We should delay Canter closure

By ALD. WILL BURNS (4th)

I attended the public meeting held Monday, April 8, 2013 to listen to the concerns of the Canter School community. I wanted to hear from the community so that I could, as alderman, amplify those concerns to the Chicago Board of Education. I have worked to save many of the schools, eight in total, that have been listed as underutilized and underperforming by the Chicago Public Schools. These include grammar schools that serve Hyde Park, Kenwood, Grand Boulevard and North Kenwood/Oakland. I will continue to work with the community and CPS to improve the quality of neighborhood schools in the Fourth Ward.

In the best of all possible worlds, no Chicago Public Schools would close. Schools closings are difficult for administrators, staff and teachers but more importantly, children. But we must also be cognizant of the challenging financial situation facing public education in Chicago and throughout the state. CPS spent down all of its reserves to balance the budget. It now faces a $1 billion budget deficit. Additionally, CPS confronts these budgetary constraints at a time where both the federal and state government have reduced funding for public schools, and the short term forecast for additional federal and state funding for public schools is extraordinarily bleak.

It is clear, however, that we do not live in the best of possible worlds. Given Canter’s population trends and long-term performance I do not oppose the closing of Canter School. I do believe and have strongly encouraged CPS to phase Canter out over time so that the seventh graders have the option to complete their eighth grade year at the school. The phase out will also provide additional time for planning the return of seventh and eighth grades at the receiving schools.