Do West Side’s black leaders believe in public education or mass incarceration?

August 6, 2015
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To say I am angry about the Chicago Public Schools’ proposed cuts to Austin neighborhood schools is an understatement.

The combined cuts total $3.2 million, while the proposed budget increases for Noble-ITW Speer and Moving Everest charter schools are $2.46 million and $1.5 million respectively.

Both schools were supported by some black elected officials and ministers despite CPS closing four neighborhood schools in Austin just two years ago.

The proposed cuts neighborhood schools are experiencing is due to CPS’ policy of funding schools through student-based budgeting. CPS budgets a set amount ($4,500 average for K-8, $5,500 for high school) to each school based on each student enrolled.

Student-based budgeting is “education cannibalism.” New charter schools in poor communities are siphoning off students from neighborhood schools with marketing gimmicks, and CPS schools are competing against each other for bodies because of scarce resources.

I am angry because I along with other community stakeholders explained to the supporters of Moving Everest the negative fiscal impact the school will have on great neighborhood elementary schools like Spencer Elementary Technology Academy and Nash Elementary School.

Some leaders accepted Moving Everest’s lie that it was going to recruit from the 14,000 students attending schools outside of Austin despite my providing them with correct CPS data documenting only 2,700 attending various schools outside of Austin.

Mike Rogers of Moving Everest admitted to the Chicago Sun-Times that his school will draw from the neighborhood schools.

I am angry that the Chicago City Council’s Hispanic Caucus stepped up and voiced their displeasure to Mayor Emanuel decision not to retain Jesse Ruiz as president of the Chicago Board of Education while the council’s Black Caucus has been silent about the mayor’s appointment of former Com-Ed CEO Frank Clark as the incoming president.

This is the same Frank Clark who chaired the School Closing Commission whose recommendations led to the closing of 49 schools.

As a grandfather of a former CPS special needs student, I am angry that CPS is cutting $42 million special education while increasing funding for charter schools by $30 million. Charter schools notoriously goes out of their way to not serve severe special needs students.

DNAinfo.com recently published an article about a map created by Adler University researchers and Datamade that documents the state of Illinois spent $550 million – not including police and legal costs – from 2005-2009 to incarcerate people from Austin who committed drug offenses.

In just one block of Austin (the 4800 block of Adams Street), the state spent an estimated $2.4 million on drug-related incarceration over those four years.

Our schools are about to lose critical funding that will continue to feed the school-to-prison pipeline.

Anyone interested in organizing for equitable education resources and standing up for our community, please contact me at (773) 879-5216 or austin_youth@sbcglobal.net.

Austin resident Dwayne Truss is on the board of directors of Raise Your Hand and a member of Chicago Citizens United to Preserve Public Education.

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