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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/28/13

Chicago to Shutter 50 Public Schools: Is Historic Mass Closure an Experiment in Privatization?

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DIANE RAVITCH: Well, just I was assistant secretary of education.

AMY GOODMAN: Assistant secretary.

DIANE RAVITCH: Well, actually, what has been most disheartening, I think, to people across the country who care about public education is that President Obama and Arne Duncan launched the same -- basically the same program as No Child Left Behind, only more punitive. No Child Left Behind was -- one of the remedies in No Child Left Behind was that if a school didn't have scores that went up and up and up every year, the schools might be closed. Arne Duncan launched something called Race to the Top, which said, here's billions of dollars, and if you accept any of this money, one of the things you agree to is to close schools. He calls it a turnaround. He calls it a transformation.

Here is a Democratic administration that has bought the Republican line fully. I was asked by a reporter the other day, "How come Republicans are so willing to collaborate?" It's the one issue where the Republicans are happy to collaborate with President Obama, and that's education. And I said, "That's because President Obama has adopted the Republican position on education, which has always been testing, choice and accountability." And the accountability is people get fired, schools get closed. The Democratic agenda has always been one based on equity. The kids with the greatest needs should have the smallest class sizes and the most resources. And that's the reason for federal aid to education, was to try to level the playing field. But President Obama, unfortunately, has abandoned the traditional Democratic approach and has embraced the Republican approach. And that's why gets so little push-back in Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to end with one of the most vocal campaigners against the Chicago school closures, a nine-year-old boy, third grade student at Marcus Garvey Elementary School in Chicago, named Asean Johnson. In a video of a recent protest that's gone viral, he brought the crowd to its feet as he spoke out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

ASEAN JOHNSON: Rahm Emanuel thinks that we all are toys. He thinks he can just come into our schools and move all our kids all over gang lines and just say, "Oh, we can build a building right here. Let's just take this school out. We don't care about these kids." But it's kids in there. They need -- they need safety. Rahm Emanuel is not caring about our schools. He's not caring about our safety. He only cares about his kids. He only care about what he needs. He do[es] not care about nobody else but himself. You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them. We shall not be moved today! We are going to City Hall. We're deporting Rahm Emanuel. We are not toys. We are not going, not without a fight! Education is a right! That is why we have to fight! Education is a right! That is why we have to fight! Education is a right! That is why we have to fight!

AMY GOODMAN: That's nine-year-old Asean Johnson. His school, Marcus Garvey Elementary, was initially on the chopping block, but it's one of four schools that were spared in last week's vote. This is Democracy Now! I want to thank Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Diane Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, historian of education, best-selling author of almost -- of over 20 books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

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