Problems with Mayoral Control in Chicago

On Friday, Nov. 21, 2008, I was on a panel in New York City organized by NYC-based Class Size Matters to discuss the pros and cons of mayoral control. The law giving control of the NYC schools to Mayor Bloomberg is up for renewal, and Class Size Matters is one of several groups holding public hearings into the issue.

Here are the major points I made along with live links to documents referenced in my presentation.

Major problems with mayoral control in Chicago

1.    Achievement has not improved significantly, especially in the high schools.

 “Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation,” report written jointly by PURE and FairTest: “Unfortunately, many ineffective CPS strategies are being promoted across the nation as solutions to school failing to make AYP.”

 “NAEP shows CPS policies don’t work” on PURE Thoughts

 “What’s better and what’s not,” Catalyst magazine: “Have those years (since 1995) made enough difference? On the nation’s only common measure of school performance, low-income students in seven urban districts outscored Chicago…with so many programs spread out over hundreds of schools each…it’s difficult to see where CPS will gain traction in the years ahead.” 

“CPS Scores up, but kids aren’t ready for college,”  Chicago Sun-Times: “Illinois standards are inflated, and CPS kids are not grasping the complex skills they need”

2.    Accountability is non-existent. PR spin has replaced rational debate about what is working and not working, how children are being affected.

“PURE report challenges accountability of CPS Renaissance 2010 schools,” PURE Thoughts:
More than two-thirds of the R2010 schools failed to respond to a FOIA request, leading us to conclude that these schools have no governing body. Only 5% of the members of charter governing bodies are parents. 

“More charter myth-busting”   PURE Thoughts: The media wrongly reported a charter school’s graduation rate as “boasts a nearly 100 percent graduation rate for its students…a stark contrast to the district’s nearly 50 percent dropout rate.” Actually, the school’s rate is 46.8%, far worse than the district’s 68.7% rate. 

“Facts about the Sherman Model,” PURE Thoughts: “Very little evidence of success in school chosen as CPS turnaround model” 

“Favoritism in CPS,” PURE Thoughts: Arne Duncan charter favorite doesn’t stack up

3.    Children, families, teachers, and communities are being seriously endangered and damaged by the rapid destruction of the system, chaos of new fragmentary “choice” system.

 “Turnaround school ‘disappears’ poor students,” PURE Thoughts: The current CPS turnaround model had modest test score gains, but also “lost” 124 students, low-income rate dropped ten points, and mobility rate skyrocketed. 

“Critics have also cited the increase in violence at schools accepting students from consolidated schools.” Austin Weekly.

4.    Funds are mismanaged and misdirected (favoring R2010 schools).

“Going to the Head of the Class”, Catalyst, which shows that R2010 schools receive a disproportionate amount of capital and maintenance funds.

Graphic here.

Story here.

“Daley steals from schools to fill TIF coffers,” PURE Thoughts

5.    LSCs are being replaced with toothless advisory bodies appointed by the CBOE.   

“Disappearing LSCs: How CPS is rewriting the School Reform Act,” PURE Thoughts

What to do?

  • Tell the truth loudly.

For example, we sent a press release to all local and national media saying that President-elect Obama should not appoint CPS CEO Arne Duncan secretary of education

  • Use legal and legislative strategies where possible.

For example, PURE and other groups and individuals have filed a lawsuit against CPS’s practice of disbanding LSCs in nearly all R2010 schools

  • Get organized!

For example, PURE is assisting Chicago parents in forming a parents union

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.