Save Chicago’s Public Schools

Instead of trying to improve troubled schools, the city is shutting them down.


Comments: 158

  1. I've regretfully come to agree with Chris Kennedy's appraisal. How planned it has been I don't know, but I believe it started before Rahm Emmanuel's election. There is a real decline in enrollment in black neighborhoods of Chicago but there is simply no justification in the complete withdrawal of any public investment in these communities. What's left in Englewood or Lawndale of public investment? A post office or two? It amounts to the same thing, a slow, relentless divestment and disinterest in these neighborhoods. It doesn't matter that much if its planned or not because the results are the same, people leave, the neighborhoods decline even faster and those who are left struggle with one more additional problem. There are real financial issues in Chicago. We do not have the budget of New York City but closing public schools unless absolutely necessary is unconscionable, particularly in these neighborhoods.

  2. PS-- ever occurred to anyone that school personnel are overpaid?? Pensions are very high... and BTW why not equal pay for equal work and bonuses on the basis of student performance. Why pay people more for every year in the system.. Often the youngs uns are the best teachers... and they need to income to buy the house, pay for the baby, save for college. The old ones... do not need extra income.. Kids have finished college... etc. and maybe they should retire early and help out with their grandkids instead of boosting their pensions.??? Really a huge question here...

  3. Isn't a new $85 million high school a public investment? How about the $10 million investment to bring in Whole Foods to Englewood? Do those count?

  4. MakeAmericaSane, "school personnel are overpaid?" "Pensions are very high..." In most states teachers are required to obtain a bachelors and a masters, paid for by themselves. "Often the young uns are the best teachers...and they need to buy the house, pay for the baby, save for college. The old ones...do not need extra income...Kids have finished college....etc. and maybe they should retire early and help out with their grandkids instead of boosting their pensions???"

    How dare you decide when anyone should retire? What do you know about anyone's financial situation? How would you feel, 30 years from now, if someone told you it was time to retire when you were not ready to do so? Prepare yourself for that scenario, dear Millennial.

  5. The big issue facing schools in the US, as long as we continue to push the approach where we try to get every student college ready, is that no one who wants the best for their kids wants their kids stuck in a classroom with children who don't have any support at home. If you live in a poor district, your students are guaranteed to be surrounded by those kids because we don't separate out students based on achievement level - the high achievers are basically treated like assets used to try to bring up the achievement of the lower ones. Of course, this means high achievers flee at every opportunity to better districts because they are being held back. And the cycle continues and the inner city schools get worse.

    These schools should instead be focused on the highest achievers where there is a better "return on investment" working with students who actually put in effort. Students who are not prepared for the educational system should be shifted into alternative programs by age 13 at the latest and we should stop investing extra resources in foolhardy attempts to catch them up.

    Focusing on the high achievers might actually give the better students incentive to actually stay in district instead of fleeing at the first opportunity like they do now. We have to accept that schools cannot fix all of society's problems and that we should invest where the return is good instead of pretending that we can do it all.

  6. Kevin, I've taught in such a school. You are 100% right. Bravo!

  7. Kevin, so right. I've taught in NYC for 25 years and worried about my elementary school kids who I thought would not make it to college. This city did away with vocational high schools in the 80's and that was a big mistake. Not every one is college material and there is nothing wrong with that. Kids should be able to attend vocational high schools, be apprentices and learn a life skill that will enable them to support themselves and a family. Otherwise, we are setting them up for a life of failure, which has already happened and continues to happen. This is a crime.

  8. I agree that offering a safe, challenging environment for motivated students will keep them and their families in public schools. Keeping their families who tend to advocate for them and therefore for the school is also critical.
    However, giving up on any child hurts everyone, both now and in the future when that child becomes old enough to either be an asset to the community or a liability, to use the investment concept.
    I have given many years to public schools and seen many models. Grouping kids by ability level has had success. But we as a society are responsible for all children so the issue is how to reach and turn around kids who aren't motivated, aren't supported, and fall behind.
    The fallacy is the belief that only the supported and motivated are worth our investment. We can meet the needs of all children if we make it a priority. The point is to make it a priority.
    I dream of taking very young kids who are not learning to read and putting them in tiny intense groups of 4 or so kids and listening to them, get to know them, make them love school and fall in love with stories and use the wonderful variety of approaches to teaching reading and math that are available until an approach that works can be found for each child and they are well launched as competent readers and learners and can catch up and stay there.
    We know how to do this. We pay dearly when we fail.

  9. Both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois are staring bankruptcy in the face. A large number of people have spent decades looting the public purse, and the money has finally run out. Now they can't even pay their vendors when they need to buy vital supplies, and they are gradually being cut off.

    They may finally have to resort to honest government instead of graft, but that would be a last resort.

  10. I bought supplies for my classrooms. Paper, books, pencils, crayons, paint, pastels, baskets for books, erasable markers, marker boards... (learning letters and printing), journals for kids w/o, paper to cover the walls with, curtains for the windows, possibly a fan, globe, plant seeds, plastic bags, flour and salt (for salt dough). Parents can usually supply Kleenex. It really does not cost that much.. (I don't like to eat out...so all that $$ saved....) Graft is huge... everywhere... In NYC one had to spend discretional funds with specific vendors. whether or not they had what one needed. (The Times needs to inestigate graft but guess what-- teachers in NYC are warned nefer to speak to the press. Your union rep...... What's going on with janitors these days?? Teaching KG guess who vacuumed the mandatory rug in the classroom daily?? hint NOT the janitor. I put my foot down with the rocking chair... not wanting to squash fingers..(it was supposed to be cozy reading in a group.. PS the NYC BOE after we learned and implements SFA - Success for All- a reading program from John Hopkins.. precisely after three years on the program decided we should use the New Zealand method (copletely inappropriate for American city kids -- based on sight retention... with expensive supplemental programs for our slow readers-- way too complex for our slow readers-- very suitabl for our better and best readers... So all the SFA material soon disappeared... same for math.

  11. MakeAmericaSane, very few people know how much teachers spend, our of their own pockets, on their students who they love. Donors Choose is a great organization that you probably already know about. If you don't, check them out. They will send you supplies for your students, FREE!

  12. Schools and churches are the strongest factors in forming a a community out of an area, a support network out of a population. Local groceries help too. This function is sadly under-appreciated when we build giant supermarkets, magnet schools, regional high schools, and charter schools. Neighborhood schools are an essential part of community safety, mental health, neighborhood revitalization, and stability. They encourage parental involvement in schools. They are part of how we support life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    Instead of closing schools, we should expand their uses. How about establishing community centers in every elementary school?

  13. I sympathize with Ms. Manasseh's efforts to keep the public schools open. However, more information would be helpful: is low achievement due to substandard quality (and low pay) of the teachers? Low educability of the students? What was the return on past investments in terms of student achievement? What is the best use of limited resources when facing students who resist education? If gang boundaries are an issue surely this should be a priority concern - no child should be afraid to cross their neighborhood.

  14. Low pay isn't the problem: "The median salary for nearly 18,000 teachers employed by CPS as of June was $78,169, according to an analysis of CPS data. Teachers get a median of $27,564 in benefits, including pension payments and insurance."

  15. As an inner city teacher, I'm sickened by the way Democrats as well as Republicans despise the kids I teach. Ms. Manasseh does vital work with the kids through her group, but inside the schools, 1000s of teachers & professionals like me support the day-in, day-out nurturing & development their minds, bodies, souls.

    And what is the response? Fire us. Drive us out.

    I dont' want to hear partisan attacks on Trump here. This is *every bit* a Dem policy (as here with Rahm E.). The moment I heard Arne Duncan nauseatingly crowing that Katrina was the "best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans" I knew the former Obama administration was just as much an enemy to real public education as Bush had been before. All any politician wants are kick backs & quid pro quo deals with tech & hedge fund investors & privatization of the schools. They may *say* they care about the kids but actions speak louder than words. Where did Obama send his kids? Duncan? Bush? Trump? And if charters are so great, why not send their own kids there?

    The schools are not magic boxes. These kids have both PTSD & trauma. 100% of our middle school knows at least one family member who has been shot & killed. Its common for them to hear bullets at nights. FIX THE NEIGHBORHOODS--fix family structure & bring back jobs. Kids shouldn't step over bodies to get to school.

    Slapping on unproven charter schools & closing neighborhood schools so pals/donors get rich is just disgusting.

  16. Fix the neighborhoods? What are you talking about?

    Save union jobs! That is your real message.

  17. Right on!

    The Obama girls attended the same private University of Chicago Lab School attended by Arne Duncan. Rahm Emanuel did not attend nor does he know or care about Chicago Public Schools.

    While I attended one of these Englewood Schools Lindblom Technical High School a selective successful STEM college prep public school.

  18. Well said!
    We must recognize and support teachers like you.

    Thanks...

  19. Why?

    "...Dwindling enrollment is a reality at these schools, but that’s partly because the city has not invested nearly enough in them...

    Why???

    http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/06/us/end-of-a-ghetto-a-special-report-ra...

