Posts Tagged ‘mayoral control’

Last call for LSC candidates! Fight top-down management – join the LSC!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014



Tomorrow, Friday, March 14, at 3 pm is the final deadline for filing nomination papers for the local school council (LSC) election in April. You can file at any school where you are eligible, but there are many schools that do not have enough candidates to form an LSC as of last Friday, so those schools really need you to step up. Here’s a map showing where candidates are needed.

As I said last month, LSCs are still the strongest form of site-based management in the U.S. and probably the world. What better way to challenge top-down mayoral control than to use the power that you actually have in the form of LSC membership?

It’s a no-brainer, folks!



This week’s leg fax: corporate reform not working in Chicago

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

FAX Machine 19In 2007, FairTest’s Monty Neill and I wrote a report called “Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation,” which strongly cautioned against using Chicago and its mayoral controlled school district as a model for school improvement.

Six years later, our concerns have been confirmed by researchers Elaine Weiss and Don Long for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education group.

I just shared their findings with the Illinois House and Senate Education committee members in this week’s PURE leg fax:

NEW REPORT: Market-driven school reforms, mayoral control causing more harm than good

A new study, “Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality,” on the effects of market-driven reform in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago concludes that little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged.

Market-oriented education reform refers to a series of initiatives that include educator evaluations based in large part on student standardized test scores, the closure of schools that are considered failing or underenrolled, and an increase in the number of charter schools, many of which are operated by for-profit companies. (Washington Post,

States and districts have been forced to adopt many of these reforms to comply with NCLB or apply for Race to the Top grants, with added pressure from corporate-backed groups like Students First and Stand for Children.

The executive summary of the report ( concludes:

  • Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.
  • Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
  • Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
  • School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
  • Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.
  • Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
  • The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.


  • Support the CPS school closing moratorium bills SB 1571 and HB 3283.
  • Support community-based school improvement and stronger local school councils trained by independent, non-CPS training groups. (
  • Support an elected school board in Chicago.

Real parent involvement not bought at Walgreen’s (memories of Field School)

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Parents protest Walgreens' opposition to fair school funding (1993)

So, Rahm Emanuel went swimming at his health club recently and got a great idea – give parents a $25 gift card from Walgreen’s and solve the parent involvement problem! (I guess the pool had already given him enough great ideas for solving Chicago’s homicide epidemic.)

He took this great idea to my old neighborhood school, Eugene Field Elementary, and, with Walgreen’s CEO Greg Wasson, announced that parents at 70 schools with low parental involvement would receive cards loaded with 25,000 “customer loyalty” points (worth $25).

“This is a way, in my view, of incentivizing responsible parenting,” said Rahm.

Right. Because parents have no real incentive for supporting their children’s education.

Setting the press conference at Field brought back some powerful memories, going back 25 years (wow, really?) when our two sons attended the school.

I remember being elected to the first local school council at Field. At the first meeting, we elected the top vote-getter as our chairperson. His daughter’s teacher stood up in the meeting and threatened him in front of the principal and the entire audience. Shortly after that, his daughter decided to transfer to another school, so the father lost his eligibility to be an LSC member.  All of this was done with full knowledge of the district. That was how CPS “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

I remember when the Field teachers, with the blessing of the principal, came out in force to a PTA meeting and voted themselves in to all the PTA officers’ positions, effectively shutting parents out of any role in the parent-teacher organization. That was how CPS “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

The LSC got rid of that principal, and hired a new one. She seemed great for a while, but then lots of bad advice from upper management led her to hide in her office and, among other things, deny the offer my husband and I made to run a Great Books program in the school. She actually wrote us a letter saying that the school had “enough volunteers.” CPS officials saw nothing wrong with this letter. That was how they “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

Eventually the LSC found a better principal fit with Rachel Resnick – and I have no idea how things are for parents under the current principal. Apparently not good enough.

But my perspective at PURE allows me to continue to see how CPS and the mayor “incentivize” parent involvement around the city:

  • CPS allows principals to break federal parent involvement rules by refusing to allow PURE parent workshops to take place, even though the NCLB parent advisory committees have voted to have the workshops.
  • CPS encourages principals to waste hundreds of thousands of parent involvement dollars every year by sending school staff and a few parents to out-of-state conferences (airfare, hotel, meals and stipends included in the cost) while parents at home gain nothing.
  • CPS’s Office of LSC Relations continues to blacklist PURE from LSC training even though LSC members prefer independent training over CPS’s cursory bullet-point sessions.
  • Rahm’s cronies in the foundation and corporate giving world continue to blacklist independent LSC/parent support groups like PURE and Designs for Change, a situation which one of the late Don Moore’s children suggested contributed to his early death.
  • Rahm and his cronies ignore and disrespect elected, parent-run local school councils while pushing education privatizers’ phony “parent empowerment” programs like school choice and the parent trigger.

