Privatizing Chicago's Public Schools

July 20, 2004

On June 24, Chicago's Mayor, Richard Daley, announced a program for turning nearly 70 of the Chicago's public schools into charter or contract schools over the next 6 years.

Daley's new program, called "Renaissance 2010," is based on a blueprint drawn up by the Commercial Club of Chicago, a business group. The 70 new schools, like the 19 charter schools which are already operating in Chicago, will be funded by taxpayers but run by private contractors, including for-profit companies. These companies will operate the schools free from most state regulations and oversight. They will not be bound by union contracts and will be able to hire and fire teachers and other employees at will, set their own pay scales, design their own curriculum, etc.

In addition to annual operating expenses, the Board of Education (BOE) will spend at least $75 million in special construction monies to build these new schools and get them going. And while Daley and the BOE are spending taxpayers' monies to supplement private business, they are laying off thousands of teachers and other employees, closing down several schools and complaining about a "budget deficit."

In announcing this new program for school privatization, Daley admitted that over the last 10 years, Chicago's highly advertised "school reform" has failed miserably. But Daley continued to ignore and cover over the reason behind the deteriorating public school system in Chicago and Illinois.

The reason is that the government - at all levels - refuses to make the needed investments. In Illinois, nearly 80% of school districts are running deficits due to lack of funds.

Yet the government keeps diverting monies from the treasury for public education and turning it over to the private sector. Every year, the state of Illinois pays out tens of millions of dollars in tuition tax credits to help wealthier families pay the costs of tuition at private elementary and high schools.

The construction and funding of charter schools is another means of draining funds from the public schools. Charter schools intensify a dual school system in which a small number of children get high quality education, while the majority of working class and minorities students are left in underfunded schools.

All across the country, the government is playing the most cynical game to undermine and dismantle the public schools. First the government, criminally neglecting its responsibility, runs the public schools into the ground through lack of investment. Then, the government condemns the public schools, citing their poor performance as an excuse to privatize the educational system, providing new sources of profit for the capitalists, while condemning most children to even worse schools.

The people must put a stop to the underfunding and privatization of the public schools.

Every generation of Americans have come out in struggle to win and expand the right to equality in education; the nationwide public school system is one of the great achievements of our country. Privatization goes directly against the right to equality in education and turns us backwards towards the feudal system in which only the elite received high quality education.

The way forward is to further modernize the schools by insisting that the government make all the needed investments to insure the highest quality education for everyone.