    "...In the final months of the Hole, anarchy was everywhere. The Hole, the most oppressive section of Chicago's notorious Robert Taylor Homes housing project, was coming down...

    "...Gang members shot at a moving van outside one of the Hole's three high-rise buildings. Moving crews tried to hurry out each day before drug dealers commandeered the elevators...

    ...............

    Only things that're different...

    > That was failing public housing - these are failing public schools

    > That was twenty years ago - this is now

  20. Unfortunately, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, slaps high fives all around (particularly his rubber stamp city counsel) every time he gets away with closing another neighborhood school. He has built his mayoral career on scapegoating teachers, and turning his back on schools in poor neighborhoods like Englewood where Ms. Manasseh and her organization do their good works. Voters need to watch for a mayoral candidate in the next election who touts the education of our young people as an asset, not a loss.

  21. Once a cinty government goes all-progressive-socialist Democrat, the kids and parents rank far from the top. These cities are all about politics, thus the schools become all about political support from the teachers.
    Chicago's public schools are there to employ and pay teachers so that teachers will fund politicians downtown. Worse, the valuations of what needs to be taught these students is determined by the hard-core Left.
    What a great time to be opening private schools!

  22. I have a great deal of respect for your efforts. That said, I disagree, respectfully, with your article's thesis. I've taught in a public school like those about to be shuttered - surrounded by violence and poverty. Simply put, traditional locally-controlled public schools are ill-suited to perform well in such neighborhoods. Welcome charter schools with open arms. Public schools have school boards and administrations incapable of establishing and upholding strong accountability systems. Charter schools artfully circumvent those obstacles, to their students' great benefit. Charter schools are not babysitting centers - that should be celebrated and has the potential to turn around, with time, the communities you love.

  23. You mean like UNO which had Juan Rangel at 275K a year running its schools to the favor of d’Escoto companies? When charter schools "circumvent" transparency and local control they find ways to give money to their friends and politicians to approve more contracts. In Chicago we do not have an elected school board - it is controlled entirely by the mayor. So any objection you may have to this article doesn't acknowledge the political realities of an unelected school board that has a history of its leaders going to jail or resigning in disgrace - which has happened with the two previous CEOs.

  24. No. Charters are not a panecea. They do not out perform public schools; rather public schools do appreciably better in vetted research. Public schools, unlike charters, don’t feed at the public trough.
    Rahm Emmanuel should not think he is presidential material, unless he wants to change parties.

  25. Public school in Chicago -- Spanish first language learners... been there done that. So lovely when people who have never been near the classroom or know little or care little about how children learn pontificate on the subject. One should be able to examine the entire curriculum for the school year. It should be posted on line-- daily activities- standards they comply to and the reason for the activity. For every class, everyday ; books used, equipment required. Really not very hard to do..Vdeos of lessons should be onlilen so a day out of school is not a day of school missed. Of course then those lazy teachers would have all of their lessons planned for them ... (Guess what there could be choices.) The idea that AI will cure everything and that American kids should not do menial or hard labor -- who's going to be the sous-chef? pave the roads?construct the buildings? repair the cars?? (oh immigrants??)but must go to college and become what lawyers and traders?? the most noble of professions is total nonsense. That music, art and writing by hand have no place in a school is nonsensical as well as the idea that there shouldn't be outdoor recess-- someone might get hurt. I have no idea who is making $$$. Naming name -- Eva Moscowitz in NYC. Chicago with its high murder rate has problems... Where are the libraries? community centers with basketball courts?? How late are they open? Problems do have solutions. it takes effort and BAD teachers should be fired/

  26. The root of the problem is political and economic. The inner city, the hood as the kids call it, has become a separate society cut off from the capitalist economy that most of us live in. Listen to hip hop music to understand this culture. It’s counterproductive to attribute this solely to racism. What also cuts it off and let’s it limp along is welfarism and single parent households. In such circumstances, kids are not likely to see the logic of education leading to literacy, numeracy, getting a degree, going to trade school or college, and getting a job.

  27. I agree with the applicability of cultural critique alongside other explanations.
    At the same time, would it be fair to say that the today's hip hop is in fact supremely capitalist?

  28. Many Hip hop artists are enterprising capitalists, more power to them, but their songs and lyrics do not express middle class values of nonviolence, hard work, sobriety, the usual pathways of the American dream. Drugs, machismo, violence, egotism, transgressive behavior are romanticized. Read the lyrics.

  29. Hear Hear to Ms. Manasseh's column. I have had students in the Chicago Pubic Schools for over ten years now. It's appalling to read about the consistent funding given to the selective enrollment high schools and other specialty schools that serve the upper middle class and well educated but less affluent families of the city. It's sickening that the city won't fund even one of the public high schools in Englewood decently that is not Lindblom- the selective enrollment high school which is certainly incredible but not attainable to many of the students in Englewood. The Mayor loves the rich. He fills their pockets with contracts that debase the public school families and their students. After the African American families leave Englewood it will touted as the new hipster paradise for young artistic risk takers.

  30. Preserving a favorable city environment where the rich live, have their businesses (that also employ city residents) is essential to providing the tax revenue needed to fund local government services needed by lower income and middle class.

    You will not find a city with good government services for lower income and middle class households where the rich have left town. Once the wealthy leave town, getting them to come back is near impossible.

  31. "Perhaps Mayor Emanuel does have Englewood’s best interests at heart and is not just trying to force the poor out"-He doesn't have anyone's interest at heart but his own and he's been pushing a pro-corporate, anti-union agenda for years. How are educators and parents supposed to feel loyal to the Democratic party when it ignores real progressives and promotes union-busting criminals like Mayor Emanuel?

  32. Rahm Emanuel isn't Democratic enough for you? Wow!

  33. I never really saw Rahm as a Democrat, more of a Republicrat. I was glad to see him go (from Washington), but sorry to see him inflicted upon Chicago--a city I love. But then, I’m just one of those “retards” his spoke of while he was still with the Obama administration.

    My greatest disappointment with Obama was when he opted to send his kids (like others before him) to a very elite private school; there are good public schools in DC, and some of them made a huge effort to impress Michelle Obama. But like most parents, the Obamas went for the best that money can buy. They could have done so much more for education by showing support for public schools. Duncan was a horrible choice as well. These are all things that make me laugh when republicans call Obama “liberal”. He was really quite moderate.

    Until we change the way schools are funded, the model of either fleeing to well-funded suburban schools, or opting for private schools in the urban environment will continue.

  34. Some people don't want to make their kids social experiments. I know DC has a number of good schools
    Benjamin Banneker is one of them but it is not comparable to Sidwell Friends.

  35. I do not think it is a coincidence that the closing and abandonment of public schools in Chicago over the last many years has coincided with a high crime rate.

    Contrast that with NYC, where - despite some of Mayor Bloomberg's attempts to give charters free reign -- public schools have remained quite strong and crime has stayed low.

    If you take away the public institutions that strengthened communities you end up with more gangs and crime. Disinvesting in neighborhoods and then - after crime rises -- disinvesting even more -- is a recipe for the very high crime you have in Chicago. And the fact that a few CEOs who run charters for the cheapest to teach children can make a lot of money does not justify this abandonment.

  36. As a teacher, who grew up on the privileged side of town, I am beyond disgust at how these children,and their community (!), are treated.

    Have you no shame, Chicago? Have you no heart, America? Are people so without souls?
    Thank you, Tamar Manasseh for your honest thoughts. Hopefully, this will make all Americans think deeply.

  37. Actually - it's not heart that's lacking in Chicago, it's money. Thanks to ongoing patronage and back-breaking pension deficits perpetrated by years of Liberal "rule".

  38. In the short time since this story was posted CPS has modified the plans a bit, and they are now saying they will "phase out" the schools over several years rather than shut them all down abruptly this summer.

    This is a little sad for me, because I worked as a teacher at an elementary school down the street from Robeson in the 1970s, and I can remember when it was first built, replacing an aged building. Our kids were very excited about it and were happy to be able to go there. So I assume the building is still in pretty good shape.

  39. What do parents want? I'm tired of professional shills, excuse me, activists telling parents what they need to do. One of my neighbors is a "union activist" teacher. she sends her own daughter to religious school but if you give her half a chance she will lecture on why charters are bad and will destroy the country.

  40. Charters are robbing the taxpayers even more than the regular schools in urban districts.
    We sent our kids to our dismal public system k-8 and then on to private high school.
    There's simply no comparison.
    Publics are test-centered, privates are student-centered.
    Charters have to take the tests so they are test-centered, but they don't have to follow any of the other usual public safeguards.

  41. And what if the schools are not improvable? If the closing of some is based on inter-factional political grudges? If the teachers are not up to a standard, for whatever reasons?
    Certainly, in a one-party city dominated by Democrats, all the touchy-feely, leftist radical arguments are listened to.

  42. And maybe some of the problems have to do with all the people who moved to Evanston and left these neighborhoods to rot.

  43. "School choice". Now that would be a nice contrast to this daycare/dumpsite of every kid within five miles that we have going on right now.

