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

Kelly P. Vaughan, Rhoda Rae Gutierrez


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.


School closings; neoliberalism; history of education; parent voices

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