Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chicago's Newest Grinch: Mary Weaver

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel with Scammon Elementary Principal Mary Weaver (r.) in a photo from the school website.  

The above pictures bear a striking resemblance to each other, don't you think? While one of these images is a fictitious character described as, "a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature, with a heart two-sizes too small..." the other is an image of an actual bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature with a heart two-sizes too small (no, not Rahm Emanuel) who resides not on Mount Crumpit, but at Scammon Elementary

The alleged grinchiness of Scammon's principal, Mary Weaver, was outlined today in a Federal complaint charging the Board of Education with discrimination based on pregnancy. The complaint alleges that Weaver targeted teachers who became pregnant with lower evaluations and derisive remarks, such as: "I can't believe you are doing this [having a baby] to me!" While WCT tires of the Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work bullshit we're treated to on a regular basis, this seems a little too angry parent.

Eventually, the teachers either quit or were fired. We wonder if this behavior falls under Pillar Four--Committed and Effective Teachers, Leaders & Staff-- of CPS's five pillars? If so, much like the ousted teachers, we'd have to E3 Ms. Weaver's entire tenure at the school.

Weaver is just one of many bully principals within CPS who intimidate employees at their whim to remain in positions of power and to win high ratings within a discredited system.

We'd suggest some reading for Weaver and her ilk which suggests being a nice boss is better than being a horrible boss, but something tells us photo-ops with Rahm far outweigh any need to be liked.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Auction-Rate Education

Nothing will ruin a perfectly fine day away from school faster than another phone call from your delusional principal reading the Chicago Tribune's exacting, hair-raising reporting of David Vitale's investment follies on behalf of CPS. To use Common Core parlance, Vitale and the Board's investment in auction-rate bonds and interest-rate swaps could be described as robustly complex. You see, reader, auction-rate bonds are bonds that go to the lowest bidder and whose interest rates are regularly reset. This practice has been so successful the SEC issued a Cease and Desist order to stop such *innovation* and a basic Wikipedia search notes these markets have largely been frozen since 2008. No matter, nothing like using an untested, risky means of finance to needlessly expand the district.

Unfortunately for tax-payers and public school students, such robust complexity may end up costing the district $100,000,000 more than necessary upon repayment. One can safely assume the Board's, "unanimously approved contracts...that didn't even specify exact costs," will benefit Wall Street grifters and not any students. 

If terms like auction-rate bonds and interest-rate swaps don't readily roll off your tongue, the Tribune describes such deals variously as: exotic, unconventional, flavor of the day, and risky. If these articles were not so finance-laden one would think you were reading about CPS education policy. 

Using another refrain that could be a blanket statement for most CPS decisions, Jackson Potter of the CTU puts it best when he says, "It did not have to be this way." 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You Quazy Quazzo

Although Deborah Quazzo's Board of Education stint has been covered here, here, and here, it's time for a refresher on this appointed school board member.

Touted with a total lack of irony in Rahm's press release as both a "small business owner" and as a founder and manager of GSV Advisors, a company whose investment portfolio includes forty-nine (49) of, "...the most important private companies in the world," WCT thinks Ms. Quazzo might pull in slightly more than the average small-business owner's salary of $78,241.

Additional dispatches from the Doublethink Department:
  • The "strong voice" for the Board of Ed is frequently missing or rubber stamps items with the rest of Rahm's appointees. 
  • Quazzo's kids are products of the private and pricey Latin School. While Latin teachers are "the heart of the school...who provide context and coherence" for students, Quazzo's Board embraces churn by ensuring CPS teachers who might provide context and coherence are priced out of their jobs.
  • Not content to infiltrate charters and public schools, Ms. Quazzo also sits on the Board of the other-worldy GEMS World Academy where tuition for Junior Kindergarten (or as the rest of us call it: pre-school) will run you a cool $31,000.
When do we get that elected school board again?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rahm: (Another) Renaissance Man

Chicago mayors have a penchant for the Renaissance. Be it Mayor Daley who piloted the now-failed Renaissance 2010 as the cure for the failing CPS, or most recently, Rahm Emanuel who believes he is leading Europe's Chicago's charge out of the Dark Ages with his newly launched CPS arts initiative: Be Creative (this could well be the title for Chicago's history with voting, pensions, and budgets). 