  44. Name a large, urban district that is doing an excellent job serving its students.
    You can't, because there isn't one.
    There isn't one because 90% of employees in urban districts aren't there to serve the kids and the community; they're there to climb a career ladder to more money.
    I know because I work in one.
    Take away the ladder and the money; it's the only hope.

    On the education side (versus the business side), eliminate almost all of the administrator jobs AND lower the salaries substantially. No one in a public district should make double what the average teacher salary is except the superintendent and that pay should be slashed and then capped, as well.

    The teacher-student ratio should be as low as whatever private school in a 50-mile radius has kids getting the highest SAT scores. The non-teacher to student ratio should be the same as well (that's going to mean hundreds of non-teacher jobs lost).

    Freeze all spending unless it's to replace lost textbooks, projector bulbs, and copy paper. NO more travel, retreats, catered meals for admin, TFA, new software, etc etc etc.

    Or just give the kids vouchers. At least that will attract the middle class back into the cities so they can get vouchers to put toward the private schools.

  45. Older and wiser, I am a teacher. I know exactly what teachers make. Admin are overpaid and there are too many of them.

    Craig--cutting most of the admin (through attrition, to be humane to those employees), doesn't cost a thing. And then their salaries can go to pay more classroom teachers to get the student-teacher ratio down to private school levels.

    These school systems are fixable, but literally hundreds of thousands of corrupt bureaucrats in them across the country would have to be removed or rendered powerless.

  46. @RJ @Jonathan. I suspect that what Jonathan quoted included private school teachers, but even then the salaries look inflated.

  47. Without a prescription on how to "fix" the "broken" schools, the only alternative is to shut them. Ultimately after decades of failed attempts at "fixing," people have to realize that the most important factor in whether children get an education or not is parental involvement. The best teacher cannot get a student to learn if his/her family does not value education.

  48. "Instead of trying to improve troubled schools, the city is shutting them down."

    The city *has* been trying. For decades.

  49. Education is rooted within the family, and the neighborhood. There are real limits to what any school can add to the training provided by the family. It is dishonest to claim that any school can te the place of the family. That may be an unpleasent truth, but should we prefer a pleasent lie?

  50. Why do you folks persist in doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result. We in the Great White North have lots of problems, I am not being smug. But we have a different model of education and I am puzzled as to why you don't adopt it. Demographically we are close to being identical.

    1. There are virtually no charter schools, few private schools and the vast majority of children, even in affluent areas go to public schools.

    2. If schools are located in areas that have a large number of families headed by single parents, low income, recent immigrants and other factors they are given increased funds. Kids have access to museums, science centres, outdoor education and music programs. Student-teacher ratios are lower in the "at risk" schools than the ones located in well to do areas

    3. Teachers are very well paid and teacher's colleges are difficult to get into. Parents in affluent areas know that their children will be getting the creme de la creme. Consequently few see a need to send their kids to private schools. They take them on ski trips and European tours instead.

    4. Yes poverty exists here but not to the grinding extent you have. It is possible to live a "life of frugal dignity" instead of one on food stamps supplementing your pay from Walmart.

    No other country relies as much on the private sector to educate their young as you do. Build up your public system instead of filling the mouths of the education corporations with gold

  51. Toronto is not Chicago. Canada is not America.

    American public schools are primarily funded by local public property taxes.

    After attending her neighborhood public Chicago elementary school, Michelle Obama attended and graduated from Whitney Young High School a selective Chicago Public School known as a magnet school that corresponds to a charter school.

  52. You have raised a very important point: private school students do not take any of the standard tests that public school students take, other than the SAT and AP tests. Even for those tests (SAT and AP), public schools routinely release assessment statistics, while private schools usually don't.

  53. About 30 years ago there were no charter schools and private schools were few and far between. The US education system started failing when the Dept of ED was made into a cabinet level agency and given too much power. Far too much. They started social re-engineering in the name of racism and raced the education to the common denominator. Our public schools used to be great, but no longer. And, it's not about money. In ATL we do the same thing - school taxes collected throughout the state are dived up and ATL gets more per student, has more teachers per student, and has more administrators and bureaucracy than you can believe. They were busted for cheating - 150 teachers and principles, found guilty or pleaded out. Kids doing as bad as ever, because you cannot suspend or remove a bad actor from the classroom. It's racist, for some reason.

  54. Thank you Tamar for an insightful article into one of the most vulnerable areas of our beloved city. Neighborhood schools are the answer for sustained community growth and connection. It's unfortunate that since politicians found ways to make money off of federal and local contracts for new schools that the so called "democrats: have embraced school choice. Keep on fighting the good fight and I am encouraged by your work. Don't listen to the naysayers on this thread. It's easy to be an internet critic from afar. It's hard to live and work with the community itself.

  55. I am a 25 year veteran NYC public school teacher. It's not the schools that fail kids. It's the kids and their parents who are poor and all of the socio-economic problems: drug addicted parent(s), incarcerated parent(s), deceased parent, violence in the home, and being raised by another family member or a foster parent that causes children to fail in school... These children bring all of this baggage into the classroom on a daily basis. Help people to stop making the choices that keep them in poverty (good luck with that) and every school will be a success.

  56. Amen, just spend a week or so substituting in these schools and you will also be appalled at some of the students arriving that are supposed to be molded into model citizens.

  57. Olivia

    I was a 20 year teacher veteran NYC with 3 master’s in education. I taught primarily Dominican children in Washington Heights, mentored teachers, and taught some in the education department of Queens College. To blame the children and parents for poor education in public schools is unacceptable, unsupported by research, violates the methodologies that you were likely taught in gaining your license, NYC Board of Ed policies, and simple humanity. Also, ironically, sociology, which is to a significant degree an outgrowth of research at the University of Chicago, overwhelming shows that social disfunction is primarily economic and structural in origin. This university, of course, is near the neighborhoods where the school closing have, and are scheduled, to take place. Finding social disfunction as primarily an ethical failing of the poor has a history going back to the poor laws in England centuries ago. It also conveniently absolves the larger society for complicity in maintain an impoverished underclass.

  58. Being born black and poor in America is not a "choice". Your contempt for these kids and their parents is the kind of condescending paternalism that was once reserved for Irish, Italian and Eastern European Catholics and Jews in New York City. Your personal baggage is showing in your classroom of bigoted color aka race low expectations.

  59. The only ones who can save Chicago’s schools are Chicagoans, with help from Illinoisans; and I don’t harbor expectations for Illinoisans to be of much help, as the state is as bankrupt as the city.

    It’s come to this. Chicago is SO clueless about how to put its dysfunctional governance on a paying basis that an op-ed appears in the NYT begging help to save a bankrupt school system. It’s not that Rahmbo wants to “gentrify” Chicago’s ghettos, but that he has inadequate MONEY to invest in schools, he’s looking for more, and in the end the poorest ALWAYS are targets. It’s merely political expediency that always has existed everywhere.

    Consider the unthinkable for this most collectivist of our major cities: declare that anyone starting a new, small business that employs neighborhood people in Chicago’s most depressed areas pays NO income-based state and local taxes for twenty years (and it might need to be renewed). In a generation, the economic activity and jobs that might spawn could transform those neighborhoods, making funds available for reinvigorating neighborhood schools and improving their quality. A virtuous cycle thus could be inaugurated that could eventually mainstream Chicago’s South Side and other neighborhoods and create the conditions that would reduce gang activity and general violence that feed on extreme poverty.

    And, just maybe, we might get an op-ed from a Chicagoan OFFERING seed-funding to other depressed areas across our nation to save THEMSELVES.

  60. As a life-long Chicagoan, I think you are dead-on. The only thing lacking in your discussion is *why* Rahm is begging. We've gotten to this point as a result of spending - lavish pension and salaries for bloated Administrators handed out as political favors combined with lavish life-long pensions and salaries for teachers handed out as a result of strong-arming by the bloated and corrupt teachers union. Corruption and unions have bankrupted chicago's school system, and the destruction of quality education has been the result.

  61. The public school system of Chicago is a two tiered system. A child can receive a world class education bar none at some of the country's best public high schools and elementary schools...usually, but not always, located on the north side of the city. I work in an elementary school within walking distance of my home - I reside in one of the most diverse communities in the country. Our school is successful both academically and in our learning climate. Of course we have issues - all schools everywhere do - but even though our student body is a rich mix of different types of learners, economic backgrounds, and English language learners, we generally succeed with many of our students going on to great universities and solid careers. And no, I'm not tooting my own horn as a teacher - I believe that although we contribute to that success, it begins at home with parents who support their child's endeavors. It should also be contributed to by a city that values ALL students and provides up to date resources - including libraries and fine art teachers all over the city, not just if you're lucky to land in a good zip code.

  62. Research suggests that very little is being learned in these schools. An occasional anecdote suggests otherwise (when, for example, there’s a story about a graduate who has been accepted to an Ivy League school), or it does not (see The Battle for Room 314). Money may solve the problem, but only if use it to build new schools, develop rich and accessible pre- and after school programs, offer generous and nutritious meals three times a day, provide tutors and life-coaches for each child, as well as adults to monitor and protect them, and offer a safe and comfortable place to sleep.

