Tomorrow, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing reelection. Responsible for appointing both the CEO and school board, Emanuel exercises enormous control over the city’s public schools. Under his leadership, Chicago shut down forty-nine public schools in 2013.
“The School Closure Playbook” is a video essay about Emanuel’s education policies, and how they have served as a prototype for a broader neoliberal campaign against public schools. The coordinated, bipartisan, billionaire-led effort is outlined in documents such as the Gates Foundation’s “The Turnaround Challenge” and the Broad Foundation’s “School Closure Guidebook.”
This “playbook” leverages a sense of crisis to convince the public that there is no alternative but shuttering traditional public schools and opening charters, often after centralizing power in the hands of a single mayor or governor.
This video explores how Chicago’s education “reformers” manufactured a budget crisis through a combination of creative accounting, secretive tax schemes, and media cooperation. It then looks at the dramatic consequences of school closures, the corruption endemic to privatization, and the community organizing that developed to regain control of schools and fight for public education.
“The School Closure Playbook” is adapted from two essays from our Class Action handbook, Kenzo Shibata’s “Disaster Capitalism, Chicago Style” and Joanne Barkan’s “How Mega-Foundations Threaten Public Education.” Directed by Rebecca Rojer, it features original cinematography by Katrina Ohstrom; music by Rob Warmowski of the San Andreas Fault; and video journalism by Kai Duc-Luong, Heather Stone, and John Sheehan.
Jacobin’s projects, like this video series, are made possible by our readers’ generous support.