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The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leadership is doing exactly the opposite of what both community activists and researchers have shown to be the most effective ways of improving public schools. School "turnarounds" are a racist privatization scheme damaging to quality education.

Tears welled up in the eyes of Angela Gordon, Local School Council President of Dvorak school as she composed herself to speak her allowed 2 minutes in front of the Chicago Board of Education on April 23, 2014.

Her school, along with McNair and Gresham schools, was about to have its entire staff fired, from the lunch ladies to the principal and then reorganized by a private management company called the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL)

In Chicago this is called a “turnaround”. 

Gordon tossed aside her prepared remarks and pleaded for the Board to postpone the decision. Her voice filled with emotion, she told the Board they are ”all about the numbers” explaining that she was there for the students as human beings, not as statistics. 

Surrounded by Dvorak parents and children she concluded by saying.”Do not turn us around through AUSL! Give us the resources so WE we can give the students what they need!”

Representatives of the other two schools also spoke in behalf of their students.

Faces of the resistance at the April 23 2014 Chicago School Board meeting
Supporters of McNair await their their turn to speak at the April 23 Board meeting

A couple of hours later the Board went ahead and issued orders to fire everyone at all three schools and replace them.  But that had been decided long before the meeting even began. The entire morning was as one observer said,”Just a game of charades.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls the shots and communities have little input

The three schools that  were chosen by Rahm's handpicked school chief Barbara Byrd Bennett  and his handpicked school board were Dvorak Technology Academy and Ronald E McNair Elementary School on the West Side and Walter Q Gresham Elementary School on the South Side.

Turnarounds differ from charters because AUSL school workers can join the Chicago Teachers Union and AUSL schools can have a Local School Council (though the AUSL LSC’s are stripped of important powers). Local School Councils are a unique Chicago experiment in local democracy where teachers, parents and community members are elected to help develop school policies. 

Individuals can apply to be rehired, but AUSL prefers to bring in its own people (usually younger and whiter) and proclaim that the school is “turned around” and on the road to success.

The criteria for turnarounds are based on test scores and racial geography. AUSL picks schools with low test scores, usually in working class African American neighborhoods. While it’s true AUSL has had limited success at raising test scores in some schools,  most of their turnaround efforts do no better than neighborhood schools and test scores have even fallen in some cases. 

AUSL’s  test score criteria for determining school “failure” is itself a failed measurement. The complexity associated with genuine learning cannot be bubbled in and quantified by the dubious tool of the multiple choice test. Low test scores do reveal the extent of poverty in a community, which research shows is mostly what they measure. But one does not need a high stakes test to know that. They also suggest the chronic under-resourcing of neighborhood schools which must struggle for such basics as textbooks and toilet tissue.

AUSL’s generally mediocre performance on test scores is despite the influx of additional money CPS puts into their “turnaround” schools. Neighborhood schools that have been denied basic educational resources like libraries are suddenly deluged with funding once they are targeted for turnaround by AUSL or to house a charter school. 

Ollie Clemons a grandmother and the guardian of two boys at Gresham Elementary explained how that worked at her school:

“It was decided last year to have a charter school come in. In the meantime over the summer they put in an elevator. They put in a new library, but yet when the charter school decided not to come, the library did not get a librarian. The librarian was totally eliminated. Our art teacher did not come back. We only have a half time gymnasium teacher yet they want us to have healthy activities for the kids...”
But ironically, when a school does receive better educational resources, that is often linked with privatization.

The turnaround proposal generated intense opposition from the neighborhoods surrounding these schools

Representatives of the largely African American Lawndale, Austin and Auburn-Gresham neighborhoods packed hearings and community meetings. They picketed the Board of Education and held prayer vigils and press conferences. They turned out in force  at the April 23rd Board meeting and testified before the final decision was announced. They  proposed alternate plans for school improvement.

In Chicago where the majority of students are African American and Latino, there is no elected school board as in in the rest of Illinois. Chicago Teachers Union organizer and CPS parent  Brandon Johnson compares this to the racist voter suppression being directed at African Americans and other people of color  around the nation. A school board handpicked by the mayor and corporate elite makes it eaier to privatize education.

Parents, students and community allies rally in front of Chicago Board of Ed President David Vitale's house
Gresham principal Dr. Diedrus Brown (center)

The human connection is a key factor in quality education. Why does AUSL want to weaken that connection?

