Chicago Public Schools should not close schools: a student's view

Some say a house is not a home, but in some cases, certain individuals would love to have even a roof over their heads. To many people, the school they attend is like a second home to them. How could it not be when, on average, students can spend anywhere from six to eight hours there? What happens, though, when the place we are so familiar with and attend every day is no longer available to us? The struggle today is no longer getting into a prestigious college or university, but finding an elementary school for children on the South and West sides of Chicago.

It seems outrageous, but this is a problem that many parents are facing. Although CPS may have resources which they may run particularly low on, like not enough computers for every student to work on in class, or not enough novels for every single student, this is not a good enough reason to close so many elementary schools. Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett should not allow the closure of CPS schools, reminding us that early educational development is crucial for a successful academic career.

I recall my own first-hand experience being in a school that was in danger of being closed down. The school was on probation for some time and, of course, I felt guilty. Although I had made honor roll and had taken honor courses, I felt like I was just a number in a system. I felt like my best was not good enough and that I was not taken into consideration. Why was my school being threatened of shutting down if I was a good student who followed the rules and had the grades to show for it?

Even adults, when moving to a new house or job may feel anxiety or feel that they are no longer in control.  What happens when a child this young is suddenly told they will no longer be attending or seeing the same school they have familiarized themselves with or no longer have the same friends or even the same teacher? With the closing of these schools, children that fall in this age category are more likely to feel guilty or blame themselves. They may feel their hardest was not good enough. These young children may feel ignored or that they were not taken into consideration. By moving to a new school and even a new location, these kids will feel lost and may even want to discontinue their education.

During the past few months, a huge uproar has been made over the controversial closing of Chicago public schools mostly on the South and West sides of Chicago. According to the Tribune, when this debate started only as little as 15 schools would be closed, but after later review they found as many as 129 schools to fit the criteria for closing. We may ask ourselves who decided upon this rule or even what the “criteria” is?  CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett said, “An underperforming school can be recommended for closing if it earns less than 33.3% of available points on the CPS performance policy for two consecutive years” (Chicago Public Schools). However, what was not specified was that schools that were thought to be under populated with students were also to be closed.  Many parents are furious upon receiving this load of news.

Parents as well as CPS members have been on guard and stressing about this decision. What is certain is that parents do not want the school their child attends to close. Regardless of grades or attendance rates, parents see no reason for closing schools in or around their neighborhood. According to DNAinfo Chicago, parents are worried about “shutting down the last remaining institution in impoverished neighborhoods.” What made this problem even more controversial was that most schools to be closed are the ones in troubled neighborhoods.

Within troubled neighborhoods there exists poverty, and also gang violence. Parents are worried that if their child’s school is closed and they are sent elsewhere, “They are potentially making our kids cross gang boundaries” (DNA Info Chicago). Gangs are something every pre-teen is pressured into knowing about, while parents may not realize boundaries are being crossed or the wrong colors may be worn.  Parents fret their children will be cheated by receiving a horrible education and will also be in danger getting to and from their new location.

Many factors contribute to why parents and entire neighborhoods are against closing schools in their neighborhood. Reasons vary from not wanting to relocate, to “end decades of family legacies at local schools” (Catalyst Chicago). In a story by Curtis Black, a Chicago writer, he states the following: “Publicly, CPS has projected annual savings of $500,000 to $100,000 for each school closed. Privately, however, estimates are lower. as low as $140,000 per school” (Huffington Post). Money is playing a huge role in deciding the closure of these schools. However, when the numbers are being blown out of proportion, it makes it more difficult to believe or understand why these closings are justified.

During the West Side Community meeting that took place Wednesday, February 13, parents, teachers and even students gathered to make sure their voices were heard. During the meeting a mother with a child in a school threatened to be closed said, “You are taking away from my kids, from my community, our kids need their school” (NBC Chicago). This meeting quickly became more intense when a student claimed, “It’s going to be more robbin’, it’s goin’ to be more killin’ it’s going to be a mess, you all think it’s bad now, close our school and it’s going to get terrible.” (NBC Chicago).

It is evident students, teachers, parents and entire communities are against the closing of these Chicago Public Schools. Who is to say once these children are all transferred to a higher performing school, that those schools’ academic performance won’t plummet like the previous school the children attended? They will be where they first started and be in a more crowded school. The chances of an educator quickly noticing the child's distress may be low.  Perhaps because there are too many students at their new location, the child will feel that her presence will not be noticed.

Today, CPS faces another lawsuit and battle they must overcome. Aside from closing 54 schools on the previous list that held over 300 and relocating 11 of them, they must now battle a lawsuit filed against them. These federal charges claim that the closing or relocation of the children with disabilities in these schools will worsen their situation. As if this were not bad enough, another complaint alleges that the closings have "single[d] out only African-American children" (Huffington Post). Another contributing factor in deciding which school would be closed was the fact that many schools had limited education resources that were spread too thin (NBC Chicago). They figured that by combining children from different schools to one that was doing better they could, “direct our limited resources to give all of our children the quality education they need and deserve to succeed” (NBC Chicago).

Hence the quite debatable discussion: should CPS allow the closure of over 50 schools on the South and West sides of Chicago?

Despite what some may say, it is not in the children’s best interest to close these schools. Although some schools may be under populated, this is not enough reason to close so many elementary and middle schools on Chicago’s South and West sides, reminding us that a child who has the best early educational experience will succeed throughout life later on. CPS will have to make due like they’ve been doing for so long. Closing hundreds of schools and rebuilding old ones will surely cost a fortune.

Instead of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars, this money should be spent on the schools that lack essential resources. In the end, it is all about these children’s education and money should not be the factor deciding the value of their education.

By Karina Martinez, Hancock High School Senior

Citations

1.      Ullah, Ahmed-, and John Chase. "Anxiety Grows as CPSReleasesPreliminarySchool Closing List." Featured Articles From The Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

2.      Horng, Eric, and Sarah Schulte. "129 'underutilized' CPS Schools 'under Consideration' for Closing, Parents React." ABC7 News. N.p., 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

3.      FitzPatrick, Lauren. "129 CPS Schools at Risk of Closing; West Side Parents Vow to Fight."Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago Sun-Times, 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

4.      Russo, Alexander. "Chicago Public Schools Closing List Dwindles to 129." Chicago Now. Chicago Now, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

5.      Cora, Casey. "CPSSchool Closings Plan Has South Side Schools Making Pitch to Stay Open." DNAinfo Chicago. N.p., 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

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