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Illinois Film Series Creating Dialogue on Impact of School Closings

PHOTO: Focusing on the fallout from Chicago's 2013 school closings, a new documentary series is opening a dialogue about public education and equity in Illinois. Photo credit: Bill Healy.
PHOTO: Focusing on the fallout from Chicago's 2013 school closings, a new documentary series is opening a dialogue about public education and equity in Illinois. Photo credit: Bill Healy.
January 26, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A new documentary series is opening a dialogue about public education and equity in Illinois. Focusing on the fallout from Chicago's historic closing of 49 public schools in 2013, "The School Project" examines the issues affecting the schools now, and gives a voice to parents and public education leaders.

Co-executive producer of the series Bob Hercules says it touches on discipline policies, the history of reform, standardized testing, charter schools and equitable school funding.

"Kids are coming out of lower-income neighborhoods, they're inevitably getting lower funds for their schools," says Hercules. "If a kid is in a wealthier, suburban neighborhood, obviously they get a lot more money for their schools. So the question is, 'Is that fair?'"

Two of the six documentaries in the series have been released and can be viewed at schoolprojectfilm.com. The website also features an interactive map and provides an outlet for families to share their stories about the impact of the closings.

The second segment of the series was released last week, which Hercules says coincides with a report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research exploring the whereabouts of the 10,000 students displaced by the 2013 closings.

Hercules says it shines a light on the implications that other districts with closings may face and what happens to the students.

"A lot of families, I don't think had any problems going to the new schools," says Hercules. "They seemed to transition pretty well. A significant number actually did not go to the welcoming schools, and so the question is 'Where did they go, and why?'"

According to the report, proximity to home was the deciding factor. While most displaced students enrolled in schools with better academic ratings, just one-fifth ended up at top-tier schools, and nearly one-quarter went to schools that were lower-performing than the welcoming schools assigned to them by the district.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL