The still striking teachers of Chicago have raised the possibility of continuing their strike in spite of new concessions by the city and a fresh deal on the table. What could possibly justify this? It is the possibility that, because of declining performance and enrollment, the city may be forced to close as many as 120 schools over the next year. The real enemy here, though, is not school closures but that now familiar bugaboo of charter schools.
“The mayor and his hedge fund allies are going to replace our democratically controlled public schools with privately run charter schools. This will have disastrous results,” union president Karen Lewis wrote in an opinion column in the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.
Disastrous indeed. Never mind that 12% of Chicago schools are already charter schools “run by philanthropists.” Never mind that, on a national scale, charter schools’ “academic performance record compared with community schools is mixed.” Never mind that the charter schools have never been responsible for the prolonged absence of 350,000 students from the classroom (and have, in fact, done what they can to pick up the slack during the strike). If empty or malfunctioning schools are closed down and replaced with charter schools, the ground may very well open up and swallow Chicago whole. God knows, it’s happened to less corrupt populations.