Posts Tagged ‘Rahm Emanuel’

Klonsky on Lab School’s short school day/year

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

You don’t want to miss Mike Klonsky’s reportage on a facet of the longer school day/year debate that has so far escaped Chicago’s mainstream press: the fact that Mayor Emanuel’s children attend a school with the same hours in the school day and fewer days in the school year than Chicago’s.

So, is the Mayor giving his kids “the shaft” by choosing to send them to the elite University of Chicago Lab School???

Talk about a scandal.

Here’s what Mike learned just by picking up the phone:

What I found out was that Lab has a school day comparable to CPS. It’s school year is actually a week shorter than CPS’ and Lab kids and families enjoy longer vacations and spring and winter breaks together. Not only that, Lab dismisses kids an hour early two days a week so that teachers have time to meet, plan and collaborate. Not only that, but the Lab school day is packed with arts, music and phys ed, rather than Rahm’s favorite subject — test prep. Not only that, but Lab teachers have an hour for lunch. Wow!

Like Mike (and I always aspire to that standard) I think a longer day is a good idea as long as it’s filled with high-quality programs and the staff are compensated fairly for their work.

Here’s hoping that the Rahmfather will spend some time as a room father at Lab and find out at least some of the important things that may be missing in the schools he hopes to improve.

“Reformers” next target: “one-size-fits-all” democracy

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Now that they’ve had some success destroying public education, the school reform privateers are setting their sights on something even more precious and fundamental to our nation – our democracy.

You see, democracy is “messy” and “one-size-fits-all” and has a pesky habit of getting in the way of even more mega profits and oligarchic* control, which the Bill Gateses and Eli Broads feel is their due.

Last week, former Chicago Tribune honcho James Warren wrote this in an editorial about how to fix schools for his new news outlet, the Chicago News Cooperative:

There is…a conspicuously unmentioned player: local school councils. In hiring and dismissing principals, they can be democracy run amok.

Warren cites an LSC’s decision not to retain a principal a few years ago at the school his children attended, and this example: “At Lake View, a seemingly uninspired candidate—a former teacher there with lots of faculty chums —was just voted in as new principal.”

Wow. That’s strong stuff, right? Good enough reason to do away with any and all citizen representation and participation in school decision making, especially now that we have new mayor Rahm. Warren exhorts the mayor to add this to his to-do list

“Rehab One-Size-Fits-All School Councils Even If Community Groups Go Ballistic.”

And then we have conservative “education gadfly” Mike Petrilli advocating that we do away with school boards, in his recent essay, “One Size Fits Most“:

We (should) continue to minimize the role of the 14,000 school boards (if not eliminate them outright) by empowering states to take an ever-larger role in all aspects of educational improvement.

Petrilli has more to say about this in a related letter exchange that came across my e-mail today:

Those of us at Fordham are teaming up with the Center for American Progress on a three year examination of issues of “governance,” with “rethinking local control” at the center of it.

It seems that scaling up could take one of two routes (or maybe both routes). On the one hand, we could push for a major effort to eliminate school boards/ school districts–or, more likely, keep them but diminish their roles–and centralize as much as possible to the state level. Get rid of the structural/political barriers that keep folks from working more effectively across district lines, that keep ed schools from being joined at the hip with schools, etc. That would help with “coherence”–and would at least set the stage for capability-building. But talk about a big political lift!

The other route is to encourage the scale-up of the charter networks as fast as possible. But even “fast as possible” will take a long time.

Of course, there is a third possibility, and that is to stop thinking about “schools” and “teachers” and start focusing instead on “learners” and how they can get access to the best education via digital learning.

It’s as though one-person-one-vote has become the new “one-size-fits-all” for these folks. And it all fits nicely together with their “vision” for education  – if we reduce schooling to reading and math test prep, our children will grow up never knowing what democracy is all about.

LSCs track record

Let’s look at the best – and most radical – example of local control for a minute, Chicago’s local school councils. I have been an LSC member as well as a facilitator throughout many principal selections and have found that the LSCs in a wide variety of schools carry out the process thoughtfully and thoroughly. Of course, there are exceptions, and often the pool of candidates is not as deep as we’d like it to be, but the results of LSC principal selection are generally effective,  as principals themselves have asserted. 