A Gresham parent told me with pride,” Gresham is a school that goes back generations.” 

A quality education requires a complex web of human relationships among all of the people who directly affect student lives including teachers, administrators, non-teaching school staff, parents and other people in the surrounding community. 

Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance talked about these longterm human relationships when she testified on behalf of Dvorak.  Dvorak’s highly regarded principal Cheryl White had only been there two years and almost half of the staff was new. Leonard quoted from a Carnegie study:

“A study by the Carnegie Foundation examined the relationships between teacher tenure and experience and student performance and found that the sheer number of novices in public school teaching has serious financial, structural, and educational consequences for public education— straining budgets, disrupting school cultures and, most significantly, depressing student achievement."

Lisa Russell, a parent and Local School Council member from  Dvorak explained how a neighborhood school with these deep connections can be a refuge for children who have been rejected elsewhere:

“ Let me tell you about the neighborhood school, particularly Dvorak. We take anybody’s child from anywhere.. Don’t turn us around. Give us the resources. Give us the small class sizes... Our neighborhood school is more than what you know. It's a community, as they say. We have all kinds of children at the neighborhood school. When everybody else doesn’t want them, we get them. And guess what. We teach them. We work with them.”
Lisa Russell speaks out against school privatization in Chicago
Lisa Russell speaks at a press conference in front of CPS headquarters

West Side activist Zerlina Smith made a similar point about McNair after explaining that 21% of the students at McNair are special needs with IEP’s (Individualized Education Programs), "Why would you turn around a school with that many IEPs knowing that there’s not another school on the West Side that can handle that?” At the time of the proposed turnaround McNair had no librarian, no music or art teacher and no reading specialist.

Faces of the resistance at the April 23 2014 Chicago School Board meeting
Zerlina Smith at the April 23rd school board meeting

There are teachers who choose schools like these because they want to teach the students whom no one else wants. The abused. The misused. The abandoned. The ones with very special needs. The ones drowning in a sea of poverty and racism. The ones that Rahm Emanuel was describing in a discussion with CTU president Karen Lewis:

“In that conversation, he [Rahm] did say to me that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them."

Teachers who take on these kinds of challenges are being punished for doing so.

In African American communities beset by racialized poverty and segregation, school-based relationships form connections of human solidarity that are the basis not only of quality education and neighborhood stabilization, but of resistance to racial oppression.  In schools that are struggling and where these relationships are weak, they can be strengthened through the hard work of organizing. 

Protesting attacks on public education in Chicago
Valerie Leonard and Brandon Johnson in front of the Board of Education

The corporate elite’s war against the Chicago Teachers Union is only partly about money issues. Under its present leadership the CTU has allied with embattled neighborhoods fighting for quality education. The CTU has shared important educational research with the city’s working class which has helped built stronger human connections among teachers as well as with the community at large. 

Brandon Johnson put it this way:

“This not simply about keeping union employees. Teaching and learning go way beyond the ability to have collective bargaining rights. It’s about the deep-rooted relationships that are critical for a child and their family to develop the trust that allows access to these family’s spaces.”

Both parents and teachers agreed that McNair, Gresham and Dvorak needed improvement

At the hearings and protests that I have attended, people constantly challenged the Chicago Board of Education to work with them on school  improvement, to provide resources, to support teacher and parent involvement, to join that complex web of relationships as a partner instead of a relentless adversary. 

But instead of working with communities, AUSL ignores their input. Here is how AUSL operates:

From the AUSL proposal to the Illinois State Board of Education 2009:

