While the city of Chicago continues to wrestle with the US Justice Department, the US Department of Education seems to have no problem with the city’s status as sanctuary city: Chicago just secured a grant of $15 million to open new schools around the city.

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Three schools will be transitioned into city-wide magnet schools including Brown Elementary in the West Loop, Claremont Elementary in West Englewood, and Jungman Elementary in Pilsen. All three schools currently serve African-American and/or Latino students. According to CPS, all three schools are currently underenrolled.

The intention of turning these schools into magnet schools, where anyone across the city can send their children, is to desegregate the schools.

After Mayor Rahm Emanuel infamously closed fifty schools in 2013, he recently announced the closure and consolidation of even more Chicago Public Schools, including closing four schools in Englewood, merging two elementary schools in the South Loop, and combining two North Side schools.

In addition to the magnet schools, two new schools will be created, one in the former St. Turibius parish school in West Elsdon and the other in the previously closed Hartigan elementary campus in Bronzeville. These school will serve K-2 beginning in 2018, eventually adding through the eighth grade.

While on the surface the opening of new schools may sound like good news, some members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union are vehemently opposed to this.

In a statement, the CTU said that the St. Turibius school is the “the product of a coalition effort by legislators, teachers, parents and community residents, who came together to support this approach rather than the charter school CPS had initially sought to create in that neighborhood.”

The statement also calls out CPS for having “thwarted this kind of grassroots participation” in Bronzeville and that they refuse “to provide the public…particularly in Black and Latinx working class communities with truly meaningful insight into their facilities agenda.”

School closures and instability in the system is one of the many issues plaguing CPS. In an article posted yesterday by Chicago Magazine called “What Teachers Know,” those who know their students best and what their needs are spoke out.

Anonymous quotes from 15 teachers from around the city and with various degrees of experience spoke to the magazine about what daily life is like for them and their students in Chicago. For example:

  • “We have to be the psychologist, the social worker, the recreational leader, the nutritionist.”
  • “I’ve heard kindergartners say, “I don’t want to go onto the playground because they were shooting out there yesterday.””
  • “My first year, I remember being shocked that kids had to bring their own toilet paper. When they had to go to the bathroom, they had to carry the toilet paper from the classroom.”

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The whole article shows that equity between schools around the city is non-existent, with more resources going to a privileged few than the deserving many. CPS is going to need more than a few charter schools to make sure every students receives the education they are entitled to.

Chicago receives $15 million grant from US Department of Education…but is it enough? AP Photo/Martha Irvine