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Friday, February 10, 2006

Hearing on School Closing Generates Silence in Mainstream Chicago Media

Looking for information on the CPS hearing concerning Collins High School? Well the Sun-Times ran one paragraph in the Metro Briefs section and the Tribune ran nothing. That’s right; the Chicago Tribune had nada on the hearing. What is going on over at the Tribune? Not only did they drop the ball completely on the hearings, but they didn’t even mention the national attention garnered by Morgan Park High School for having the greatest number of African American students receiving AP credit in two courses -- English language/composition and European history -- than at any other high school in the nation offering AP courses last year. Now there is a conspicuous silence that marginalizes a huge chunk of Chicago. Ouch, and couldn’t that be conceived as racist by omission? If it walks like a duck...

Anyway, given the lack of coverage surrounding the hearings one would think that there wasn’t much going on there. But if you read the Chicago Defender article then you would get a better picture of the hearing. The Chicago Defender, for 100 years, has been the voice of the African-American Community in Chicago and across the United States.

One major point in the Defender article was that State Senator Rickey Hendon (D-5th), assistant majority leader, threatened to use state funding for education as a leverage point to keep Collins open. Remember that CPS is suffering a major budget shortfall. Hendon said, “He's not going to get a damn penny. And his pension plan? He's not going to get that either."

Remember that Hendon, whose district includes Collins, found out about the closing when it was announced at a press conference; now that is CPS at its politically savvy best. CPS could have avoided a lot of the politics if they had just gone ahead and phased out the bottom high school in each of the cities 5 geographic “Instructional Areas”. This may not have been popular, but it would have sent a message regarding failing schools to residents across the city. No, what the board did here is politically inept and open to myriad critiques from folks across the spectrum.

Another good point raised in the Defender article had to do with gentrification. Alderman Michael Chandler (24th Ward) said at the hearing, "Many of my constituents believe that this is about gentrification, and I feel like they're right this time." Right on! That’s why everybody needs to read Pauline Lipman’s High Stakes Education. She argues that exact point and others too. So if you really want to know more about the intersection of political economy, race, and urban education policy, run out and buy her book. Clearly, if we rely on the mainstream media in Chicago we won’t learn a damn thing.

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