So what should happen to CPS instead of annual rounds of closing schools and opening new ones? You can't just be against Ren10 and expect anyone to take you seriously. You can't just say let's go back to the good old days. (They weren't that good.) You have to be for something else -- something viable, reasonably affordable, and not entirely self-serving. Something that would bring in financial support, and parents, and improve schools.

Filed under: 125 S. Clark Street

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