Tuesday's announcement asks, "Chicago's business, civic, cultural and philanthropic leaders to help raise $38 million dollars in private donations..." to fund arts programming which will, "create a robust experience...to nurture the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers." And so it is that Rahm the benefactor has bestowed the arts upon all of CPS, at least until 2018 - 19 when the public will assume funding this initiative. How the public will do this is unclear, but until then, let there be arts! 

With Rahm's grand talk of the arts and its patrons you'd think we were in Renaissance Italy.

A quick history lesson tells us: 
  • Wealthy Florentines flaunted their money and power by funding the arts.
  • Wealthy patrons like the Medici family feuded with other families to gain political influence and power.
  • Those living during this time believed they were undoing the backward thinking of the past.
Chicago's current cultural and political landscape tells us:
  • Wealthy patrons like the Prtizker family hold sway politically and culturally, but without the warfare.
  • We are living in enlightened times, or so says B3, "The arts opens the door to new ways of thinking and learning, of imagining creative solutions in fields of study across the curriculum..."
WCT is left to wonder if teachers--technology and modern conveniences aside-- in 2014 Chicago are not so unlike peasants 1420 Italy: grateful the arts are being funded, but frustrated this is a ploy to buy votes, placate the masses, and another opportunity for the monied to pat themselves on the back (and perhaps buy an indulgence for Heaven).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spotlight on Angela Schiavitti!

Move over, Myles Mendoza – WCT’s spotlight is on Angela Schiavitti!

Myles Mendoza’s organization, One Chance Illinois, offers abundant opportunities for socialites, educational profiteers and aspiring politicians to congratulate themselves on solving poverty through promoting urban charters and vilifying the unions who protect teachers' due process rights.

Let’s shine some light on Mendoza's pick for Board Member: Angela Schiavitti!
  • Years spent as an urban teacher:  0
  • Years spent as an urban administrator: 0
  • LinkedIn Professional Description:  "Independent Education Management Professional"
  • LinkedIn evidence of any experience in any field relating to directly educating children: 0
  • One Chance Illinois:  Board of Directors - Community Leader
  • Community of Residence:  Hinsdale, IL
  • Average home value in Hinsdale IL:  $767,500
  • Description of Ms. Schiavitti's Hinsdale home:  6 bedroom, $ 2.4 million dollar value
  • School where her children likely attend:  Hinsdale Central High School (neighborhood public school)
  • Alternative charter choices to Hinsdale Central High School: 0
  • Sample of English courses offered at Hinsdale Central High School: Rhetoric, Discussion & Debate
  • Ironies hopefully apparent to Hinsdale Central high school students enrolled in Discussion & Debate:
    • Non-educator using vast wealth to advise in favor of limiting due process rights for public teachers
    • Community Leader for urban education reform residing in 2.4 million dollar home in an exclusive and elite community insulated from all factors causing dysfunction in urban schools
    • Community Leader advocating for replacing neighborhood public schools with charters -- except in her community

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We're baaaack.

Much like meaningless edu-acronyms, buildings with cockroaches a-creepin',  and babble from Rahm & B3, WCT is back!

Blaine's principal Troy LaRaviere proudly states in a SunTimes article that neighborhood schools aren't has-beens, "Public school students learned far more in one year than charter school students did." He helpfully provides our mayor with some next-steps, "In the face of these results, the mayor’s next press conference on schools should be much different from his last. He should announce that CPS will cease its effort to divert funding from public neighborhood schools into his failed charter experiment. An immediate surge of investment in public neighborhood schools should follow." We couldn't agree more.