  63. Two sides of the same coin: punish public schools that are flourishing by reducing their funding via the new tax law, and punish public schools that are struggling by pushing charter schools.

    Trump's tax law attacks public school funding in those states that have invested in high-quality education, i.e., the so-called "high tax, high income" states.

    On the other hand, for poor locales, Republicans (and many Democrats) push charter schools in the name of equality. That's their solution to public schools struggling against oceanic poverty.

    Note that among advanced countries, only England and the United States have a two-tier educational system. It hasn't served either country well.

  64. Most countries have tiered school systems. Germany has three, and your child is tested quite young. The public schools here are in a terrible state in some areas, but blaming charters is misguided. Why not look at the schools and see the reasons they are so bad. The first thing I would do would be to redo teacher education, but the best teacher can't help if the students don't want to learn.

  65. Two-tier education refers to public vs private...and the assumption in this country that private is best.

  66. An empty building is not a success or a failure. Put a failing company in an half-occupied office building. It's not the office building that's failing.

    For multiple reasons, the kids in these schools aren't learning. That's what makes a school a failure. Three half-occupied buildings full of failing kids isn't much different from a full building of kids who can't read or do math.

    The parents and kids in these neighborhoods who are determined that their kids will learn have moved them into charter schools. Because those are full of kids who are learning.

    Blaming them, or charters, for the failures of others is pointless and useless.

    The only thing that will work is addressing the kids who are failing to learn and their families.

  67. To those opposed to charter schools I would ask, would you like Medicare to follow the public school model? That is, the hospital you go to would be determined by where you live, and that hospital would assign you a doctor. You could chose your own hospital or doctor, but that would be fully at your own expense with your Medicare taxes going elsewhere.

    If senior citizens can have choice in how they spend taxpayer dollars for their health care, why can't students and their parents have choice in how they spend taxpayer dollars for their education?

  68. If Medicare followed the charter school model, you would get a "voucher" to buy insurance from companies who were allowed to drop you as soon as you got sick. And then you'd be stuck back in the "government" system which had only the most expensive and sickest patients.

    I suppose if you are fine abandoning all kids with special needs and creating a system where the most ruthlessly selfish people profit the most while the ones who care the most are shut down, then you'd like that.

    Sounds like a Trump supporter since that's what he stands for.

  69. I always find irony in the failure of the public schools in cities that have been run by members of the Democratic Party for generations. Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis to list three, are all cities with failing school systems, notwithstanding, the assumed support of the Democratic Party's most loyal constituency, the public school teachers and their unions.

    Try this experiment. End mandatory school attendance. Presumably the students who want to learn will continue to attend school, and the children who either by their own decision or the decision of their parent(s), who are not interested in education, will not. My experience over 40 years is that the "graduates" of failed school systems are often illiterate and are already burdens upon society. Why allow them to interfere with the education of serious students, who have much more potential. The failing Chicago School System is an excellent opportunity and laboratory to try this approach to public education.

  70. I think more articles like this one are important. Continue the long, slow, crushing, irreversible decline with stories like this. When the system finally hits bottom it will never try this stupid "liberal" experiment again.

  71. I find it incredibly interesting that my state is run by republicans and we are one of the lowest performing states in the country. (That statement makes you uncomfortable?) Instead of pointing fingers at political parties, let's look at what is good for the students. I am a charter school teacher and a democrat. I don't see anything wrong with charter schools. They are public schools and are therefore required to follow state guidelines.

  72. So you are good with children age 5 to 10 not having to be in school? No one looks out for them and no one cares?

  73. As with many other large cities, decades of Democrat control has driven public school systems into the ground. The inner city public school systems are incapable of improving the acute problems, let alone chronic under performance.

    Private and charter schools are a worthwhile innovation to address the acute problems.

    Correcting chronic problems will only happen when the existing city government swamps are drained and new leadership with new ideas are elected.

    However, I am afraid the existing politicians are too corrupt and entrenched to allow this to happen.

  74. Perennial problem: Remember busing? Remember grouping kids in classes by ability? Very few teachers can implement something called peer teaching/learning. BTW forget the standards ... what is the actual factual ino kids are to learn? There used to exist a booklet telling what children were expected to learn in science (in this case) at which grade level. NYC long has had specialized high schools as do other many major cities. BTW funding is based on enrollment. I don't quite understand if this essay is anti-charter schools? So far as gangs.. now there's a giant discussion. Kids with too much time on their hands?? no jobs?? Perhaps, the kids should be paid to do things after school including helping little ones with reading and math... but that might mean staffing certain parts of the building until 6,7,8? Frankly, the buildings themselves are an underused resource. E.g. they have cafeterias and kitchens and simple food could be prepared for chldren. people who might otherwise go without eating. (But if school food continues to be a means of support the agriculture industry -- and continues to be often inedible - baseball fruit - why those awful mini carrots?? - sugary muffins and cereals?? Pepperidge Farm pre packed peanut butter, jelly -- you can ruin a peanut butter sandwich SED... Yoplait and Chobani yogurt-- all sugar and awful.) BTW is Manasseh's organization a NFP? Are officers paid?

  75. The other nail in the coffin of public education has to do with the new "tax" law. This law will remove the deductions for State and Local Taxes, why? The why is, that blue States pay more monies into State and Local taxes that fund public schools. The squeezing of these deductions will cause fewer monies to blue States public schools. The inconvenient fact is that public education is superior in blue States.

    At the same time, the Red States receive more monies from the Federal Government and in many cases pay little to nothing in State and Local taxes. This results in most public schools in red States are total failures, which means that too many students lack knowledge and job skills when they graduate public high school. This correlates to the fact that most entrepreneurs come from immigrants.

    As an aside, the cabinet post for education is led by an individual that has no knowledge or education in education. She owns charter schools, this is her concern, to feather her nest.

  76. For starters...you are in a red state (Florida).

    Secondly, red states have plenty of taxes, large homes and rich people -- especially Florida!

    To say this only falls on blue states is absurd. It is not a "state by state" tax law.

    Liberals have screamed for years to raise taxes on the wealthy; well here it is, sister! you wanted more taxes -- now you have them! so stop whinging!

    (Education is not "better" in blue states -- they are merely wealthier -- just as white Chicago suburbs are wealthier and have better schools than poor black urban Chicago slums.)

  77. You’ve got to bring back the jobs for folks in inner cities, unemployed or incarcerated parents don’t make for good role models and they are the ones that determine the child’s interest in education, or not, of course it can be argued that the whole system is broken from the way drug laws are enforced on the poor as opposed to the rich to the opportunities available to the poor and not just based on color, believe me those “ deplorables” in rural areas are stuck on the same dead end streets as the inner city kids, no education no parental role models whether due to the garment factory moved to China in Chicago or you can’t log anymore in Oregon, no job is no job, and before the job destruction was allowed by our anything but free market system the capitalists and politicians should have given it some thought, there is certainly historical precedence as to what happens when a few people have all the money. It can and is getting really ugly.

  78. I agree that “jobs’ are the key. Employed parents show their kids the way to success. But saying ‘you got to bring back the jobs to inner city’ is meaningless. Who is ‘you’ and on what business plan would these businesses succeed? Subsidies from a corrupt politicized city government ? Many poor inner city neighborhoods— with hopefully some exceptions —are economic dead zones. One hopeful sign is perhaps that the black population in the inner city of Chicago is moving away. There have been descriptions of Black families returning to the South to start over their lives. Isn’t that what Americans do? They go where there are opportunities. They move where the cost of living is lower and where there are jobs. The solution is a truly liberal one. Individual and family choice, not govt. programs.

  79. Close one stable and send the horses to another? It seems that the problem is just going to be moved. The "problem" is a culture of illiteracy, violence and easy, if not much money.

    Neighborhood schools create "a shared sense of community" Really? In Chicago, they seem to create territory for gangs. And that is the real issue that the author faces, buy ignores at the same time. It's safer for kids to go to schools in which they know their gangs, although the presence of these gangs some might say detracts from the learning process.

    Get the violent and predatory out of the schools. Period.

  80. I don't disagree with the idea of getting the violent and predatory out of schools but what do you do with them then.

  81. One of the comments, from a Canadian, contains an interesting fact, "Teachers are very well paid and teacher's colleges are difficult to get into."
    While American teachers are, in general, well paid, teachers' colleges are about as hard to get into as most movie theaters.
    A decade ago I dated a math professor at a better than average, private University in northern Illinois.
    She taught one math class, in the Education department, for aspiring teachers.
    To pass the course students were required to pass, with 7 correct answers, 3 tests of 10 questions each. One test on whole numbers, one on fractions and one on decimals.
    Divide 720 by 12; which is larger .09 or .1; add 3/4 to 1/8. .
    Not exactly the stuff of college math.
    The students could take the tests any number of times and at the end of the year, fewer than 15% of her students could pass all three tests.
    College students.
    She was a brilliant teacher. I fell in love, before meeting her, when I saw an exam she had written, on parametric differentiation, posted on a bulletin board in the hall of the math building.
    But she simply couldn't teach teachers the fundamentals of grade school math.
    They were organically stupid.
    And 3 weeks later her entire class walked across the stage to pick up their degrees.
    In "education".
    I work with students and teachers in a local, upper middle class High School and, while many are talented and competent, a depressing number couldn't graduate from that school.
    Part of the problem?