“AUSL replaces the principal with an individual selected by and accountable to AUSL as well as the district, and also brings in a cohort of specially trained new teachers from AUSL’s Teacher residency program. AUSL evaluates all incumbent teachers and staff before re-hiring any who are interested in remaining. We expect that more than half of the school’s incumbent teachers and staff would be replaced. “
  1. AUSL weakens Local School Councils (LSC’s) by taking over principal selection and budgeting. This strips LSC's of power and makes them only advisory organizations. In addition AUSL ignores  the countless hours that parents and community volunteers have put in to obtain special grants and programs that CPS did not provide.
  2. AUSL turnarounds  contribute to the sharp decline in experienced African American teachers as they replace them with younger mostly white teachers. Younger teachers of any race need experienced teachers to mentor them. Experienced teachers benefit by working with younger ones who can bring fresh ideas into the education mix. Breaking this critical relationship degrades quality education.
  3. The loss of jobs in African American communities through AUSL turnarounds contributes to the disinvestment and destabilization of Black Chicago. Along with charter school operators, AUSL also divides communities against themselves as different types of schools compete for educational resources.
  4. AUSL has a high teacher turnover rate  making it harder for them to work together and develop close collaborative relations.
  5. The AUSL has a “zero tolerance” discipline policy which results in more students being pushed out or expelled, feeding the school to prison pipeline. According to Brandon Johnson, AUSL has the highest suspension rate of any network in Chicago. This is especially troubling as AUSL works mostly with African American students.
  6. AUSL does not have adequate programs in place to deal with the many special needs students in Chicago.
  7. AUSL relies heavily on high-stakes testing which cannot measure critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, inventiveness and the skills necessary to resist racial, gender and class oppression.
At the April 9 Chicago Public Schools hearing on privatization
McNair staff members at a CPS hearing about the future of their school

Anthony Capetta who went through AUSL training said in an interview that AUSL makes the extraordinary claim that a few years of “good teaching” (as they define it) can overcome any problems that children bring from the outside: i.e the effects of institutionalized racism and poverty.

Capetta explains:

“They very much believe in a paternalistic mentality toward schooling. The parents don’t know how to teach their children. The neighborhood is bad. There is a cultural deficit. We as teachers and we as a school have to make up for that. We are going to take the place of an authority figure and we are going to do the job of raising these kids right.”

AUSL has close ties with wealthy corporations who profit off of racism and poverty. That alone tells us a lot.

There are alternatives to turnarounds, but these are rarely reported in the media

Parents and teachers at all three schools recognize the need for improvement, but  asked for help that did not involve privatization. Dwayne Truss, a West Side activist, made this point when he testified on behalf of McNair:

“McNair as well as any school will admit that there is always a need for improvement. There are other alternative school improvement models and school improvement providers then AUSL...McNair is more than happy to partner with any provider to provide professional development for both teachers and parents in order to augment the efforts McNair already has in place. “
The Chicago school research group Designs for Change published a study in February 2012 which showed a much more effective way of improving school performance than turnarounds.

Designs for Change calls it School-Based Democracy. This model has achieved significant improvement at a number of Chicago schools, but like the Chicago Teachers Union plan The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve, it has received little recognition from the Chicago Board of Education, the Mayor’s Office or the Chicago major media. 

The report compares test scores in schools that use School-Based Democracy vrs. those that used the turnaround model. School-Based Democracy showed the most significant gains even though those schools did not receive the kind of extra financial support available to AUSL.

Remember, these are gains in test scores which are the main criteria used in determining whether a school will be turned around. Designs for Change concluded the following:

"This study indicated that the high-poverty schools achieving the highest reading scores were governed by active Local School Councils who chose their principals, and had experienced unionized teachers...These effective elementary schools have dedicated Local School Councils, strong but inclusive principal leadership, effective teachers who are engaged in school-wide improvement, active parents, active community members, and students deeply engaged in learning and school improvement."

CPS has weakened and even eliminated many Local School Councils. It has relentlessly attacked the Chicago Teachers Union and eliminated many experienced teachers. Its climate of FUD (Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt) has caused most school principals to remain silent as public education is being dismantled before their eyes.

Corporate Chicago is always hoping for an obedient racially divided working class from which to extract a fast buck. 

AUSL is using a problematic model from the corporate world. At the hearing to decide the fate of McNair, Chicago mayoral candidate and public policy expert Amara Enyia spoke about the origins of turnarounds:

“I think this model is flawed. It is adopted from business practices. And as a  business practice it does not work. In fact it has had limited to no results. So why are we adopting this method in education? And specifically, in public education. It’s problematic for a number of reasons.”
At the April 9 Chicago Public Schools hearing on privatization 
Amara Enyia (right) with CPS security officer (left) at the Board of Education

The president of the Chicago Board of Education is David Vitale, former Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Board of Trade and a former board president of AUSL. Tim Cawley, Chief Administrative Officer of CPS, was a Motorola executive before joining AUSL. Mayor Rahm Emanuel with his close ties to Wall Street is an enthusiastic supporter of AUSL. Hedge fund operator Bruce Rauner, a heavy investor in Chicago charter schools and the Republican candidate for governor, is also an AUSL enthusiast.  And the list goes on...

