PSAT for 12-20-11, Part 1: Support a progressive alderman

Last week the Chicago Tribune accused progressive alderman Nicholas Sposato of “putting kids on hold” for choosing to gather community input before approving permits for a new UNO charter school in his ward.

You may remember that, in the last election, firefighter Sposato beat John Rice, the machine-backed candidate and chauffeur for the previous alderman.

City Council has a long-standing tradition called “aldermanic prerogative,” which gives sole discretion over building permits to the local alderman. Apparently UNO’s founder, Alderman Danny Solis, and current UNO CEO Juan Rangel,  Rahm Emanuel’s campaign finance chairman, are trying to replace Sposato’s choice with UNO’s clout.

Pressure from UNO and city power brokers have led City Council to call for a special Council meeting Thursday to take their own vote on the school, overriding Sposato.

Sposato sent around an e-mail explaining his position:

Last April I was elected on the promise of creating a new system of open and accessible government for the residents of the 36th ward and I have worked every day to achieve that goal to ensure that the residents are informed and are able to voice their opinions. This proposed school is no different.

Sposato rightly wants to be sure that an UNO school is the best fit for his community, especially since some of UNO’s charter schools are already in trouble academically and have been accused of skimming off the better-achieving students from the neighborhood.

You may also remember the words of the Blagojevich trial judge, that we get the government we deserve. Folks, if we don’t support a good-government alderman, we’re going to continue to have bad government.

So, for Public Schools Action Tuesday, part 1, please call or e-mail your alderman and ask him/her to support Alderman Sposato’s right to make a careful and community-centered decision about building a new charter school.

Here’s what I just sent to my Alderman, Will Burns, with a copy to Ald. Sposato <>:

Hi Will – Please show your support for Alderman Sposato as he stands up for the right of his community to have their voices heard in his decision about the permit for a new UNO charter school in the 36th ward. Many community people are concerned that UNO already runs at least one low-performing school, and that another UNO charter school may not be the best fit for the community. We would want you to be able to make this decision for our community based on factors that are known best to our community. It should not be something that others decide for us.


Julie Woestehoff


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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.