  82. Grades, in and of themselves, are not always a good indicator of who will be a good or great teacher. Yes, educators need to have knowledge, however, grades typically indicate who can pass a test not who can teach and inspire others to learn. I know many people who were at or near the tops of their classes, but their level of intelligence seemed to be a barrier to actually being able to teach others - they often get frustrated when others don't understand what is being explained and they often use complex information because it comes easily to them. Sometimes, when someone has to work hard and struggle to learn information, they become terrific teachers because they can relate to the struggles that students have.
    It's important to remember also that there are many other professionals in the working world that did not graduate at the top of their classes, they passed by the dint of hard work and the skin of their teeth - they just may be your successful doctors/lawyers/dentists/accountants/investment bankers...

  83. It depends on the program.

    Here in Connecticut, UConn offers a 5-year BA/MA program that is very selective. You have to have top grades for your first two years, and interview, to get in.

    The graduates from this program nearly all get teaching jobs.

    Meanwhile, at the next level down, over at Eastern and Central, they also have education programs. Many people go through these courses, but few get jobs. The schools realize that if you want a good teacher, you should hire from the UConn grads.

  84. @Bruce - Teacher salaries in affluent US states are similar to what you made in Toronto. The Chicago average is $79K, to there are plenty of teachers in the $80-110K range.

  85. The black population in Chicago is decreasing, leaving many schools in predominantly black neighborhoods with very low enrollment. This is a fact that too many Chicagoans, particularly black residents, do not want to accept. I worked at a school on the south side that was built for over 4,000 students (all white) during the 1930’s. It is now nearly 100 percent black and there are about 900 students. The building is old and costly to maintain. The building is so large and underutilized that some students hide out in some of the empty classrooms instead of going to class.

    This is a typical scenario throughout the south and west sides - too many old decaying schools, not enough students.

    It makes all the sense in the world to close down these underutilized schools and build a modern one. I’m sure students will prefer it to the old moldy ones they now attend.

    Of course it doesn’t matter what schools the students go to if we can’t get control over the behavior. What I see going on in the schools is downright appalling. A large percentage of our students are disrespectful and apathetic. In my opinion, more focus should be on behavior instead of on buildings. Parents should be up in arms about behavior and how its impact on achievement. Where is the indignation and concern about that?

  86. Thank you for giving FACTUAL honest information!

    Ms. Manasseh made it sound as if viable, FULL schools with thousands of students were being displaced.

    From your words, we can easily see these schools are underpopulated and it makes absolute sense to consolidate -- in a new, energy-efficient building with updated technology -- science and computer labs, etc.

  87. The equality of opportunity in the U.S., once again, truncated, to the chagrin of yet another generation of students. Can't we see we are shooting ourselves in the foot, wasting the best a country can offer and benefit from, it's human talent, via education? Are we blind, deaf and stupid? Or just don't care? If solidarity were given due consideration. as we ought to, then we must be reminded that 'no chain is stronger than it's weakest link'.

  88. OK then -- identify the cause -- PUBLIC UNIONS -- and take away their unholy power!

    Problem fixes itself.

  89. Who is "we" in America is primarily divided by color aka race. Caste trumps class.

  90. Sounds to me like the neighborhood schools that Ms. Manasseh lauds are perpetuating mediocrity. Maybe the city, in striving for excellence in education, should be targeting more failing schools.

  91. Public schools put these kids' parents and their parents in this position. Why support multi-generational failure?

  92. Keeping open "schools" that do not teach is one of the worst examples of defrauding the people. I frequently encounter youth who come to this college with good high-school grades --- totally un-prepared to do serious college study or, for that matter, to perform any job.

  93. Where was the Times when Bloomberg was doing the same thing in New York?

  94. Take a cue fro the LEAP program in NY.

  95. "Save Chicago's Public Schools". With what? Illinois and Chicago are bankrupt, taxpayers are fleeing and the political rot in the state capitol and Chicago city hall is palpable. Fix those issues and the problem with the schools will be fixed. Continue on the current course and Illinois can soon rename itself to New Puerto Rico and refer to Chicago as Chiraq (sorry Spike).

  96. Primary and secondary education is, has been and will likely always be a responsibility of local government. You can B & M all you like, but the fact remains a new administration in DC, or an old one for that matter, has NOTHING to do with your home-grown problems. Your town's lineup has been liberal blue for over two generations. That's on you. Your obscenely high pay structure for teachers and administrators is due to your school boards, your unionized teachers and local voters of school budgets. That's on you. Finally, crime. Driving out the decent, the industrious, the involved. And that's on you too. So, check out a mirror once in a while; you may discover your rhetoric, like your emperor in city hall, has no clothes.

  97. Thank you a thousand times for mentioning that:

    A. Chicago is not some red state, but the bluest of the blue with powerful unions and a Democratic "machine" more powerful than anywhere else.

    B. Chicago is Barack Obama's hometown, and from which he was elected to the US Senate (and before that, State Senate). Michelle Obama was raised there.

    C. Chicago public unions are therefore among the most powerful in the land, and Chicago teachers make very high salaries and benefits so generous the SWEDISH would faint if they knew. The average Chicago teacher makes $100K plus a year!

    Everything liberals ask for has been given in Chicago -- high salaries -- powerful unions -- job protection -- superb health insurance -- short hours -- long vacations -- very early retirement -- generous lifetime pensions.

    What has resulted? one of the worst, failed public schools systems in the US.

  98. Don't the administrators of Chicago's public schools understand that:
    1. Instead of carping at charter and parochial schools, it would be to their great advantage to observe and learn from them;
    2. Our children are our highest priority. When children are challenged to excel and they know that their teachers care for them, they will rise to the occasion and study harder. Children respond to caring incentives;
    3. Even poor schools can be kept clean, attractive, and inviting;
    4. The key to success is complete and total commitment to educating children on the part of principals and teachers. Nothing less.
    5. Successful principals and teachers eschew political gains.
    I have taught the very poor. so these observations come from a seasoned educator.

  99. Charter schools have been an utter disaster in Michigan. A number of studies have demonstrated they do not do a better job of educating students than do public schools and in many cases a worse job. In Michigan, many of the charter management companies are for-profit; that's right tax dollars used to pay dividends or profit skimmed off the top to pay shareholders or owners, not educate students. Parochial schools obviously have the advantage of cherry-picking students. I have been "observing" charters for over 15 years. They are a scam. The original purpose for charter schools, although not well-publicized, was to destroy teacher's unions and their political contributions to largely liberal Democrats. And that is the only thing about charters that "work".

  100. Ms: Manasseh: if you are truly serious and you want SERIOUS change that will help poor students of color (and all students) AND PARENTS and TAXPAYERS alike....

    Then join with me, to fight and destroy the unholy power of the public teacher unions. They have singlehandedly destroyed our nation's schools and taken us from a nation with the best public education IN THE WORLD....to number 37th, just behind Latvia.

    There is no way to have the kind of schools that you and I want for children -- equal opportunities! high quality! effective! -- when you have spoiled whinging teacher and union flunkies who gobble up every tax dollar FOR THEMSELVES (and the kids be damned).

    Please take a few minutes to look up the SALARIES for public union teachers in Chicago -- they top $100,000 a year -- and this is for a part time job, six hours a day by union contract -- 180 days a year (minus snow days, which means "whenever we teachers don't feel like coming in"!) -- unlimited sick leave -- free gold plated health care for life at public expense -- 14 weeks paid vacation, including 11 weeks during prime summer weather (while children forget everything they learned in the last school year!) -- early retirement at age 52 (15 years earlier than EVERYONE ELSE) -- automatic tenure, meaning they can never be fired for any reason -- and a giant pension worth $3 million each.

    We CAN change this, but only if people like you are serious about fighting the true evil that is destroying public education!

  101. 1. Teaching is NOT a part-time job.
    2. We do NOT have unlimited sick leave.
    3. We do NOT retire at 52 (most public districts no longer offer the "rule of 90".
    4. We do NOT control the weather (see "snow day" comment above).
    5. We do NOT have "automatic tenure", whatever that means.
    6. We do NOT have 3 million dollar pensions
    7. We are NOT "flunkies" (I have 2 master's degrees)

  102. Sadly, CC, you're woefully uninformed. If you wish to educated yourself:

    CPS Employee Position files, including teach salaries: http://cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/EmployeePositionFil...

    2015-2019 CPS / CTU contract: https://www.ctunet.com/for-members/2015-19-contract

    As of 12/2017, average salary for CPS teachers is $71k. Hardly living high on the hog, especially in an area with fairly high cost of living. Besides, for all the political rhetoric about valuing children and their education, why shouldn't teachers be paid reasonably well?