It's a good thing we didn't spend our weekend waiting for such an announcement. Instead, B3's bleh email arrived to our inboxes this morning with this rousing fact: "Their [teachers] success in the classroom is evidenced by a slew of recent data, including improved NWEA scores, rising attendance levels, and a District-high graduation rate of X percent, all of which moves us closer to our goal of preparing every student for success in college and beyond." X percent? That's quite a feat!

Further, we were informed of, “...the investments we have made in your schools, including facility upgrades, increased technology, and expanded programs like STEM and IB will provide you with the supports you need to rase [sic] the bar higher and help students thrive.” WCT has heard of lots of malfunctioning copiers, computers, and unusable facilities, all in time for the first day. That must be what B3 means when she issues this spoiler alert: “It [teaching] requires maximum effort and can be fraught with daily challenges. Yet the rewards are staggering…”  We hope to be around to see such staggering rewards if only CPS let’s us do our jobs correctly in the first place.

To the teachers who succeed in the face of all that’s happening in CPS: right on! It’s good to see you in the hallways and classrooms again this year!

Monday, May 5, 2014

All About the CORE

Readers, you might be expecting another tired post decrying the Common Core. Instead, we're focusing on a Core of a different kind, as in Rahm Emanuel's visit to the CORE Club in New York City. Recently disclosed in his annual economic interest statement, WCT can only say: Cha-ching!

Billed as a portal of power for, "a self-selecting group that shares a common sensibility," Emanuel visited on September 17, 2013. A day on which he undoubtedly felt that old-timey, Gilded urge to "relax, recharge, or refuel...perfectly and comfortably." Ah yes, the 3 Rs. Maybe test scores are flagging because we're teaching our students the wrong 3 Rs? 

The common sensibility this group must share is a keen interest in plutocracy and a penchant for all the trappings of the filthy rich.

The CORE Club boasts member benefits like:
  • A "curated connection" to luxury lifestyle partners: Garde Robe (tagline: Imagine having endless closet space), HeliFlite (no tagline needed for the providers of "affordable helicopter ownership"), and Milano clothier Duca Sartoria with an atelier in NYC (again, no tagline needed for one whose creativity is described as, "Genius. Both hidden and revealed.")
Let's contrast this to the member benefits teachers can partake of as a CPS employee:
Clearly, Rahm Emanuel is completely in touch with his constituents and their needs. The rest of Emanuel's financial disclosures--gifts like free sports tickets, comped transportation, and meals--prove he is 100% in tune with the students of CPS and their teachers. 

Given all of this, it's no wonder Karen Lewis vowed to make the upcoming election a difficult one for Mayor 1%, "If there's a way we can have some kind of reasonable conversation, then sure [to a contract extenstion]. But if not, it's going to be contentious, absolutely, as it should." 

As it should, indeed.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Thin Line Between Love & Hate

It's been a fascinating 48 hours in the life CPS: three cash-starved schools privatized, other neighborhood schools praised for improving a never-before tracked statistic called Freshman On Track, and the Northside discovering they are, yet again, the lucky recipients of a new Selective Enrollment school to be named after Barack Obama. Do CPS & Rahm love students, families, and teachers or do they hate students, families, and teachers?

Though our heads our spinning, let's take a deeper dive into the data, shall we?