The mainstream media is not good at reporting the success of LSC processes – and notably allowed itself to be used shamefully during the 2007 Mayor Daley-Curie LSC feud over a non-retained principal who was a Daley crony – but smaller neighborhood papers will often give the public a glimpse into the careful, inclusive way LSCs usually work. Here’s one example from this week’s Hyde Park Herald, starting on page 1 (link live only for the week): “The two candidates in attendance responded to questions from the selection committee as well as questions from parents and community members.”

Here are a couple more local stories from the Herald, about Shoesmith and Reavis which show that LSCs consistently perform extensive searches and look for the best fit for the school, even in cases where an internal candidate is being promoted.

I can’t think of better hands for this critical decision to rest in than the school’s parents, teachers and community residents, and a better antidote to the nay-saying oligarchs.


* Wikipedia describes oligarchy as a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who pass their influence from one generation to the next. Throughout history, most oligarchies have been tyrannical, relying on public servitude to exist…

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, privately owned Russia-based multinational corporations, including producers of petroleum, natural gas, and metal have become oligarchs. Privatization allowed executives to amass phenomenal wealth and power almost overnight.

German sociologist Robert Michels believed that any political system eventually evolves into an oligarchy. According to this school of thought, modern democracies should be considered as oligarchies. In these systems, actual differences between viable political rivals are small, the oligarchic elite impose strict limits on what constitutes an acceptable and respectable political position, and politicians’ careers depend heavily on unelected economic and media elites.

Corporate oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals, sometimes from a small group of educational institutions, or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for constitutionally protected prerogative.

Wikipedia points out that a well-known fictional oligarchy is represented by the Party in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Rahm’s Trojan Horse

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I’ll be talking tonight on CBS-2 news about the CPS proposal to lengthen the school day by 90 minutes. My quote in this morning’s Sun-Times was

“Any citizen of Chicago needs to ask how it’s going to be paid for. I don’t see how they can do it without raising class sizes to 45 kids. This is not a real plan. This is a politically motivated plan. It’s a plan to back the teachers union in a corner” and “make the teachers look like the bad guys for bursting the bubble.”

Let’s look at the numbers. According to Catalyst magazine, the CPS Office of Management and Budget estimated in 2009 that adding an hour to the school day would cost $280 million. Make that 90 minutes and you get $420 million. Figure that costs have gone up since 2009, add on the extra two weeks, and it’s pretty clear that the extra time will cost well over $1 million per school for CPS’s 482 elementary schools. We’re not counting in charter schools because they’re already doing everything right, right?

Now, we have a system that is already looking at a $700 million budget shortfall. CPS has already cut back on many of the programs they are now promising to add back in with the longer school day, such as art, music, sports, and professional planning time.

As if only time, not money, was holding them back.

Well, time and those money-grubbing teachers.

It’s absolutely absurd to propose a plan that would ask teachers to work an extra 90 minutes every day while offering them only half of the raise they were supposed to get for their current work day. And it’s cynical beyond belief to publicly trumpet a plan for a longer school day and year with more services and programs without mentioning how such a plan is to be funded. But then, that’s school reform Rahm-style.

For those who fell for this one, I have a gift horse whose mouth I just know you’re going to want to stick your head into.

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?

Penny’s thoughts

Friday, May 6th, 2011

I have a feeling that Penny Pritzker quotes are going to become a regular feature of PURE Thoughts, now that she’s about to join the Board of Education as part of Mayor-elect Emanuel’s “whole new leadership suite.”

Here’s one from a discussion about lengthening the school day at yesterday’s Chicago-based NBC “Education Nation” program, as reported in the Sun-Times:

Pritzker said she was impressed with a pilot program started under former Schools CEO Ron Huberman that added 90 minutes in 15 schools using online work in math and reading and help from mostly non-teaching staff. Young children were engrossed by the computerized program, sitting “absolutely silently, doing English and math,’’ Pritzker said. Two fourth-grade boys who competed against each other all year to finish the fourth-grade online math program were ready to advance to fifth by December, she said.

I’m sure that’s exactly what Penny’s education was like, and what she wanted for her own children.

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…).

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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.