The people who run the Chicago schools today come from the corporate world. In the introduction to her book School Reform, Corporate Style: Chicago 1880-2000  Dorothy Shipps  looked at the long history of how business interests have dominated Chicago education--and done a poor job: 

“This book asks a necessary but important question: if corporate power was instrumental in creating urban public schools and has a strong hand in their reform for more than a century, why have those schools failed urban children so badly?”
Their corporate vision for working class schooling today is massive privatization with a very narrow focus on memorization and recall. It values the ability to stay focused on boring repetitive tasks emphasizing obedience to authority. The AUSL model with its emphasis on high-stakes testing and zero tolerance discipline is a perfect example of that.

At a recent Board of Education meeting I heard a parent brag that you can walk into a classroom in her child’s AUSL school and “hear a pin drop”. Is that what we want from children? Silence?

Chicago’s corporate education model is also profoundly racist with its history of segregation and unequal allocation of resources, as well as its persistent racial discrimination against teachers and other education workers of color.

The corporate education model of rote learning mixed with politically connected real estate speculation and lucrative vendor contracts has nothing to do with actual education. 

UIC professor of education Pauline Lipman’s book The New Political Economy of Urban Education demonstrated how the destabilizing influences of  school closings, turnarounds and privatization are an integral part of the city elite’s policy of gentrification. This contributes to the ongoing exodus of the city’s African American and Latino working class. AUSL is deeply entwined with this project of replacing much of the city working class population with affluent (mostly white) people weary of long suburban commutes.

West Side Chicago defends Dvorak Technology Academy

West Side activist Windy Pearson speaks at a community hearing as Pauline Lipman listens

The income of the parent is the best single predictor of student success, yet the city  elite has done nothing to raise wages on behalf of low income neighborhoods or provide the investment to create good paying jobs that keep people in the city rather than driving them out.>

Corporate Chicago apparently believes Chicago’s status as a global city depends upon economically driven ethnic cleansing.

The business world is littered with the corpses of companies that were subjected to hostile corporate turnarounds and takeovers which drained their resources, destroyed their morale and drove them to an early grave.

Is that what we want for our system of public education?

Low test scores measure the failure of this nation's leadership to reduce poverty. Where's their “grit and rigor” in pursuit of that goal?

“ I have a school full of wonderful teachers that care about the students...We teach the whole child. My children are not about test scores. There is more to a child than test scores. They are whole children and they deserve love. And I love my children.” --Principal Diedrus Brown of Gresham school
Love. That’s a word I’ve heard often since I joined Chicago’s education justice movement in the months leading up to the 2012 teachers strike. It’s a powerful emotion in a school setting. I know that because I was a classroom teacher for 25 yearsf. When a school is working it’s because the power of love has been nurtured and encouraged to grow.

The city power elite also understands the power of love. That’s why they want to break the human relationships that create it. Love is a threat to the city elite because it motivates people to protect their neighborhood schools and their communities.

For the city’s power elite, the biggest problem with school-based democracy and similar programs is their success in improving neighborhood schools, while empowering the communities that surround them. That kind of success stands as a powerful testament against the corporate driven turnarounds and increased privatization.

Instead of supporting the city’s teachers, many of whom work under very difficult conditions, the Chicago power elite treats them with the same contempt it has for the working class students that make up the majority of CPS. It attacks their union, a union which takes quality education for ALL children VERY seriously, apparently a cardinal sin in the eyes of those whose love extends only to power and money.

West Side Chicago defends Dvorak Technology Academy
CTU activist Sarah Chambers speaks out for the children at a public hearing

The Chicago street violence that has made headlines across the country is directly related to the poverty and neighborhood destabilization favored by the city’s power elite working through organizations like AUSL.

Both Wall Street and Washington are behind this privatization movement. It is a bipartisan project with both Democrats and Republicans supporting the educational carnage that results. Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been closely allied with Republican Bruce Rauner, the current front runner in the Illinois governors race. Democratic president Barack Obama has essentially continued the same destructive polices that came out of the  Republican Bush administrations.

However it would be a mistake to see the turnarounds and the school privatization movement as simply being about short-term profit from gentrification, lower teacher salaries and bloated contracts to education vendors like Pearson. There is a distinctly ideological component that in the long run is the most dangerous.

