Desire for democracy: Perspectives of parents impacted by 2013 Chicago school closings


  • Kelly P. Vaughan Purdue University Northwest
  • Rhoda Rae Gutierrez University of Illinois at Chicago



School closings, neoliberalism, history of education, parent voices


In this article, we discuss the historical shifts in the purposes of public education and examine how neoliberal education policies, like Chicago’s school closings, attempt to limit the purpose of public education to be in service to and at the whim of the market. We juxtapose this dominant neoliberal narrative of public education with the voices of the parents from closed schools, whose deep involvement with and beliefs about public schools counter neoliberalism’s shallow concept of the public purpose of public education. Drawing upon a 2014 qualitative study of parents and caregivers who were impacted by school closures and actions, as well as publically available data, we find that parents believe school closings cause great harm to students, families and communities, aim to reduce citizens to consumers in an educational marketplace, and seek to further undermine democracy in education toward a “thin democracy” (Gandin & Apple, 2002) of marketized education. However, we argue that there is an alternative to the neoliberal narrative reflected both in the ongoing historical struggle about the purposes of schooling and in the wisdom, experiences, and desires of parents most directly impacted by neoliberal education policies.


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Author Biographies

Kelly P. Vaughan, Purdue University Northwest

Dr. Kelly Vaughan is an Assistant Professor of English Education at Purdue University Northwest. Her research interests include education policy, English education, curriculum history, and disability studies.

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez, University of Illinois at Chicago

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez is the program director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education and a PhD candidate in Policy Studies of Urban Education-Social Foundations of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is a parent-activist involved in organizing for education equity and democracy.  Her research interests include the cultural politics of urban education, neoliberal education policy, and activist-research.




How to Cite

Vaughan, K. P., & Gutierrez, R. R. (2017). Desire for democracy: Perspectives of parents impacted by 2013 Chicago school closings. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25, 57.



Restructuring and Resisting Education Reforms in Chicago’s Public Schools