  • The three turnaround schools--Dvorak, Gresham, and McNair--will all be run by AUSL despite strong community protest. Up until 2009, David Vitale, current Board of Ed. president was also the chairman of AUSL's board. Conflict of interest, anyone, anyone?
  • While the turnaround schools were starved of cash, AUSL gets a one time profiteer fee of $300,000 for each school they improve implode. It makes one wonder how CPS can suddenly find close to $1 million dollars to give to AUSL, but couldn't find that money to fund these schools at a functional level. Yep, that goes in the hate column.
  • WCT hates to nay-say, but it's pretty suspicious that University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research "discovered" the Freshman On Track metric, and also published the study declaring such a metric, "the key to solving the dropout crisis." Sort of like a doctor diagnosing you with an unheard of ailment and then restoring you to health. Rahm Emanuel, too, was all emboldened talking about a new Chicago of neighborhood schools that can get the job done. So, we'll take the love where we can get it.
  • Barack Obama College Prep will be built near the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex. The area is now described as burgeoning and will not be a school open to the neighborhood, but instead a $60 million TIF-financed selective enrollment. Rahm has been intractable about touching TIF funds for schools, but suddenly he can loosen the purse strings for a school in Lincoln Park. The irony is lost on no one that these funds could be used to keep teaching positions at schools that serve the other 99% of Chicago. It also seems undeserving to name a school after the president who's let Arne Duncan try to dismantle what's left of the public school system. This action has to go in the psychological warfare column since they're spending money on schools, but not in any areas that are in dire need.
Emanuel, touting the big turnaround  in Chicago education, offered former Secretary of Education William Bennett, "a one way ticket" back to Chicago to see the progress.  Instead, we'd like to offer Rahm, B3, and the entire Board of Education a one way ticket away from our schools.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Beware the Zombie Ideas

In Sunday's New York Times Paul Krugman talks about zombie ideas: "an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die." While Krugman's op-ed is about an overstated skills gap in the American workforce, his point fits perfectly with CPS's current obsession with ideas that refuse to die. 

Some of these ideas are:

  • B3's insistence in her latest From the Desk of the CEO that the school closures over the past year have been successful, "Data is encouraging and trends are promising." As our Thought Partners are wont to demand, "Show us the day-ta!" B3's newsletter is a little spotty on the, ahem, numbers.
  • AUSL knows how to staff schools better than currently employed teachers, administrators, support staff, and maintenance crews. In fact, AUSL was just recommended to be the manager of three new turnarounds closings. This, despite a study from the organization Designs for Change which states that schools with democratically-led governing systems outperformed turnarounds. While we know Rahm and his ilk are likely to say, "Democracy, shmasocracy," this study shows how school-based democracies can be effective.
  • Teachers created the pension crisis. Wrong again. The CTU lays out some facts and figures which illustrate the consequences of "successive pension holidays" between 1995 and 2005.
Zombie ideas are everywhere, arm yourself properly!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Conscious Uncoupling

The Internet has been abuzz for the last 24 hours trying to figure out what Gwyneth Paltrow meant by the phrase conscious uncoupling. WCT only hears such mystifying terms during professional development sessions with our Thought Partners. It turns out, psychotherapist Katherine Thomas is a Thought Partner to the stars because conscious uncoupling means saying goodbye, but feeling okay about it.

Perhaps our elected school board retains the services of Katherine Thomas. The school board seems to have no problem uncoupling themselves from money to buy new office furniture. $5 million dollars worth of new furniture. That's in addition to the $4.5 million dollars they already had earmarked for new furniture. Herman Miller chairs for one and all! That's close to $10 million dollars to move into new offices while over 50 schools were closed this year, and 3 school turnarounds closings were just announced. 

The stellar decision-making from CPS just keeps on rolling.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Management & Labor Agree?!

This weekend was the first Network For Public Education Conference. Sadly, WCT was snowed in, but a speech given there by Superintendent John Kuhn of the Perrin-Whitt Independent School District in Texas and Chicago's own CTU President Karen Lewis shows that it is possible for management and labor to agree on educational issues.

Click the link to watch the joint keynote address by John Kuhn and Karen Lewis. John Kuhn is up first with Karen Lewis's portion beginning around 13:00. Enjoy and try to imagine any CPS superintendent co-speaking with any union president.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Questionable Legacy

If CPS families, teachers, and staff need further hints that Chicago's media and corporate elite are ready to make them a relic of the past, look no further than the Tribune's Thursday editorial subheading: "Let charter schools breathe life into empty CPS buildings." The editorialists seemingly believe these buildings are self-organized entities who chose to empty themselves. It's not as though CPS willfully underfunded schools and then, ahem, closed them or anything.

