Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Rahm’

Incentivizing philanthropy: Walgreen’s gets big no-bid contract after CPS gift card giveaway

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Walgreen's coupons created by Wade Tillett

It was only a couple of  months ago that Walgreen’s CEO Greg Wasson stood with Mayor Rahm at our old neighborhood school, Field Elementary, to announce the giveaway of $25 Walgreen’s gift cards to parents for picking up their children’s report cards. “This is a way, in my view, of incentivizing responsible parenting,” the Mayor said that day.

At the time, I sent this letter to Mayor Emanuel and CEO Wasson, suggesting that there are far better ways to involve parents.  I never heard back.

I guess that’s because they were too busy cooking up the $700,000 no-bid contract reported in today’s Sun-Times. The City of Chicago will pay Walgreen’s to screen city employees for a new wellness program.

The lesson here is an old one: corporations always have a financial agenda wrapped up in their generosity. Whether it’s just trying to make themselves look good, using their donations to promote the business, or out-and-out sucking up to the mayor, it’s really not about the kids.

Now that so many corporations are directing so much money into the worst corporate reform programs that actually hurt our children, it’s even more important that we put the pressure on them and do our best to incentivize responsible philanthropy.


“Wildly uneven results” in Chicago charters

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Despite its blind editorial support for charter schools, the Chicago Tribune reported today that “New data suggests many charter schools in Chicago are performing no better than traditional neighborhood schools, and some are doing worse.”

What the next Trib news flash? Dog bites man?

The twist to this not-so-new-news is that a change in the charter school law has forced charter networks to report state test data for every “campus.” Remember, Chicago encouraged its first charter schools to multiply under a single charter in order to circumvent the state’s charter cap. That practice has been outlawed and the charter cap raised.

Prior to this year, networks could hide results from lower-performing schools within the network’s aggregate numbers. So, for example, Chicago International Charter School (CICS), which has ballooned to 16 schools serving nearly 10,000 students, looked pretty good on the annual state report cards until this year, when it became clear that CICS schools reported some of the lowest state scores in the city (Hawkins, Bond, and and Ellison) along with more average results in other network schools.

As is true in general (but apparently still a mystery to the Tribune editorial board) the lowest-scoring schools are those serving low-income and mostly African-American students. The highest-scoring schools are more middle-class schools, and schools like those in the Noble network, whose discipline policy is perfectly designed to weed out less “wanted” students.

Oh No He Didn’t

Demonstrating that he generally just doesn’t get it, the CEO of Noble, Michael Milkie, told a Sun-Times reporter that charters are just like shops in the famed Chicago Lettuce Entertain You restaurant chain: “You can’t go to every Lettuce Entertainment restaurant and assume they are equal just because of the name.” Milkie dissing Lettuce Entertain You? Really? In fact, LEYE spots are actually pretty reliable, and I speak from long experience beginning with the late lamented Evanston Fritz That’s It. Unlike Chicago charters, LEYE restaurants generally deliver a good experience no matter where they are located. And, unlike Noble, they don’t throw their patrons out or charge them extra if they don’t like the food.

AUSL questions rile Rahm

In a related note, doesn’t it seem as though the major newspapers are already giving Mayor Rahm a pretty hard time about issues they rarely asked Daley about? Both the Tribune and Sun-Times reported on Emanuel’s testy reaction to questions about the CPS proposal to award contracts to the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) for 6 new turnaround schools despite the mixed results for AUSL’s existing 19 schools (AUSL founder Mike Koldyke dismissed those concerns as problems with “the kids catching on.”). Mayor Rahm appointed David Vitale, former AUSL board chair, as the new president of the Chicago Board of Education and several other AUSL-connected honchos served on Emanuel’s campaign or hold high-ranking CPS positions. But Mayor Daley was just as tied in with AUSL’ers when he was running the schools.

Rahm says that this giving of lucrative contracts to his cronies isn’t a conflict of interest. “There would be a conflict if I didn’t do it” he claimed, because (here it comes – I warned you) it’s for the kids.

Geez. At least Mayor Daley saved this level of dudgeon for times when the media questioned what he did for his own children. As his father so famously said, “If you can’t help your family, who can you help?”

Who’s on the defensive now?

Anyway, those questions arose from a press release put out by the CTU. And wasn’t it just a few days ago that CTU Prez Lewis was considered so beaten down by the mayor and others that she was declared toast?

These are volatile times we live in, especially when it comes to schools. I believe those who will come out best in the end are those who truly do have the best interests of children at heart. So, let’s just see what happens.

PSAT for 11-29-11: Support PURE!

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

They wanted PURE to go away – but instead we went national!

It’s been a difficult few years for a scrappy, outspoken group like PURE in a city like Chicago, where it’s considered near-treason to question the emperor’s fashion sense.

Unfortunately, the Chicago “model” of high-stakes testing, teacher-bashing, failing to fund schools adequately, and attacking democratically-run local public education has gone national. Thanks to corporations looking to make profits off of our children, these policies and practices are making the already huge gap between the haves and the have-nots grow larger every day.

The Chicago policies that PURE has fought for years have become national mandates, so PURE is going after the head of the monster.

We need your help. If you appreciate PURE’s fighting spirit, 


Here’s what PURE is doing to protect our children.

  • A national voice and resource for parents: We co-founded Parents Across America (PAA), which is already a major national player in the fight for our public schools. PAA played a prominent role in this summer’s Save Our Schools national march on Washington. Our powerful PAA network put PURE ahead of the curve with critical information about newly-appointed CPS CEO J. C. Brizard which forced CPS and City Hall to stop making false claims about his track record.
  • A better ESEA: As chair of the PAA Legislative Committee, PURE’s executive director prepared a counter-proposal for reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was featured in the Washington Post, endorsed by the SOS March, and called “best critique of ESEA yet” by noted education expert Diane Ravitch.
  • Solidarity with public school teachers: Honoring PURE’s history as a strong parent-teacher alliance, and in recognition of the unprecedented, highly-funded attack on teachers, PURE has been out front in support of the progressive leadership of the Chicago Teachers’ Union and the teaching profession in general.

If this fight is important to you, and you believe that PURE is needed in the fight,


But wait – there’s more!

  • Fighting high-stakes testing: PURE speaks out against high-stakes tests on a regular basis. We testified before U. S. Department of Education officials regarding our concerns about the new “Common Core” assessments. We submitted testimony to the Illinois State Board of Education and the state legislature about the dangers of tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. CPS’s test-based student retention policy is under investigation by the USDE’s Office for Civil Rights as a result of our discrimination complaint. Meanwhile, under pressure from PURE, the number of retained students in CPS has been cut in half and the promotion policy is on hold.
  • Challenging school privatization: We continue to bust myths and expose hype and falsehoods told about Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 program by people from local charter operators on up to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. We are currently working on an expose of charter discipline policies with a national advocacy group.
  • Support for parents: We continue to work with parents here in Chicago, supporting them at special education and discipline meetings and with general advice and referrals. We offer workshops for parents and local school councils as resources allow. We recently made community presentations for the Better Government Association.

The cost of speaking out: You may have noticed that PURE is often the only group quoted in news stories about CPS/City Hall education pronouncements. Few other groups or individuals are willing to go on the record with any criticism of the new mayor or the power-brokers on the Board of Education. We have been duly punished for our outspokenness. No Chicago foundation currently funds PURE. We are therefore even more grateful to the foundations which do support us: The W.W. Kellogg Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the 21st Century Foundation, and RESIST.

And it’s for that very reason that we cherish and so greatly appreciate you, our members and friends. You are our Chicago foundation (even if you don’t live here!! )

PURE has not sent out a general appeal for funds in three years. For a while we were not all that positive that we would survive. But we have survived, and we are stronger in many ways.

If you care about public education and you think that PURE plays a critical role in supporting better public schools for every child, PLEASE MAKE A GENEROUS DONATION NOW.

You may use our secure Donate button or mail a check or money order to Parents United for Responsible Education, 11 E Adams Street, Suite 1401, Chicago IL 60603.

Thank you!

PSAT for 10/25: Help save Chicago libraries

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

For many children in Chicago, the public library is the only source outside of school for internet work, adult after school attention, and actual books. Citywide, 164 public schools — nearly 1 in 4 elementary schools and 51 high schools — do not have standalone libraries. Yet our “It’s for the kids” mayor has declared it necessary to radically cut the only library resource in many communities.

This action request was passed on from a friend:

  Please Act Immediately, Call your Alderman and Sign the Petition, link is below. PLEASE distribute this email to everyone you know that cares about the Chicago Public Library!  The vote is coming up very soon, we have to act now.

Rahm’s 2012 Budget Slashes Library Staffing and Hours. In fact, although the Libraries account for only 3% of the City Budget they are being asked to absorb over 70% of the personnel cuts, on top of cuts that were made two years ago.


Chicagoans of all ages check out some 10 million items a year from 78 locations serving each neighborhood.

Job searchers and other computer users utilize over 3.5 million free Internet sessions each year.  Nearly 60% of computer questions for reference librarians and CyberNavigators are from adults seeking assistance with job searches and employment services.

Over 50,000 children keep up their reading skills by reading over one million books every summer as part of the Chicago Public Library’s annual Summer Reading Program.

Thousands of children enjoy and benefit from early childhood literacy activities in Chicago’s libraries, and many more visit these same libraries after school, in the evenings, and on weekends for homework assistance from trained librarians and certified teachers.

Each year the Chicago Public Library is used heavily by college students, career changers, adult learners, professionals, working adults, and people who simply want to read a bestseller, participate in a book club, enjoy a cultural program, use a free museum pass, attend a class on financial literacy, or receive free computer training.

Thousands of families visit the library each day for books, homework support, reader’s advisory, referral services, story times, concerts, puppet shows, music concerts, craft times, book clubs, and other cultural, educational, and literacy-related activities.