In a nation  facing a some of the worst wealth inequality in its history and a global environmental crisis that threatens the existence of humanity itself, who would benefit from a fearful, obedient and racially divided working class that has been shorn of creativity, inventiveness and independent thinking?

Fortunately the human spirit is too strong for total subjugation. 

Chicago’s  multiracial working class will the continue to fight for quality education. They will lose some battles along the way, but as people learn through struggle and study, I believe that the privatized schools will eventually be returned to the public domain. Chicago can then develop a school system that will educate ALL children--- so they can grow up to create the kind of  human society they truly deserve.

Parents, students and community allies rally in front of Chicago Board of Ed President David Vitale's house
Why we fight

Bob "BobboSphere" Simpson is a retired high school history teacher

Sources consulted

Testimony against 'Turnaround' of Dvorak by Valerie Leonard

Area residents oppose AUSL turnaround of elementary school by Curtis Black

Gresham challenges 'turnaround' verdict by Jean Schwab

Chicago's Violence Tied to Policies of Rahm's Past by Curtis Black

Comments to Hearing Officer on McNair Turnaround by Dwayne Truss

CPS proposes three new school turnarounds by Sarah Karp

Emanuel Continues War on Black Schools by Stephanie Gadlin

New report: LSCs and democracy outperform turnarounds  By Parents United for Responsible Education

The Free Market Isn't Very Good at Running Schools by Anthony Cody and Xian Barrett

Chicago Public Schools' Turnaround Plan Called Into Question By Parents, Education Activists by Ellyn Fortino

Test Scores, Poverty and Ethnicity: The New American Dilemma by Donald C. Orlich and Glenn Gifford

Interviews conducted with Brandon Johnson and Anthony Capetta by Bob Simpson

Special thanks to CPS teacher Tammie Vinson for sharing her perspective on privatization.

Originally posted to Chicago Kossacks on Thu May 01, 2014 at 07:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, In Support of Labor and Unions, Hellraisers Journal, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My kids went to well funded public schools (9+ / 0-)

    Of course they were in the suburbs, but also in NY State.  We pay taxes, but at least they go directly to the school district, not into the hands of some flim-flam privateer educator.  Our high school offers most every AP class and even offers kids a Calculus class taught by teachers from the local college if all the AP math classes have already been taken. A high percentage of kids get scholarships to prestigious colleges and universities, and even kids not on the AP track tend to pursue higher education.

    We are not a wealthy community, but there is a commitment here to public education.  The teachers my children had were uniformly good, and many were excellent.  Why would I want to trade that system for privatization?  Why would I want my tax dollars to go into the  hands of people more interested in making a profit than in making sure my children and the children of this community get a great education?

    I thought the Iraq war taught us that privatization was simply a scam, a way to waste government resources  while benefiting corporations who dodge paying taxes with ridiculous government contracts that overpay them and allow massive amounts of fraud and abuse by said corporation which typically provide substandard services.  I guess not enough people were paying attention.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Thu May 01, 2014 at 08:13:05 AM PDT

  •  The city is being destroyed (12+ / 0-)

    Nuke its schools and the communities collapse. Everything in my family's life revolved around the schools. Heck, some of my parents' friends, now in their 90s, I've known for 60 years — because of our local public school ties. Sad to say but if I was growing up now in Chicago, as much as my parents passionately believed in public education, my sisters and I would be at Lab School. No question. Education was just too important to them. But what about kids whose parents were not upper middle class, University of Chicago graduates like mine were? Those kids have no future in the city anymore.

    Hey Rahmie (or as my sister calls him "I didn't vote for him!"), bite me.

    Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

    by anastasia p on Thu May 01, 2014 at 08:29:40 AM PDT

    •  I cannot stand (4+ / 0-)

      Rahm, and was very upset when he was elected Mayor. I went to a public HS in IL and way too many of my former classmates are now teabaggy. One of them on Facebook was chiding me about Rahm (assuming I'd defend him, because that's what he does with Reps no matter how outrageous and nutso), and I made clear that I didn't like him at all because he was too much like the Republicans. That shut him up. I try not to hate people, but it's getting difficult with this imperious little twerp. He's like the worst of the Rethugs--Christie like, even.