Today's Tribune shameless charter plug is for Legacy Charter in the North Lawndale neighborhood. The hot investment property (cha-ching!) Legacy would like to acquire is the former Pope Elementary School, located at 1852 W. Albany Ave. We're informed Legacy's possible probable expansion is, "a terrific idea for students, parents, and teachers...and the North Lawndale community." Nothing like a neighborhood being told by a bunch of non-residents what is or isn't good for them.

The Tribune describes the vacant Pope as "hollow," waiting for 500 learning children to populate it. We are to infer that no learning occurred when Pope was a public school, and the sanctimonious pearl clutchers who write today's column further this notion by quoting a central office pencil-pusher who talks about, "finding a good use for these closed schools." WCT wonders if said bureaucrat is aware the school was previously in good use as...a school. This fact is not lost on residents who WBEZ captured in an August report lamenting Pope's fate. Long a community hub, a former North Lawndale resident narrated her many family members who went there and the sense of loss she felt as Pope marched towards its inevitable shuttering.

Still, readers are exhorted to think of the "opportunity and positive change" schools like Legacy might bring to a community. As an afterthought readers are told, "any strong school" could generate this energy, too. 

Unmentioned in this unabashed endorsement of privatization is that by CPS's own measure Legacy is considered weak in the following areas: student growth, student attainment, culture & climate, and safety. WCT supposes that Legacy's hedge-fundy, corporate-y board members from Wealth Strategist Partners, Dentons, and Willis Stein & Partners make the school's meh performance acceptable because nobody knows education like the business world.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Big Surprise

In the increasingly acrimonious public education landscape, it should come as no big surprise that Karen Lewis hints that teachers will not want to add the optional year to their contract: "In a recent interview with Catalyst Chicago, CTU president Karen Lewis laughed when asked whether the union plans to terminate the contract in June 2015 rather than renewing it for another year. She indicated she is pretty sure that teachers would not want to extend the contract." 

Jesse Sharkey, the CTU VP, furthers the argument stating teachers' displeasure over the new evaluations, lack of adequate substitute coverage, and the longer school day that's never been properly funded. Sharkey calls the language renewing the agreement "meaningless." 

CPS: always true to its meaningless form.

Looks like we might want to ready our strike gear for August 2015.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thanks Karen, Again.

Last week, in typical CPS fashion, B3 issued a statement angering many parents and teachers. B3 kinda, maybe said parents could choose to opt their kids out of tests. That is only if parents talked to the principal and realized that by opting out they'd damage their child's future and the school's ranking. And probably make those testing companies less profitable with a bunch of unused tests sitting around. 

Some would call B3's statement an exercise in false choice, we'd agree

Less than a week later, Karen Lewis and the CTU have responded to Bennett's threatening, huffy email with good sense and logic for parents choosing to opt their kids out of tests:

  • "The ‘low stakes’ test is administered over the course of eight days in all elementary schools. Formerly used to help qualify 7th grade students for selective enrollment high schools. The district recently issued a memorandum to teachers stressing the value of “rigorous, high-quality assessments,” in measuring student progress. The ISAT, however, is not aligned to any CPS curriculum, and in Chicago, it is no longer used to measure student progress, school performance, promotion, or for any other purpose."
CPS demands students use over a week and a half of school days to take a test that isn't aligned to any CPS curriculum nor will be used for measurement of any sort? Shocking. Good thing CTU provides the money trail for us:

  • "Illinois paid over $18 million this year to Pearson Corporation for the ISAT. The portion attributed to CPS is roughly $3.4 million, impacting over 171,000 students. The total cost of administering the tests are the untold hours of preparation for the exam, and the loss of valuable instructional hours that could be spent on real learning."
$18 million dollars would certainly provide real learning opportunities in the form of smaller class sizes, adequate staffing so teachers can provide meaningful help to students, and quality materials with which to teach.

Thanks again Karen for standing up for the families of CPS.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gettin' Testy!

