Position on Renaissance 2010

[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #1 in August 2005]

by Teachers for Social Justice

Text from www.teachersforjustice.org, January 6, 2005

Teachers for Social Justice is a network of Chicago area teachers committed to critical, anti-racist, multicultural, participatory, democratic education. We believe that real school improvement requires the full participation of those with the most stake in high quality public education for all students –families, students, community members, and committed teachers and administrators. We oppose Chicago Public Schools’ Renaissance 2010 Plan for the following reasons:

1. Renaissance 2010 will give private organizations and “venders” the power to decide what will happen in public schools. Public institutions need democratically developed public solutions.

2.The plan is not designed to improve the education of children who presently live and have been living in the Mid-South and other low-income African American and Latino communities. If it were, then the resources targeted for 2010 would have been designated to improve schools in those areas long ago. In fact, these schools have been historically under funded and under resourced.

3. Renaissance 2010 blames low-income African American children and their families. It implies the only way to have good schools in these areas is to have mixed income schools. This assumes the children in the schools now are somehow the cause of education failure, and they can only do better when they are with middle class kids. Or, schools can only improve if they are moved out altogether. In fact, there are good schools that serve low-income children of color. The reality is that the cause of a failed education system is a history of racism, lack of equal opportunity to learn, deindustrialization, and disinvestment in communities of color by corporate interests and banks with the support of political leaders. If city officials, including the school board, cared about the children, they would do something about that.

4. Renaissance 2010 is not just a school plan. It is part of a much larger plan for gentrification and for moving out low-income African Americans and some Latinos from prime real estate areas, in fact from the city altogether. These are the areas where the proposed school closings are concentrated. Gentrification is a central source of profit for developers, banks, and investors and a key element in making Chicago a global city of increasing inequality in housing, income, quality of life, and use of urban space.

5. Renaissance 2010 is a plan to introduce choice, privatization, and the marketplace into public education. Every parent becomes an individual consumer in the education market, rather than communities working together with educators to improve their schools. Research internationally shows that choice plans increase education inequality, leaving those with the least resources in the worst schools.

6. Renaissance 2010 is a plan that will disempower communities by eliminating Local School Councils and disempower teachers and other school workers by weakening their unions. Although school closings and privatization will affect specific neighborhoods now, they are just the tip of the iceberg for what will happen in other areas of the city. According to press reports, this is just the first stage of plan to overhaul the system as a whole.

7. Renaissance 2010 is a plan developed by powerful business and political interests. The plan the mayor announced in June was clearly spelled out by the Commercial Club of Chicago over one year ago in its report titled, Left Behind , dated June 2003. The Commercial Club is an organization of the most powerful corporate, financial, and political leaders in the city. That is why there has been no meaningful participation from the communities affected. This plan was devised a year ago by the CCC. Mayor Daley announced Renaissance 2010 at a Commercial Club of Chicago event. A plan to sell Renaissance 2010 to the public, the communities affected, teachers, and administrators was developed and rolled out by AT Kearney, a corporate consulting firm, that is providing “thought leadership” to CPS officials. The plan for “communicating” Renaissance 2010 and getting “buy in” was presented at a CPS planning meeting on May 6, 2004 , before any public hearings to supposedly get community input.

So the question is: Who will decide what kind of education our children should have, the Commercial Club of Chicago, mayor Daley, and the big real estate developers? Or parents, communities and teachers?

There is an alternative beyond failing schools and business-led education. There are examples of city schools that are grounded in children’s lives, cultures, and identities, that are anti-racist and pro-justice, that have a rigorous curriculum and are hopeful, joyful, and visionary, and that teach children to think critically about the world we live in so they can actively participate in making it more just. That Renaissance is possible. TSJ is working with community members, families, students, unions, and progressive school reform organizations to oppose Renaissance 2010 and develop these real alternatives.

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