PURE’s response to Walgreen’s and other corporate sponsors of phony parent empowerment has always been, “Start by paying your fair share of school funding” so that Illinois moves from the bottom of the heap in per-capita school funding. Then we can talk about your gift cards and your swimming pool brainstorms.


PSAT for 10-23-12: Why wait to vote on an elected school board in Chicago?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Early voting started yesterday and most Chicagoans have a special opportunity this fall to make our voices heard on the issue of an elected school board, thanks to the determined hard work of a group of Chicago Public School parents and others who collected thousands of signatures on petitions, enough to get a referendum on the ballot in about half of Chicago’s voting precincts in 35 of the 50 wards.

Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), of which PURE is a member, will sponsor a forum on the issue tonight at 7 pm at the Logan Square Auditorium,  2539 N. Kedzie featuring Karen Lewis, Ben Joravsky, and Paul Lipman of UIC and Teachers for Social Justice (CPS and DFER were invited but declined to participate). This forum will also be broadcast live on CAN-TV 27.

Please read Curtis Black’s excellent report on the issue, including details of a recent public forum hosted by State Rep LeShawn Ford, who will host a similar forum Monday, October 29 at 6 p.m. at Carey AME Church, 1448 S. Homan.

A Chicago Tribune poll taken during the 2011 mayoral election showed 77% of Chicagoans in favor of an elected school board, with only 17% favoring mayoral appointment of the board.

As a 501c3 organization, PURE cannot advise you how to vote on any specific referendum, but we are pretty sure that you know what to do. Why wait?

Corp reform media blaming teachers, touting charters

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The corporate reform-backed media is  doing its “Education Nation” best to prop up Rahm Emanuel’s union busting efforts, with a lot of help from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Parents Across America’s Leonie Haimson was put up against three white male corp reformers on CNBC yesterday. I know, not fair that the men were  so overmatched, but one of them still managed to suggest that the parents supporting the CTU are victims of Stockholm Syndrome (I’m now cursingoin Swedish…ooh – guess they’re right!).

ABC News (we watch broadcast news at my mom’s house) did a story claiming that Chicago charter schools (which are, you know, open now) are better than comparison schools.

Here’s what Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin quoted today from someone who actually knows the truth about Chicago’s charter schools:

“I ran the numbers when I was at CPS,” said Terry Mazany, former interim CPS superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust. “Charters, based on . . . being freed from restrictions of bureaucracy, should be knocking the socks off neighborhood schools. But they’re not. It’s a dead heat.”

Corp reformers can’t have it both ways.

If CPS schools are so awful, why  isn’t that the fault of mayoral control and Arne Duncan?


PURE member rates Brizard, throws in Rahm

Friday, August 31st, 2012

You may remember back in December of 2010 when Linda Hudson filed an Office for Civil Rights complaint against the CPS student retention policy .

The OCR investigation is still underway and Linda still has her eye on CPS.

Here’s her great letter in today’s Sun-Times:

“Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard. Let me get this right, there has not been a Chicago Public Schools strike in 25 years; so what’s the common denominator here? Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard. Every day I’m rethinking my mayoral vote. It’s time for an elected school board.”

That just about perfectly sums up the situation!!!! Thanks, Linda.

Parents describe Chicago Board of Education disrespect

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times editorial by 19th Ward Parents leader Becky Malone describes in infuriating detail the disrespect that parents and others experience every time they go to a Chicago Board of Education meeting to speak up for their children’s education:

“On many occasions we have gotten into line by 6 a.m. to wait for two hours hoping to get the golden ticket that would allow us an audience with the board only to return to the same line for an additional two hours before being herded into the party. By this point each month, we have spent nearly five hours traveling and waiting before the meeting has even begun.”

Becky reports that things have gotten even worse lately, with Board members trailing in late to the scheduled 10:30 am start of the public participation portion of the meeting and the usual dog-and-pony show extending well past noon. The show includes lengthy speeches honoring retiring administrators and student groups, usually well-deserved but quite obviously designed to try the patience of the waiting public.

Becky writes:

We are often asked if we feel the board and the mayor are listening to parents and we always reply no. If the board cared what we had to say, meetings would start with public participation to ensure that everyone who made the effort to attend could be heard. If the mayor cared, he would meet with parent groups and speak with us directly, not address us at staged press conferences or through carefully drafted media releases.

To that clear message let me add some suggestions. Return the Board meetings to the schools in the afternoons/evenings several times a year, and reconstitute Board committees which, back in the real reform era, used to meet in between Board meetings to actually discuss policy and problems, and to take the time to listen to parents and others in order to make better decisions.

Of course, that was back when Board decisions were made by the Board, not by City Hall. After all, who cares what parents think when your sole function is to vote yes on everything the Mayor tells you to do?

Just one more reason why we need an elected school board in Chicago. Here’s how you can join the campaign!


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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.