WCT thinks we hear the distant sounds of trumpets in the air and the hounds a-barkin'. Yes, B3's system-wide email today with the tell-tale words, "rigorous" and "increased expectations" heralds the beginning of "testing season," and what a season it will be--if parents choose not to opt their kids out.

Uh-oh, looks like B3 is suffering from test anxiety:

  • "Students must score at or above the 24th percentile on NWEA MAP to qualify to take the selective enrollment exam.  I know that questions regarding opting out of NWEA MAP have been raised, so let me be clear: CPS students without an NWEA MAP score will not be eligible for selective enrollment or promotion in grades 3, 6, and 8. In addition, SQRP ratings will suffer for test participation rates of less than 95%."
Gee, it seems like B3 is trying to intimidate parents. Dangling grade promotion over parents' and students' heads is mental warfare. Also, B3 shows she's firmly in Camp Arne by giving parents--the people to whom a child's welfare is entrusted--no credit for making the decision to opt their child out of one of the 10 tests (down from 25!) that are given. This memo puts principals and teachers in the roles of enforcer issuing the not-so-gentle-reminder that a school's performance rating will suffer if test participation lags below 95%. Not only must the principal now serve as chief truant officer and miracle-worker on testing days, they must also force participation. Where's the choice love, B3?

And then:

  • "Parents requesting to have their children opt out of the NWEA MAP must first have a conversation with the principal to discuss the consequences to their children. If after this conversation they still wish to opt out, they must make their request in writing.   Parents should be informed that there will be no alternate instruction given during the assessment and that children who are not being assessed will be required to engage in a silent, self-guided activity while their peers are being tested."
Parents must? Of all the things parents must do, talking to the principal about a decision they're making, is not one of them. Most parents would say they must: keep their kids safe and healthy;  listen to their kids; pay the bills; provide their kids with food, clothing, and shelter; and save for college. Nowhere on this list is making an appointment for a stern talking to by a principal.

B3 must be awfully nervous that the $4,003,553.00 contract (cha-chiiiiing!) CPS has with NWEA will go to waste if enough parents choose to opt out. Or that without sufficient standardized testing CPS will not be able to deem schools as failing and close them. Or that parents, teachers, and principals may have had enough.

Parents and teachers, what do you think? Leave a comment or send an email to wct.tips@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do That Crazy Charter Dance! [Update]

Tuesday's Tribune op-ed page picks up where Sunday's left off: the sweet, sweet sounds of the School Choice Rag. Get your dancing shoes out, today's steps are: admonishment, half-truths, and rhetoric! We hope you can keep up, readers!

Step 1: The editorial board criticizes Toni Preckwinkle for daring to speak out against what she sees as the transfer of public resources into private hands. The Trib tut-tuts , "...it's astonishing to see her [Preckwinkle] launch a pre-emptive strike on a Chicago school board that faces some hard decisions for the future of Chicago's children." 

Funny, but it's the Tribune who's launched a pre-emptive strike on city teachers by featuring a litany of guest editorials by non-educators BBB, Rahm Emanuel, and local profiteer Myles Mendoza. While they proclaim choice, excellence, and high standards, they are unwilling to invest in the resources we currently have.

Step 2: Deeming charter schools with questionable motives as "excellent." WCT wonders if the writer of this editorial bothered to Google, "Concept charter school" and learn anything about this organization. Dan Mihalopoulous over at the Sun-Times thoroughly dismantled Concept in December, citing trips by elected officials to Turkey as well as raising questions about the school's ties to the exiled Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen.

Intrinsic Charter also gets the editorial nod thanks to their promise to staff "master teachers" as well as, "teachers who deeply understand what students need to know and be able to do...". We work in a building with many teachers like this. Unfortunately due to the consistent underfunding of neighborhood schools and shifting administrative mandates, their livelihoods are left to the whims of the me-first leadership from the Board of Ed.

What's left out of this unabashed endorsement of charters is the recent data analysis by Illinois Raise Your Hand which shows 11,000 empty seats in charters. Whoops!