      You can wake someone who is sleeping, but you cannot wake someone who is pretending to sleep.

      by gnothis on Thu May 01, 2014 at 05:14:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fighting to keep bad schools... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfgb a very weird position.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Thu May 01, 2014 at 08:31:46 AM PDT

    •  Conniving to put local schools... (6+ / 0-)

      ... into the hands of profiteers is weirder.  Why is it you that like DINOs like Rahm and all his many best buddies so much?

    •  They are not fighting to keep bad schools (10+ / 0-)

      The communities wanted improvement plans that have been shown to be more effective and less disruptive than privatization. These schools had been badly under-resourced and had undergone budget cuts and staff reductions.

      But the real issue here is poverty. The Chicago elite has shown no interest in confronting that. Instead they prefer to pour tax payer dollars into expensive hotels and downtown office buildings while engaging in unionbusting to drive down working class incomes even more.

      Meanwhile the low income African American and Latino neighborhoods are going through hell.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu May 01, 2014 at 09:33:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is not a fight to keep bad schools, (5+ / 0-)

      it's a fight to give schools what they need to succeed and not manufacture the conditions that let Rahmpulstiltskin pretend they are failures and need to be handed over to his cronies who then get what the schools should have had in the first place. BTW, turn arounds have never succeeded, when Rahmpulstiltskin closed 50 schools a short time ago, many of those closed had been turned around by that useful idiot Arne Duncan or had had other experiments foisted upon them. The 3 that were just closed were better than other schools in their vicinity.

  •  This is not going well for the teacher's unions. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alypse1, slowbutsure, sfgb

    The Chicago political class (which is almost all Democratic) seems extremely hostile.

    How exactly did it come to this?  Is there some long history of inter-party animosity here?

    •  Chacago has a long history... (5+ / 0-)

      ... of screwing over its public schools system (especially in minority neighborhoods), going all the way back (at least) to King Richard I.  Harold Washington, had he lived longer, might have been able to reverse this to some extent.  But under King Richard II and King Rahm, the "tradition" continues unabated.

    •  "Come" to this? (15+ / 0-)

      My grandmother was a schoolteacher in Chicago for 45 years (Von Humboldt school, recently shuttered by Rahmie). In the 1930s, during the early depression years, the city simply stopped paying its teachers (it was "broke") and paid them with IOUs. They figured it didn't matter — just a bunch of women, no political power. The roots of today's Chicago Teachers Union are in that era. Until the day she died — in 1985 at the age of 95 — there were stores my grandmother would not patronize because they would not extend credit to teachers during that period.

      Chicago's Democratic party is not and never has been about progressive policies. It's about "where's mine?" Always has been. When I was growing up there in the ’50s and ’60s, every last public sector job was for sale. Even teaching at a "better" public school like mine was basically a patronage job. Actually, everything was for sale. Mayor Daley Pere had no love for teachers or schools either, unless they were Catholic. In one of the worst obscenities of all time, after the Our Lady of the Angels fire (90 kids dead), PUBLIC schools were required by the city to install sprinkle systems but not the parochial schools because God forbid you should cost the archdiocese any money. Everything for sale. Even the lives of kids.

      Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

      by anastasia p on Thu May 01, 2014 at 09:07:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Its all part of a larger crisis (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, AnnieJo, Geenius at Wrok, rexxnyc, Ozzie

      The onset of what some call neo-liberal austerity, the lowering of the working class standard of living to increase corporate profit has taken a heavy toll on Chicago. The CTU until very recently did little to fight the erosion of public education.

      The current leadership has a vision of social justice unionism that allies it with low income communities fighting for a better life. It sees quality education as part of general movement to take the burdens and stresses of poverty off of students so they can perform better in school.

      For example: Not getting shot when they walk down the street...

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu May 01, 2014 at 09:59:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is happening all over the country. (0+ / 0-)

      The biggest threat to the Democratic party is the growing rift between the Teacher's Unions and inner-city parents who want better schools.

      And let's not delude ourselves into thinking that "parent's groups" are anti-reform. Parents love charters, vouchers, and the whole "Education Reform" toolkit. Don't believe anecdotes and photo diaries. Believe your eyes instead -- go to a Charter School lottery and see parents lined up around the block.

      When (and if) inner-city families get some money the first thing they do is flee to the suburbs, because the schools there are better.

