Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Daley’

Stop the churn – give schools back to the community

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Churn rate (sometimes called attrition rate), in its broadest sense, is a measure of the number of individuals or items moving into or out of a collective over a specific period of time…. The phrase is based on the English verb “churn”, meaning ‘to agitate or produce violent motion’. (Wikipedia)

It’s great for butter but simply terrible for children, families, teachers, other school staff, communities, and the health of democratic public education. Who wants to go to school or work for a school system that is in constant upheaval, where people never know from one year to the next where they will be or what they will be doing? where life-altering decisions appear to be based on ever-changing and murky rationales?

History of failure

Yes, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has just announced another set of interventions which will potentially affect dozens of schools and tens of thousands of children and adults.

Since former Mayor Daley took over the schools in 1995 and his hand-picked schools CEO, Paul Vallas, first put schools on probation, CPS has tried one intervention after another.

How has that been working out for Chicago? Take a look:

You get the point. Corporate reform Chicago-style is stuck on the “agitate” cycle, while our children’s education is going down the drain.


In addition to the human costs to children and adults, here’s what CPS will be paying out in money they say they don’t have:

  • $5 million in the coming year to supplement services to schools affected by closures, phase outs, etc including schools that receive students from closed schools.
  • $20 million on the 10 turnarounds, including the 6 contracted to Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), announced earlier in the week.
  • Busing students from shuttered Price to National Teachers Academy will cost an estimated $90,000 per year.
  • Watch for big capital improvement work to begin at the closing schools (if it hasn’t already) to make them nice for the new charter and other privately-managed schools CPS clearly has in mind to move into the empty buildings.

Give schools back to the communities

This has got to stop. All CPS has to show for its bankrupting expenditure of school funds on Vallas’s Folly, Renaissance 2010, and whatever Brizard calls what he’s doing, is a handful of schools with test scores that look better than the average Chicago Public School. Much of this is accomplished by providing these schools with more than their fair share of resources (like the millions in extra foundation and government money AUSL receives, allowing it to pay for 2 teachers per classroom) and turning a blind eye when they refuse to teach (or at least test) some of the most challenging students.

If the mayor had not taken over the schools 20 years ago, where might we be now? 20 years ago we were on track to make improvements in just the way the Consortium on Chicago School Research has affirmed is the only effective way to improve schools: by addressing all aspects of a school’s functioning, and by involving the entire school community. There were representative, parent-majority elected local school councils with real power who planned for school improvement in an open, public way using the five essential supports for school improvement devised by local educators.

Here’s a chart from the 2005 Designs for Change report, “The Big Picture,” that starkly demonstrates how struggling schools that retained local control (top line) improved far more more than similar schools taken over by the administration (bottom line). (Full size chart here)

Now, what if those locally-run schools had been given the extra help and resources that CPS always gives  schools AFTER closing or turning them around. Think where we would be now, and how a whole generation of children would have benefited.

PURE  and many others have consistently supported local control for school improvement. Recently, a coalition of local community Chicago groups offered a strong blueprint for community-based school improvement. CPS seems to have ignored them.

Think what would happen if CPS actually worked with school communities – if they harnessed all the energy of the parents, students, teachers, staff, and community of every school, and gave those who care the most about the school’s success the same tools and resources that they now give to outsiders and privatizers.

And if that doesn’t happen, think where we’ll be in another 20 years.


Noble charter pushes out more students: Joravsky

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Don’t miss this great article by the Chicago Reader’s Ben Joravsky, which details the ridiculous inequality between Pritzker College Prep charter high school and nearby Kelvyn Park HS, a regular Chicago Public high school. Here’s how it opens:

On February 16, the Union League Club gave out its Democracy in Action award to deserving local high school students, and Mayor Daley was on hand to give a rousing speech—calling on regular public schools to make like the charters and transform ordinary neighborhood students into high-scoring, high-achieving, college-bound stars.

Specifically, the mayor was hailing Urban Prep High School, a south-side charter school. But his unspoken message to all teachers was “work harder and stop whining.”

Consider it one last middle finger from Daley to the teachers and their unions because—well, why not?

Watching it all with a mixture of revulsion and disbelief was Eric Wagner, a social studies teacher at Kelvyn Park High School on the predominantly Hispanic northwest side. “I was there because one of my students—Jennifer Velazquez—had won the award,” says Wagner. “I’m thinking, this is really inappropriate. There aren’t even any charter school kids who won the award. Why is he ripping us?”

What Mayor Daley didn’t say—what he probably didn’t even know—is that just days before his speech eight students from Pritzker College Prep, a school just down the street from Kelvyn Park, unceremoniously showed up at Kelvyn’s door, having flunked out, dropped out, or been kicked out.

Daley, and the rest of Chicago, should know what charters are doing to get their “dramatic” results, as Arne Duncan would put it.

Illinois state law and the new ESEA must include provisions to hold charters accountable for their unfair enrollment and transfer out policies and practices. That data must be included in charter renewal decisions as well as federal watch list considerations.

And we have to hold politicians accountable for the lies and half-truths they tell about charters (e.g. Rahm’s repeated claim that most of the top CPS high schools are charters…).

Known knowns Chicago style

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Seal of the City of Chicago

I thought this quote from Donald Rumsfeld’s autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” as quoted in the Sun-Times a couple of days ago (though I can’t find it online), was remarkably forthright:

Rumsfeld thought Karzai should consider dealing with troublesome warlords the way the current mayor’s father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, handled the City Council. “In parts of Chicago where officials threatened the mayor’s authority, potholes were left untended and other services were neglected, the Winnetka native writes. “In areas where local officials cooperated with the mayor, Daley brought the services of city government to bear and was generous in his patronage. My point was that instead of giving Karzai the freedom to throw around the weight of the US military, he should learn to use patronage…to get the local Afghan warlords, governors, and cabinet officials in line.” Rumsfeld said he ran the idea by President George W. Bush, who agreed.

A proud tradition

The previous day, the Sun-Times published this quote from mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, in a story about his qualifications for the invstment banker job which netted him $18.5 million in the 2 1/2 years after he left the Clinton administration:

There is, in that culture, two types of bankers: a person who knows the numbers, industry specifics; and a person who kind of also deals with relationships. I was what was considered, at that time, although I don’t think this is really interesting, relationship banking, and that’s what I did.

He’s even got the syntax and articulation of a Chicago mayor down just right.

Emanuel is closing in on a winning margin of 50% in the upcoming mayoral race. Chicagoans have other options, but apparently very close to half of us aren’t planning to exercise them.

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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.