The branches of the Chicago Public Library are essential anchors within each community, a place beyond school, workplace, and home where neighbors and people of all ages can connect to each other and seek out new growth and opportunities.   The library is a resource that all people can use and enjoy, especially in hard times.

Your Alderman and the Mayor must decide whether the Chicago Public Library will remain a world class institution, continuing to serve as the heartbeat of local communities, or whether it will become a shell of its former self, a self-service lending library with a few computers, perhaps, but not much else.

The most helpful thing you can do to save the library is to contact your Alderman today to let him or her know that you value library services and insist that the City of Chicago fully fund the Chicago Public Library.

For you convenience, the following link will help you find your Alderman’s contact information:

You are also encouraged to sign an online petition at:

UPDATE: Public Hearing on the Mayor's Proposed Budget is set for November 2nd.  City Council Hearing starts at 10 a.m. with public comment to follow.  The Budget Vote is on November 16th.


Duncan provides another “HUH?” moment

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan has a knack for running from his own track record as Chicago Public Schools CEO and making some idiotic statements while he trying to score edu-political points.

Yesterday, while visiting our fair city, he came out in favor of Mayor Emanuel’s longer school day plan, saying that it has been a “badge of shame” for CPS. Then he made this claim, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

Extending the school day and year is “absolutely … something I wish we could have done’’ under his leadership, Duncan said. But, he said, during that time — from 2001 to early 2009 — “the system couldn’t afford it.’’

This statement was even dumber since it makes Mayor Rahm look bad, too. The mayor claimed that he couldn’t afford the teachers’ contractual 4% raise (something that never happened under Duncan) which may be allowable if there is a legitimate, severe budget shortfall.

But Duncan just provided more ammunition for the CTU’s claim that the additional funding that Rahm has found to pay for a longer school day is evidence that the budget crisis is bogus.

Just got Rahm’s nasty anti-teacher push poll

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Just got the push poll from Rahm. Oh, I mean, For a Better Chicago, the secret PAC run by Gary Goldner, who owns the PR firm Resolute Solutions, which may or may do push polls.

According to Wikipedia,

A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted, and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as a poll. Push polls may rely on innuendo or knowledge gleaned from opposition research on an opponent. They are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning.[1] The term is also sometimes used inaccurately to refer to legitimate polls which test political messages, some of which may be negative. Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants,[2] and is illegal in New Hampshire.[3]

Anyway, minutes after I blogged about the PR campaign Rahm is launching against the CTU, I got the call – Rahm’s nasty little poll. Here’s what they asked me:

1) What do you think is the most pressing issue facing Chicago today?

  • The city budget crisis
  • Gangs and violence
  • Improving schools
  • Waste and corruption
  • There was one other but I wasn’t fast enough to write it down.

2) What is the most pressing issue facing the Chicago Public Schools?

  • School budget
  • Length of the school day
  • Gangs and violence
  • Teacher performance
  • That was it – there were no other choices

3) How satisfied are you with your child’s school? (Scale)

4) How satisfied are you with your child’s teachers? (Scale)

5) This question began with a long statement about how short the Chicago school day is in comparison with schools in Illinois and in Houston, blah blah blah, then asked if you think your child spends enough time in school. (Choices – Yes/No/Not sure)

6) This question started with a statement about the 200+ schools in CPS that are consistently underperforming and asked who you blame the most:

  • The state of Illinois
  • The Chicago Public Schools
  • The Chicago Teachers Union
  • Parents
  • Teachers

7) This question started off with a statement about “open enrollment schools” that admit students “of all abilities” and don’t have the “limitations” of “rules and regulations” of regular schools, then asked if you would like to enroll your child in a charter school. (Choices: Yes/No/Not sure)

8) This question started off with a statement about how some schools mandate parent involvement through such programs as parent contracts (a favorite campaign idea of Rahm’s – never once did he mention LSCs which offer authentic, meaningful parent involvement and empowerment). Then they asked, would you like to see a program like that in your child’s school? (Yes/No/Not sure).


Just want people to know how Mayor Rahm responds when parents stand shoulder to shoulder with teachers.

Breaking news: Rahm already playing dirty?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Emanuel opened the package, which was wrapped in copies of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

We’re hearing that Mayor Rahm has hired a high-priced PR firm (with the city budget in crisis????) to run a petition or letter-writing campaign against the Chicago Teachers Union.

We hear that this firm is supposed to get parents and parent groups to sign a letter expressing outrage that the CTU is not willing to give up their contractual raises or other job agreements now that the CPS budget is in a crisis (again).

Of course, they will be able to get the Stand for Children, charter school networks, and other astroturf groups to sign on but, as CPS said about why they didn’t talk to the Rochester groups critical of former Rochester Supt. Jean-Claude Brizard before they hired him, “We already know what they think.”

Why waste the money, Mayor? Really, is it that personal? And qre you going to start sending dead fish to Karen Lewis now?

Support PURE!
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.