Are the Chicago School Closings Really Targeted at Certain Races?

A look the geography of race and population change in several school districts in Chicago.

Chicago school closings protest

Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

Chicago school closings protest, March 27, 2013

One of the charges I’ve seen floating around about school closings is that the closings are racially targeted, a charge that Eric Zorn has also noted. I’ve looked at the racial makeup of the schools that are planned for closure, and it is clear that the vast majority of those are black majority. The rest are Latino majority. 

But Chicago schools are also vastly minority-majority to begin with—only 8.8 percent of CPS students are white, a figure that frequently surprises people. At the same time, Chicago’s black population declined precipitously during the past decade. That’s a major reason given for the school closures.

So I wanted to take a look at school racial balance versus local population change. Using data from IRE and the city’s data portal (and with assistance from Joe Germuska), here’s a look at schools, comparing the percentage of white students versus census-tract level population change. Tracts with population growth are in green; tracts with population loss are in red.



CPS is working within a segregated city. Since this school system serves a majority of black and hispanic students,  then the closings are much more likely to affect minority students.


1 year ago
Posted by TomCollins

Why don't you look at the racial make-up of the neighborhoods as opposed to population change? I think part of the argument is that schools are important community institutions in these neighborhoods.

1 year ago
Posted by Grant Forssberg

Reference the Mag's post on the "Europeanization" phenomenon in urban history. Negative equity and decades of retarded equity building in communities of color, sub-prime lending, red-lining and other forms of economic eviction and re-gentrification--some exacerbated by public subsidization and allocation--are part and parcel of a long historical archive of structural inequity. There is an important distinction to be made here between an avowedly racial animus or rationale (overt, malevolent racism) and well-intentioned, though myopic actions (especially supposed economic imperatives, as here) that covertly perpetuate and reinforce these structural disparities. You are right to point to the issue of "segregation," and the minority- majority demographics of the CPS, but rather than being exculpatory it should point to the dictates and definitions of continuing institutional racism.

The CPS budget crisis is the product of a racial past--it is "racist" in that sense-- and the proclivity towards consolidation, efficiency, and outsourcing of public education through privatization and the proliferation of Charter schools rather than investing more in neighborhood schools only contributes to the root problem--disparities in income distribution--that bulwark a racist, segregated system.

Submit your comment