    The 2015-2019 CPS / CTU contract calls for an 8 hr workday, incl a 45 min lunch break. Perhaps the 6 hours you reference is strictly instructional class time. You're missing an additional 1 hr of class instruction preparation and 15 min of non-classroom supervision. If you provide a presentation to a client -- a different one very day -- do you prepare in advance, or do you just wing it?

    Most teachers I know work far longer hours, but at any rate an 8 hour workday hardly seems out of line.

    There are so many more inaccuracies, I don't have the space to address them all individually, other than to say -- read the contract and other primary source documents and educate yourself:

    -- Tenure is not automatic, nor can teachers 'never be fired for any reason'.

    -- Sick days are not unlimited; rather, contract allows 1 day per month

    -- There is not $3M in pension for each teacher; ludicrous.

    Etc. Etc. Etc.

  103. he or she is referring to Chicago teachers, not you from Minnesota.

  104. ‘Cities should work to improve schools- not close them. This quote was ‘missed opportunity ‘in New Orleans reinvention of public education after Hurricane Katrina

    Nearly 20,000 young people were left behind due to the rush to charter schools in New Orleans. Many special education students needs were ignored and still today are not met.

    Jaded statistics show educational growth when the needs for special education services are removed from the equation. This will have a tragic effect on the future of the city for many decades .
    The remedy is to make existing charter schools become the traditional neighborhood school public education was designed to be. Hopefully the new mayor will right the ship and chart a new course for fair and equal access for all students.

  105. The shuttering of public schools is intertwined with Chicago's high violence. Public schools are often a center of stability in many neighborhoods. When a school closes, its former students suffer upheaval. They then have to attend different more distant schools, going into neighborhoods with which they are unfamiliar, and more vulnerable to violence.

  106. They then have to attend different more distant schools, going into neighborhoods with which they are unfamiliar, and more vulnerable to violence.
    ----------
    Or,
    Maybe it gets them to relocate our of their violent neighborhood where gangs and the gansta culture holds sway...
    Maybe they leave a place of dominance and see how other people in life work and succeed, and learn to adopt new ways of living?

  107. People read these articles and think "The American Education System is broken". This is far from the case. It is not the school, it is the environment in which these children live in, that is the problem. There is no school in the world that can save them because you cannot learn if you have a chaotic home, dangerous neighborhood and most importantly no positive role models.

  108. The article pretty much advocates school districts to correspond with gang turf boundaries so that students not "risk their lives" by crossing these boundaries. Is this the way to go? Is this the way the author defines "neighbourhood" - one gang, one school?

    This is not the way to make arguments.

  109. Every body understands the issues with public school system in Chicago and the USA in general. Its an open book, the property taxes fund local schools , except when it comes to big cities , where its the alderman who manages the funding pushes.
    So to fix any school system including Chicago , first stop supporting the politicians who are doing nothing but ask state to fund with more taxes on others in the same poor neighborhood- catch 22.
    So why build a 83 million new school ? its democracy at its best .. you give your political financiers the sops like these and the common people loves to see the glitz but forgets their kids are never going there !
    I have heard so many time "poor" neighborhood. fair enough , but what has the parents done other than supporting the corrupt politicians and also not making sure their neighborhood is safe to go to school and make sure the kids get a healthy environment free of social issues.
    Neighborhood policing can be done and needs only the parents to come together for their kids future else poor neighborhood will now turn to over to gangsters dens like that in Englewood in Chicago.

  110. Problem is this is Chicago and the Machine might be rusty but it still runs. Its difficult, but not impossible, to vote and aldercreature out of office.

  111. "Neighborhood schools are essential to creating a shared sense of community"

    When we made the same argument in the 60's and 70's, we were accused of being racist. How things come full circle. Most, if not all, of the excellent points raised here could come directly out of the anti-busing groups of that time; it seems we were right after all.

  112. As the saying goes, you are spot on.

  113. Taking schools out of a neighborhood depletes and denigrates the neighborhood experience and further targets the neighborhood as a "bad" place to live and raise a family. Ms. Manasseh makes cogent points about the realities of running public schools in low income neighborhoods. They need resources and new, modern buildings and grounds. They need books, computers and sports equipment. The experience of attending a neighborhood school that is well equipped and safe enhances the community. Lakewood , Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, as a community, saw that several of it's aging Elementary Schools were falling apart and not up to standard. They raised money and tore down all their elementary schools , building new state of the art facilities for the children. In an essentially middle-class town, they invested in their schools for their children. All their children. That is the type of investment Chicago and other cities need to make. Nearly 70% of Charter schools are unregulated messes that fail within the first 5 years of operation. Few comply with ADA regulations. Fewer have proper buildings and resources. The loss of educational opportunity for the child that spends a year or two at one of those schools is unretrievable. They are a cop out for people in government. When schools are closed students remain in need of schools. Build new schools, hire more good teachers at better pay. Invest in the most important aspect of your community. Pay now or pay later in misery.

  114. Aside from the environment Ms. Manasseh describes, another part of the problem is that genuinely bad teachers exist - in fact, many of them do. This contributes (though it is certainly not the only factor) to poor student performance and poor school culture (including behavior). By combining a higher proportion of genuinely bad teaching with an environment that often makes good teaching ineffective, we all but ensure that our neediest students will not receive the education they're owed - or anything close to it.

    But we've also problematically broken into two (semi-partisan) camps on public education, and that's distracted us from solving the problem. On one side are those arguing that the environment is the problem and needs to be fixed through public investment; on the other side are those arguing that the schools themselves are the problem and they need to be fixed by increasing accountability through punitive measures (shutting down schools and firing bad teachers). Both sides accurately diagnose part of the problem, but offer prescriptions that will not ultimately be effective without taking into account the other half of the problem.

    Ultimately, I think we will need to approximately triple the investment in instruction (more teachers, higher teacher salaries, more and better instructional coaching) across the board, and quadruple or quintuple the investment in wraparound services (healthcare partnerships, room and board for homeless or home/food-insecure students).

  115. I was disappointed in this op-ed as it uses the wrong example for the problems that are facing the Chicago Public Schools. The problem is not that next year there will be a 25MM new high school to replace to older, outdated high schools. As the author writes, the school will be up and running for the next school year, thereby not leaving any high school students without viable option. The problem is that the building of the high school necessitates the closing of one elementary school and its consolidation into another school that will require drving or busing. This is the issue that has community members up in arms because an entire elementary school may be displaces.

    Another issue that is avoided by the author is that we need to realistically grapple with changes to population density and public school enrollment overall. I am personally against charter schools, at least in Chicago, and how they siphon off good children that should otherwise be well served by CPS. But the reality is that between dwindling population and charter schools, there are many near-empty, WPA-Era schools and even older (the school my children attend is over 100 years old) that are too big for the neighborhood population. The reality is that today, the concept of the neighborhood school that is within two to three blocks walking distance from one's home is becoming an outdated model. We need to be open to elementary and high schools being area hubs rather than distinct neighborhood schools.

  116. Maybe we could revert back to the idea that public schools exist primarily to educate children, and community centers can be built to better meet the needs of the neighborhoods. Maybe too, we can revert back to the idea of the nuclear family: that Mom and Dad are responsible for providing for their children and overseeing their educations, and grandmothers and community leaders are responsible for caring for the extended needs of their communities, elders and social needs.

    Schools are for students, for educating, not for social programs.

  117. The city cannot afford to keep half empty rotting schools open. They are building in it's place a modern facility which will be better for the students than their current one. Of course, there are always people who defend the status quo, which is harmful to the students in this environment. The other thing that would be helpful is for these students to come from strong two parent family homes. That would give them a better chance.Of course, the single mothers who preside over these students need to blame the city and anyone else but themselves.

  118. Ms. Manasseh asks 'why not ...', but does not bother to mention the obvious and fundamental hurdle, money in a borderline bankrupt school system. Last year, the CPS operating budget was $5.8 billion, about $15k per student. That is the average; the per-student cost of low enrollment schools is much higher. If money goes to support those schools, who within the current system should get less money? Those are the difficult questions and decisions.

    For those not familiar with CPS demographics, the statement that "88% of those in the closed schools were black", while implying racial discrimination, exactly matches the African American % of CPS students.

    The author also skips any analysis of population change (it is dropping) or movement within the city (some areas are growing, but stuck with overcrowded students, e.g., my children's 32 to 34 kids per class, because there isn't money to expand where there is demand).

  119. The population of Englewood has dropped from 89,000 in 1970 to 48,000 in 1990 to an estimated 26,000 in 2015. It is not surprising that enrollment declined as well, and there may be more school buildings than needed.

  120. One question - what are the 'main obstacles' to improving public education in Chicago?

    Parents?
    Students?
    Teachers?
    Local Government?

    Who supports the 'status quo' when test scores are declining and kids are dropping out of school?
    Hint: It is not the students or parents or local government.
    Who gets paid whether kids are educated or not? While Teachers can not solve all the problems of our society in poor neighborhoods; these same teachers should be pushing for upending the status quo of 'failing schools' or risk having local government make decisions that put them out of a job.

  121. I admire this woman and the work she is doing, that said, this decision was recently revised by CPS, so the schools will close later. It is hard to face the reality here: the populations in these schools are tiny and decreasing year on year. You can’t have 4 high schools serving a few hundred students. Being a good leader means you take the tough decisions: consolidate the schools. Painful in the short term, correct and beneficial in the long term. No one doubts these school closings will feel painful and cause anxiety in the community, but that can’t be the first and only factor of the decision CPS and the mayor must make. I truly wish the new building will be built and that it will have a transformative effect on the neighborhood: reverse the flow of people leaving, provide a great quality education in one building, and help build up a neighborhood that has been decimated by (but not defined by) poverty and crime for so long.

  122. Our public school system was once the pride of our country. There was nothing like it in the world. When we discovered that in a changing world kids needed more than 8 years we added highschool and then public college.

    But Brown versus the board of education changed our attitude towards public schools. We went from being proud of them to building private schools so that our children didn't have to go to school with the kids from the wrong side of the tracks.

    The Finnish have a superior education system because there's no private schools. Everyone gets a quality public education regardless of race, gender, religion or economic status. We lose out as a nation by treating poor kids and children of color as throw aways.

  123. Ami wrote:
    "The Finnish have a superior education system because there's no private schools. Everyone gets a quality public education regardless of race, gender, religion or economic status."

    Finland is almost completely homogeneous both ethnically and culturally. Trying to compare the USA to Finland in this sense is absurd. If you think that this homogeneity doesn't influence how they handle things like public education then you'd be misguided, in my opinion. Also, Finland has very low income inequality (lowest in the EU and far below the EU average). By contrast, the USA is in the bottom 30% of all countries in the world in income inequality.

  124. Who "throws away" poor black children and tells them that their educations do not matter? Not dedicated white teachers. Their own culture, their own families, their own communities. Who is responsible for getting the children up and to school in the morning? Education starts in the home... ask an immigrant, of any color.

  125. Yes, just look at how well Washington DC Public Schools are doing. Remember Michelle Rhee? As Chancellor, she closed 23 public schools. Kaya Henderson? As Chancellor who succeeded M Rhee, she closed 15 public schools. Now, we have another Chancellor, Antwan Wilson. "City leaders are calling for an investigation after WAMU and NPR uncovered chronic absenteeism at Ballou High School, and the implications of the investigation are significant for Ballou, DCPS and public education in general".

    Thank you, NPR and WAMU!!! This is a first step for us, the public, and government officials to pull our heads out from under the sand and take a critical look at what a gross disservice we are doing to our young people. Social promotion (finally abolished in DC, I think), chronic absenteeism, disinterest in WHY children are truant, grossly inadequate support for effective social services that would help support and guide parents and children toward responsible living.

    What about the work that Harlem Children's Zone (including "Baby College" is doing? Why is Geoffrey Canada's work on this program not amplified, shaped to suit the needs of jurisdictions across the country, and introduced?

    Who wins? Who loses? Immediately and down the road? What do '"winning" and "losing" look like? ... and to whom???

  126. Chicago has a budget. The demographics do not support having so many schools, because of declining enrollment. The older schools are more expensive to maintain. Unfortunately, the buildings in poorer neighborhoods may also have more structural damage to facilities. What Emmanuel is proposing sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Yes there will be a hit on transitions, but we have to look toward the future. I don't like private profit on schools, and don't believe in starving public schools to feed private profit. But I think the charter schools in Chicago are part of the public system. They are not for profit, and are held accountable. Like many places, Chicago needed to build many public schools during the baby boom years, and they must slowly restructure to what makes sense. That means fewer buildings, less admin staff and fewer teachers. Nobody likes it when their school closes.

  127. The population of Englewood has dropped from 89,000 in 1970 to 48,000 in 1990 to an estimated 26,000 in 2015. It is not surprising that enrollment declined as well, and there may be more school buildings than needed.

  128. The write describes a wide range of issues. Busing was thought as the solution for minorities to receive a better education. Now it seems that closing area schools and busing students to other schools is the problem. Blame was put on under qualified teachers in minority schools but the writer states that even when students were transferred to higher achieving schools students performance went down. I could go on with a list of contradictions but why? Just keep throwing money at it as it quietens everyone down for awhile and gets nothing accomplished.

  129. The crux of the problem is that school funding in the US is very dependent on the local tax base, an incredibly foolish approach. We are the only developed country that funds schools in this boneheaded manner.

    The well-off northern Chicago suburbs like Winnetka Illinois, median household income over $207,000, and Evanston, Illinois, median household income over $70,00, have well-funded schools, while Englewood, median household income approx. $20,000, have underfunded schools.

    A child's educational opportunity should not depend on his or her zip code! See, for example, Japan, Barbados!, New Zealand, Estonia, Ireland, Qatar, Netherlands, Singapore, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, etc., etc. all of whom educate their children better than the US.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/11-best-school-systems-in-th...

  130. Your point is valid, but you make it more dramatic but limiting Household Income to Englewood. I don't believe schools are funded neighborhood-by-neighborhood in Chicago, but rather city-wide. The median household income in Chicago is about $50,000. But certainly your overall point is valid.

  131. The well-off northern Chicago suburbs like Winnetka Illinois, median household income over $207,000, and Evanston, Illinois, median household income over $70,00, have well-funded schools, while Englewood, median household income approx. $20,000, have underfunded schools.
    ---------------
    You get what you pay for, and you pay for what you value. People work hard every day, and pay big taxes so that their children can compete nationally, and internationally, with the best educations possible. Why pour money into the drain, into cultures that do not value education, and have your own child lose out by taking resources from them, that you have paid for, to pay for people who do not value education and do not care about competing? Illinois public schools, the good ones, are equivalent to the South's, and the East's private schools. Instead of paying tuition, you pay taxes. You choose your home by which school district it falls into. You take care of your own. (Do you think that is a bad thing, or a good thing?) Be careful about calling for "equality" in funding. Like "diversity", it can water down quality. And then? All you have succeeded in doing is privatizing the good schools, like in the other areas of the country.

    Change the culture that tells poor black children that education is not key, is for "whites", and does not matter. (Keep pumping them with video games, cheap entertainment like vulgar songs and movies, and make sure they never learn to read independently.)

  132. Why is this one city, Chicago, responsible for most of the debt incurred by the entire state of Illinois, which is now practically insolvent. What went so wrong in Chicago that it is a black hole for public money and yet the place with the highest crime in the state and with the lowest performing schools? How's this possible?!?!?

  133. Actually, 6 out of the top 10 elementary schools and the top 5 high schools in the state are in Chicago. According to the F.B.I.'s Uniform Crime Report. Chicago isn't even in the state's top(?) ten for crime statistics. And this one city comprises over one-fifth of the state's population, so it has the most bills to pay.

  134. Because the money flows to the biggest victims not to the most meritorious. If we started giving monthly checks and subsidized housing to those who achieve most, in school and work and family formation, then the money would be a reward and something to work towards. But instead the money flows to those who reproduce, drop out, participate in violence and have the greatest "need". So... you get more and more needy people, getting free food, free shelter and the empathy from liberals. The people who work hard and try to get out and better themselves are never heard from. No stories there, we want victims and sad stories to capture our outrage...

  135. Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel hand-picked Barbara Byrd-Bennett as CEO for CPS. She was convicted and sent to jail for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school system.

    Rahm Emanuel is a charter school fan so as to allow the elite in the urban area to segregate themselves from impoverished poor/minority kids. And he's one of Obama's boys.

    And Daniel Biss, a present candidate for Illinois governor, and also one of Obama's boys, is low in the polls because, as an Illinois legislator, he put forth a bill to rob teachers and other state employees of their pensions. Pensions teachers and state employees contribute to because they won't get social security.

    And Arne Duncan, the "chief" who left the Chicago Public Schools to be Obama's Secretary of Education, left the Chicago students and families with this crisis.

    Some real arrogant Ivy League men.

    Obama's legacy is a flagrant attitude towards public education, and also why my possible vote for any Democrat these days is walking a tight rope.

    That that they're building Obama's presidential library in this city is hypocrisy.

    He's not my hero.

  136. As a product of Chicago Public Schools K-12 while being born and bred black and poor I know that in order to save Chicago Public Schools you need to study the professional educational teaching, researching and leading life legacy of the legendary Doctor Barbara Ann Laffoon Sizemore. Along with her living acolytes like Dr. Diane Ravitch.

    Dr. Sizemore preached and practiced expecting black educational excellence and achievement as a successful cooperative community effort requiring participation of parents, students, teachers and residents. Color aka race segregation is the stumbling block that has always hindered Chicago schools. Caste aka race trumps class aka socioeconomics.

  137. The only color that matters is green when at the top. Many wealthy black and white folks socialize at the top because they all have the same color, green. There is no competition for resources. Everyone's already made. But at the bottom, this doesn't work, and you are right in saying that ethnicity is the greatest factor.

  138. I think the key enabler to a successful school is serving families (children and parents) that value and support education.

    I would callenge anyone to find a school that serves such families and does not provide a good education.

    The challenge that I think you are indirectly pointing out is to bring up a school serving families who do not see a solid education as essential.