Step 3: A form of the word innovate is used three times in this editorial. This appealing but vague term is apparently the only solution to the "staggering need" for new schools; the students who "languish" on waiting lists; and finally the "huge need" for quality schools. The students we see who have staggering needs, who languish, who are hugely in need don't need another choice, but they do need the schools they currently attend to be resourced at a functioning level.

When the Board of Education votes on the proposals tomorrow, they will undoubtedly add more confusing steps to this dance. They'll also likely add more money to the pockets of private charter operators and friends lining up to benefit from the crisis CPS has brought upon itself.

  • B3 was absent from today's meeting. It must be in the SUPES handbook to be absent from important meetings. Our REACH evaluation would surely get dinged for missing "big days," does the BOE follow the Danielson model?
  • The Board of Ed. approved seven charters today, the approved groups include Rauner-funded Noble Street, Concept, and Intrinsic. Mike Madigan and Bruce Rauner must be toasting somewhere. Cha-ching!
  • Boardmember Dr. Mahalia Hines said she was not aware that the Illinois State Charter Commission is able to overrule BOE approval, thus allowing denied charters to still open. It's helpful to know the rules before jumping into the game, Doc.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The School Choice Rag

It's a return to Ragtime for the latest musical craze sweeping our city: the School Choice Rag. The beat is a three-part harmony: 1. Stop funding public schools, 2. Declare them failing, and 3. Endorse choice at every turn!

The Tribune's op-ed "It's time for school choice in Illinois" cranks up the volume on school choice to a deafening level. Trendy as choice is, the op-ed loses its beat from the start:
  • Leading with a 2010 quote from City Clerk Susana Mendoza about the lone educational choice parents have, "...to send their child to a poor, overcrowded, and failing school." Ms. Mendoza shows she's a choice fan from way back based on her not one, but two trips, to Turkey courtesy of Fetullah Gulen's Niagara Foundation (Cha-ching!). So inspiring must these trips have been that she visited the Gulen-centric Chicago Math & Science Academy to videotape a testimonial.
  • Citing New Orleans as an education revolution of epic proportions. Yet, blogger Mercedes Schneider has found New Orleans and their change-making ways to be an education devolution of epic failure. Schneider specifically highlights a failed New Orleans school voucher program coupled with jug-headed John Arnold's misguided contributions as nothing more than a PR ploy.
  • Touting Cleveland--and the entire Buckeye State--as savvy choice operators. Instead, Ohio has a rich charter operator (cha-ching!) whose schools continually rank below Ohio's urban districts. Also, an NPR report shows that Ohio perpetually has a number of unused vouchers
  • The Editorial Board hedges its praise only in the slightest by the gentle criticism of vouchers stating, "[they] don't always perform miracles." Is Joan of Arc on the Board of Education or is that just BOE member Deborah Quazzo?
The Editorial Board states the obvious truths, "...luck should not determine who gets the opportunity for a better education. Wealth should not determine who gets a choice. ZIP codes should not determine who gets a choice."  

Yet, pricey ZIP codes win every time. No school voucher system will solve this:
  • An $18 million dollar Lincoln School annex (ZIP Code: 60614, average home price: $461,000).
  • The planned opening of GEMS World Academy, a Dubai-run school where tuition will run an astonishing $31,000 - $37,000. (ZIP Code: 60601, average home price: $386,000)
  • Bruce Rauner's clout nonsense to get his daughter into Walter Payton College Prep. (Rauner has too many zip codes list, but know he owns homes that range from a New York penthouse to a Livingston, Montana ranch.)
The Tribune throws its full support behind a questionably effective program that knowingly defunds neighborhood schools and destabilizes neighborhoods along with the way.

If a mainstream media outlet in Chicago wanted to be truly bold, it would begin a discussion about poverty in our city and why what we're currently doing to solve the problem doesn't work. Along with this might be the realization that until poverty is addressed, successful changes will be few and far between. But nobody wants to sing that song, instead they want to keep doing that old School Choice Rag.