Making Sense of Renaissance 2010 School Policy in Chicago: Race, Class, and the Cultural Politics of Neoliberal Urban Restructuring GCP-09-02

Pauline Lipman

Chicago has long been a focus of national attention on urban education policy, and its latest plan to remake public education is no exception. In 2004, Chicago’s mayor announced Renaissance 2010 (Ren2010), a plan to close 60-70 schools and reopen 100 new schools, at least two-thirds as charter or contract schools. Charter schools are public schools chartered by the state to be rum by private group. They have greater autonomy in operation and curriculum than CPS schools. Renaissance 2010 is perhaps the most significant experiment in the US to reinvent an urban public school system on neoliberal lines. Part of the Ren2010 agenda is to create new mixed-income schools in mixed-income communities created in the wake of the demolition of public housing. My focus in this paper is the cultural politics of this policy, how it “makes sense” on the ground and how neoliberalism is materialized through the actions of social movements and social actors. Here, I am interested in a) the discourse of racial pathology underpinning mixed-income schools/housing and b) rearticulation of discourses of equity and self-determination to the market and individual choice through charter schools. I am especially interested in how the “good sense” in these policies connects with people’s lived experiences to further a hegemonic neoliberal agenda and the implications for constructing a counter-hegemonic movement.

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