    I don't know if single parent non working families on common in the areas the failing schools serve, but if so I expect such neighborhoods would not value education.

    I had a blue collar dad who worked hard, made a good middle class income, and expected my sister anethicd I to go to college. He instilled a solid work ethic in us as I have with my own children. We see education as key to a good life.

  139. Motivation. Motivation is the key to school success, not money.
    ===============================================
    School systems spend so much on building, but almost nothing on building interest in students. Why not focus on motivation?

    I suggest that students tend to become more interested in school when they focus on helping other students to learn. I call it the "Golden Rule for Learning."

    We spend so many years in school simply absorbing knowledge, without putting our knowledge to use. The simplest way to use what we learn is to share it.

    I say, motivate students, to help other students"Golden Rule for Schools."
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    www.SavingSchools.org

  140. Money seems to work for wealthy students...

  141. The reason you saw the expansion of charter schools in Chicago was because of the failure of the public schools! The breakdown in the family has caused many to leave the catholic church which has led to the closing of many catholic schools. Until you solve the problems in the nuclear family, the cause is lost. Grandma is now 45 years old and she still needs somebody to take care of her. Very very sad.

  142. There are no simple answers, but one issue, certainly, is the quality of teachers.

    In Illinois, barriers to becoming a teacher are astronomical. Someone with a bachelor's degree and a decent GPA from an Ivy League school would practically have to repeat college to acquire the academic credentials required to get a teaching certificate in Illinois. Meanwhile, mediocre students who earn C's and D's in math and history at the college level are allowed to teach these same subjects in high school provided they got A's and B's in theory of education courses. That's ridiculous.

    This is part of the reason for the problem. If we want students to succeed in public schools, we need to make it easier for our best and brightest to teach, particularly for a few years before entering other careers or for a few years at the culmination of a career. I'd much rather have folks like these teaching kids than teachers who can't spell, teachers who possess a bare minimum of math skills and teachers whose only bright academic spots were in courses where they learned that the measure of student success is measured in amorphous stuff like self esteem instead of mastery of academic subject matters. If you don't know a subject matter thoroughly, don't have a love for it, then you shouldn't be teaching it.

  143. Many of those quality teacher won't last very long in the jobs. Burnout from dealing with students that really don't want to learn wears you out very quickly.

  144. The notion of failing schools is false. Schools don't fail. Governments fail the community and sabotage the schools. Here is a great example of what this looks like through a short film that tells the story of a grandmother in Chicago. The film was shared by Journey 4 Justice Alliance, a network that has been on the ground in Chicago for years putting their lives on the line trying to save their neighborhood public schools. “Kings and Queens” is a really powerful film and you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/J4JAlliance/videos/944369839044991/. I also must take a minute and thank Tamar Manasseh for sharing this powerful insight into the closing of public schools in Chicago. What was described is real and also the pain that is felt by communities in Chicago is equally real.

  145. Why should money be wasted on schools operating at 10% of their capacity?Dwindling enrollment at traditional public schools in Chicago demonstrates the failure of these schools to provide quality education. Budgets are cut because children flee for better schools. Charter schools are public schools open to everyone who is a resident of the city. Higher-performing students enroll in charter schools, but so do students of every other level of ability. Charter schools aren't selective and they aren't elitist. They must accept everyone who applies, and if they are oversubscribed, they must hold a lottery to determine who attends. The students who are left in the wretchedly-performing traditional public schools (where the uber-powerful teachers union protects even the worst teachers) are often the kids whose parents care nothing for quality education and simply look upon school as glorified day care, and so they want their kids to attend the closest school possible, regardless of the quality of education their kids receive. Propagandists like Tamar Manasseh simply give parents who don't care about the quality of their children's education an excuse to view themselves as helpless victims. How about a documentary film about these upset parents and grandparents that asks them to explain how much they actually know or care about the quality (rather than merely the geographic proximity) of the school their children are attending? That would be the eye-opener.

  146. Too bad NY Times would print an "op ed" w/ major factual mistakes. CPS district has a number schools with admissions tests, unlike charters which may not have admissions tests. Both CPS district & charters are eligible for & in some cases receive private as well a public funds

  147. Cue the recent Stanford study which found, even amazing to the researchers, the #1 school system in America for grade improvement from third grade on to middle school was the Chicago school system. So why does Chicago want to dump on a performing public school system in favor of mediocre charter schools which are, if anything, on the downswing?

  148. There is more than something to Chris Kennedy's charge that Rahm Emanuel is trying to gentrify poor black areas of the city. Chicago has seen rapid decline in its African American population since Rahm took over. Rahm is a favorite of the down town business interests. And that is the group he listens to. And it is not just Rahm. It is the Democratic party of both Cook County and Chicago which has conspired against the African American community over the last twenty years. It has a rigged property tax system that unfairly targets the poor while allowing the rich and well connected to get appeals. This process is also used to fund more money to the Democratic party. Rahm has seen to it that fines and fees which target the poor are used to shore up revenue not property taxes on the downtown business areas or the rich white areas that support him. So no this is no accident by taxing the poor and not investing in their neighborhoods while favoring the rich and powerful Rahm is acting like a Republican.

  149. Tax private school education at 200%, create incentives for the families of high achieving students to send their children to Public Schools on the wrong side of town, and stop educating the non-citizen children of illegal immigrants, and we will be on the path to a restoration a public school excellent.

  150. Kids were transferred from underperforming schools (let's cut the crap and call them what they really are- lousy and failing) into higher performing ones, yet they experienced an achievement drop? Must be the new schools' fault.
    Amazing how there's not one word about parents and accountability. I bet the Asian kids at these schools are doing just fine, despite the obstacles. Their parents insist on nothing less. Distractions like TV and smartphones are only allowed once the homework is finished, and then only if the recent report cards satisfied their high expectations.
    English as a second language? Kids have very little difficulty learning a second language if they're living in a culture where everyone around them speaks that language. Send a kid to France or Argentina for the summer and they'll be semi-fluent in French or Spanish when they get back, without even attending a school. Immigrants whose parents didn't speak English mastered the language by forcing themselves to read newspapers, dictionaries, comic books. Watching anything on TV from cartoons to soap operas to the evening news.
    There's no mentioning of personal responsibility, parenting, or whatnot in here. Even so, it's cheaper to invest government resources in these children's educations and futures than to deal with the consequences later, seeing how the families and kids aren't up to the task without additional help. That's something this country hasn't done for decades since the race to space faded.

  151. All the worthless people, where do they all come from?

  152. As I understand it, many of the schools that are to be closed were designed for 1000's of students and have only a few hundred. Its cheaper to consolidate and get rid of buildings to avoid the upkeep.

  153. Good thing Rahm is a democrat, otherwise the NYTimes wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt. He'd be called a racist for building a new multimillion dollar school.

    But I don't agree that the current schools failed - they are building and if enrollement is down, at least one if not two should be closed. It is wrong and a poor use of tax monies to keep schools open that have minimal students. But, building don't fail students. The school board, teachers, principals and parents fail students, not necessarily in that order. And the new approach to coddle rather than expel gang bangers and disruptive students hurts all students. And please, no, not saying this because I'm racist. Quite the contrary - I fail to understand how liberals believe that poor black students don't deserve a solid education, without a few students wrecking the whole experience.

  154. The public schools in our inner cities are a joke. Trump ( who I did not vote for) pointed this out during the election when he told inner city residents "What do you have to lose?"
    In Cincinnati we have an organization called CISE which keeps inner city Catholic schools open and educates mostly minority children in them. We can't save all the kids, but we can save some.

  155. Instead of closing the schools, the city should give our schools and our students the support they deserve.
    ------------
    Instead of feeding the children hamburgers in the summer, you should be teaching them to read, read, read, and I mean books, not electronics. Face it, local and national officials do not make better schools or students. Families do. Culture does. Why do students leave Englewood, and still underperform in their new schools? I am white. We lived in Englewood until I was four. Then, the whites were chased out by the new gentrifications in the city. (There was no option to stay back then, and integrate. The black people came and took over. Now, there is a failure of neighborhoods, schools and communities.) Until the local people, parents, students, and families decide that education is the top priority, year round, I don't see much chance for change. Splitting up students and forcing them to get out and go elsewhere might be the best option, like Hurricane Katrina did in New Orleans. Who is responsible for the gangs, the fatherless homes, the poor performance that follows these students even as they now are the majority in the south suburban schools? Non-pc questions, but be honest: a multimillion dollar school is only as good as the people responsible for taking care of it, and the children's educations will not improve because of local and national support. If you want it, the culture needs to change. Read, read, read, read...

  156. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks just as you cannot walk a horse to water and make it drink. Education has become as stagnant as teachers pay and benefits. Where is the incentive when many teachers foot supplies out of their own pockets and can barely support themselves? If you cannot even pay back your student loan on a teachers salary perhaps you need to seek better employment. Loyalty and initiative does not pay the rent, nor end your own depression and hard times. Shutting down failing schools and consolidating elsewhere may not be the answer but it is a start at finding a better way.