      The Koch Brothers are waiting patiently for the day when a Black or Brown voter walks into a voting booth -- and is forced to choose between the interests of the NEA and the interests of her child.

      The Unions need to throw us inner-city parents a bone. Give in on performance-based evaluations and some of the dumber work-rules. Stop trying to close charter schools. Stop standing in the schoolhouse door saying, "no! no! no!" to everything. Come up with a reform proposal that isn't greedy for fatter pensions or (Jesus wept!) retroactive back pay.

      The payoff for this is worth it. We get to keep the Democratic coalition from cracking. And if a third of the country stops having to overpay for suburban real estate there should be plenty of money on the table as well.

      Instead of paying $300,000 for a tiny ranch home, I can pay the $100,000 it's actually worth. The surplus is enough to pay a teacher's salary for three years!

      There is a human need for education reform...our kids deserve better. But there is also a pressing political need. This issue could crack our party.

      •  The CTU has united with inner city parents (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        President Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union is now one of the most popular people in Chicago's working class neighborhoods because of her steadfast opposition to  the racist under-resourcing and closings of neighborhood schools in African American and Latino communities.

        As for a positive program here is an example straight from the CTU:

        "Don't believe everything you think."

        by BobboSphere on Tue May 06, 2014 at 05:57:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The plan you linked... (0+ / 0-)

          ...boils down to the same old stuff.

          1) Hire more teachers.
          2) Pay them more money.
          3) Never hold them accountable if the kids don't learn.

          Parents are willing to go with #1 and #2.
          But #3 is a deal breaker.

          •  Forget about holding parents accountable I guess (0+ / 0-)

            Because the ONLY possible reason a kid fails is because of the teachers.  Right.

            And you used to work on Wall Street, so you're an authority on what teachers should be paid.  Please.

            It is only after a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize all situations can be resolved without violence.

            by gtnoah on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:20:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I like the idea of holding... (0+ / 0-)

              ...parents accountable.

              Parents have much more impact on learning than teachers.

              But, unfortunately, it's just not politically possible. No politician can win an election by promising to usurp parental authority, even a little. even when (as you point out) it would make sense.

              Education Reform is a politically possible way of making some of the problems somewhat better.

              Yeah, yeah, if we we really wanted more learning we'd fix Poverty, Illegitimacy, Crime, Bad Neighborhoods, Drugs, Stupid Parents, Absent Fathers, etc. But we have not won enough elections for that.

              Meanwhile, we should do what we can with the power we have.

          •  The document says so much more than that. (0+ / 0-)

            Please do not distort the public record.

            "Don't believe everything you think."

            by BobboSphere on Tue May 06, 2014 at 02:21:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  This unions vs. parents' meme is straight from (0+ / 0-)

        the Heritage Foundation. Excellent example of political framing.

        Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

        by Dirtandiron on Tue May 06, 2014 at 08:23:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes. Exactly. (0+ / 0-)

          And when Unions try to block my family from choosing a school, they play right into the enemy's hands.

          •  I know, I know, the big, bad unions are keeping (0+ / 0-)

            your children from being rocket scientists. It's all the teacher's fault. Good lesson to teach your kids. smh

            Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

            by Dirtandiron on Tue May 06, 2014 at 08:55:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Unions and Teachers are not synonymous (0+ / 0-)

            But I'm learning a lot about you from your comments.  It sounds like you have in issue with the Manhattan Consolidated School District in an urban setting, and so your conclusions about education all over the country and teachers in general are based on your own locality, rather than, say .... reality nationwide.

            Education and the system that delivers it is complex.  How's that anonymity working out for you?

            It is only after a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize all situations can be resolved without violence.

            by gtnoah on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:19:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Why should you care what school your kids go to? (0+ / 0-)

            In your own words:

            Parents have much more impact on learning than teachers.
            Is this why you are so intent on destroying public education? Because teachers have so much less impact on learning than parents, and so they are clearly at fault for everything related to what children are learning?

            Is that why you believe charters are so much better? Because TFA recruits are so much better at teaching than experienced teachers, especially when the parents have much more impact on learning than the teachers?

            Why are your positions so contradictory?

            •  It's not that simple. (0+ / 0-)

              Parents have more impact, but we don't have the political power to reform parenting. The government does not have the power to break into parent's homes and disconnect their Cable TV. The government does not have the power to prevent parents from getting divorced.

