Before its May 22 vote regarding school closings, the Chicago Board of Education would do well to address the elephant in the room regarding this issue, which is CPS’ academic betrayal of African-American children.
After a decade of closing schools, these students have been the most academically-harmed in the system. They’ve been the most uprooted, the most subjected to multiple school actions and the most socially-destabilized by these school closings.
According to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, Chicago’s achievement gap has widened during the past 20 years of reform, with African-American students falling further behind other racial/ethnic groups.
The study speculates that school closings may be a contributor to this widening gap. Yet, CPS is attempting to launch the greatest expansion of school closings ever. This makes one ask: What is the hidden agenda? Who benefits when African-American students fall further and further behind their non-African-American counterparts?
Who is profiting from the repeated shuffling around of children of color and the dollars that follow them?
Why has the board not put a halt to this failed reform movement, knowing that the children have not only not-profited, but instead have actually been harmed under this effort? What’s motivating board members to continually approve this modern-day Tuskegee experiment?
Will these current board members be bold enough to put a stop to this betrayal, and be able to look themselves in the mirror after their May 22 vote? Stop the closings and return to neighborhood schools. Schools that have seen its funding diverted to unproven, unsustainable charter schools during this reform experiment.
Return to closing of the gap. I join esteemed Chicago educator Timuel Black in giving this message to the board (members Carlos Azcoitia, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, David Vitale and Andrea Zopp): It’s not too late to do right by our children.
Remember that when you cast your vote.
And I say to all CPS stakeholders: too many of our ancestors paid the ultimate price for the right to equity in public schooling for us to now submit to the inequitable delivery of education to our children.
Do not give up that right. Demand an end to the betrayal.
Bonita Robinson is a member of the Chicago Teacher’s Union Black Caucus and a retired reading specialist.