Chicago Public Schools have a large deficit. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is responding to the deficit by encouraging the growth of charter schools to carry the burden of educating the city’s children.
One reason for the growing deficit is declining enrollment, caused in large part by the CPS promotion of charter schools. The more students leave the CPS system to enroll in charters, the less state aid CPS gets. As more charter schools open, the financial crisis gets worse. Thus, Mayor Emanuel’s policy makes the deficit worse by stimulating the exodus of students from the school system and reducing its revenues.
One of the mayor’s favorite charter chains is UNO, which is based in the Latino community. UNO just leased a historic Roman Catholic school, St. Scholastica Academy and is set to increase its enrollment. It is sad to see Catholic schools close in urban areas, especially one with such a long history of serving its community.
Both the city and state are pumping money into charter schools, both for operating costs and capital costs. This money is diverted from public schools to privately managed charters. UNO received a state grant of $98 million to expand, and the city adds to its capital costs. In effect, both the city and state are paying charters to drain students and revenues out of the public school system.
Mayor Emanuel is one of those new conservative Democratic mayors who attack the teachers’ union and work to privatize public education in his city. He is following the trail blazed by Arne Duncan in Chicago. If it was a successful policy, Chicago should be one of the nation’s top performing school systems. It is not. How many years will it take before the politicians begin to understand the futility of privatization and the harm they are doing to one of society’s important public institutions?