              So, we must fix what we can. The government controls the schools, so that is what we must reform.

              These reforms will not fix all our education problems. They may not even fix most of them. But it is better than doing nothing.

              Also, I never said that charters are, " much better". Some are better, some are not. The important thing is that we give parents a choice between the two.

      •  You're a parent. You're not an expert. (0+ / 0-)

        Your experience is anecdotal, not universal.  the umbrella term of "reform" alludes to the myth that any change you portend must be positive.  But you want vouchers and charters - you don't want to improve the schools.  You want to abandon them.

        The reason teachers are always in the door saying no, no, no is because people like you are always coming for our basic funding, telling us how much we suck at our jobs, wanting to "hold us accountable" - a phrase you use interchangeably in other posts with "punish" and pretending like you know how the education system works.

        You have a right to be a frustrated parent.  You are an expert on your child and how they learn.  You are not an expert on education, or how it should be "reformed".

        You're just angry, and that's not the same thing.

        By the way, my pension benefit, my health insurance and my pay have all declined for six straight years now.

        It is only after a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize all situations can be resolved without violence.

        by gtnoah on Tue May 06, 2014 at 10:41:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is what happens when the 1% are in charge (5+ / 0-)

    and you have unelected school boards.

    The ordinary citizens in Chicago need to rise up and change this. I'd like to give a shout-out to Dick Kay at WCPT for actually regularly covering how the city is screwing over its kids in education.

  •  Ok, now I have to go suck my thumb and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    rock in the fetal position in a darkened room; this is so depressing!

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Thu May 01, 2014 at 09:45:54 AM PDT

    •  I go to a lot of these meetings and protests (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, slowbutsure, CitizensArrest, Ozzie

      When I go home and process the photos of the people on the front lines, I do actually tear up sometimes. I fear we will lose many battles before the tide is finally turned.

      On the bright side charter teachers have been unionizing and there is the beginning of a parent revolt against the abuses of the worst charter schools. And let me be perfectly clear, some charters are doing a good job. They could do a better job with unionized staffs and Local School Councils.

      I think the day will come when they will return to the public domain. In the meantime we should support teachers and parents working to improve them.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Thu May 01, 2014 at 10:08:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is an absolutely fantastic diary (5+ / 0-)

    As the parent of a CPS teacher, I applaud your analysis and insight into the state of CPS. Of the three CPS schools my daughter-in-law has worked at, the worst was a turn-around school on the South side that was actually run by CPS, and the best is a multicultural school located in Edgewater, run by an excellent principal. Anecdotally, the 3 schools on the South side where my son and daughter-in-law previously taught suffered not only from inadequate resources, but also terrible principals, clearly not of the caliber of Dr. Brown. The teachers were there because they loved the students and were committed to the communities in which they taught.

  •  Democrats have run Chicago for about a century (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Temmoku, BobboSphere

    How should Democrats, both elected and unelected work differently to solve the two major problems for Chicago: an underperforming school system and a high rate of violent crime.  

    Solve those two problem and the nation will see a major revival for this great American city.

    I have visited the city several times over the years, but I have only a very superficial understanding of the city.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Thu May 01, 2014 at 09:10:33 PM PDT

    •  Short answer: Invest in the working class (0+ / 0-)

      Chicago needs higher paying jobs and investment that favors the working class neighborhoods, the kind that fixes what is broken without forcing people out through gentrification.

      That will take a major transformation of the city's political economy. There was some movement toward that during the Harold Washington years, but that largely died with him.

      There are people who share a radical working class perpective on all of this. They are a small minority at this time. But they do have influence beyond their numbers, and there are still more people who agree that a radical change is needed, but don't see any realistic possibility of that happening.

      Some of us are working toward making that radical change a practical possibility. Time will tell.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Fri May 02, 2014 at 07:05:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent Diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But Chicago and its schools have been intensely politicized forever! But getting Charter Schools to take over is just another way of "squeezing milk from a goose"! If there is money there, it will go to some crook and crony.
    It is sad....but it has been this way since I was in school in Chicago in the early 50s. Most of my worst school memories were from those times.

    Character is what you are in the dark. Emilio Lizardo in Buckaroo Bonzai

    by Temmoku on Fri May 02, 2014 at 03:26:32 PM PDT

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