Archives for category: Chicago

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on FBI investigation of Gulen-related schools, which awarded large contracts to firms without competitive bidding. The firms as well as the schools appear to be related to the Turkish Gulen movement.

“In June, the FBI raided 19 Concept Schools locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, including the group’s Des Plaines headquarters. Search warrants showed they were seeking records concerning Concept’s use of the federal “E-rate” program and companies hired under that program, which helps pay for high-tech upgrades.

“The agents also were looking for records regarding top Concept officials, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last month.

“No one has been charged. The FBI has said only that the investigation is a “white-collar criminal matter.”

“The CPS-funded work done by the contractors named in the FBI search warrants has ranged from selling Concept computers and uniform polo shirts to organizing professional-development seminars.”

“The three Chicago Concept schools have paid more than $283,000 since the start of 2011 to Advanced Solutions in Education of Schaumburg, records show. The company and its founder and former chief executive, Ozgur Balsoy, were named in FBI search warrants served at Concept’s headquarters and at its schools in Rogers Park and Peoria.

ASE was a consultant for Concept on its applications for federal E-rate funding. The company also was hired to do other work for Concept, including organizing seminars for school administrators and teachers.

Balsoy previously was an administrator at a Concept school in Columbus, Ohio. He formed ASE in Ohio in 2009, expanding to Illinois in 2011. ASE listed him as “sole owner” until 2012. He’s now listed as vice president.

“ASE’s president, Erdal Aycicek, formerly served was treasurer of the Niagara Foundation, based in downtown Chicago. Like Concept and many of its contractors, the foundation was founded and continues to be led by Turkish immigrants, many of them with ties to the global Gulenist movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in Pennsylvania.

“Two other ASE executives — Huseyin Alper Akyurek and Esat Albulut — also previously worked for Concept as administrators at schools in Ohio.

“ASE executives did not return calls seeking comment.

“Another company listed in the search warrants, Core Group Inc. of Mount Prospect, has been a major contractor for Concept’s schools in Chicago. The three schools have paid more than $550,000 to two Core subsidiaries for goods including computers and polo shirts with school logos on them.

“Core’s president, Ertugrul Gurbuz, who was named in the search warrants, also founded Quality Builders of Midwest Inc., a Concept construction contractor whose work included building a gym addition at CMSA at 7212 N. Clark St.”

The Chicago Tribune’s poll of voters‘ views of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school policies showed very low approval for the Mayor. The mayoral election is in February 2015, and it appears that education is Rahm’s weak spot. He favors charter schools and shut down nearly 50 public schools in one fell swoop, an act unprecedented in American history. He has fought bitterly with the Chicago Teachers Union over school funding. It is not working well for him politically, the poll shows.

“Asked about Emanuel’s handling of public schools, 65 percent disapproved, 26 percent approved and 10 percent had no opinion. The latest findings show a shift of 5 percentage points toward disapproval from a Tribune poll in May 2013 — just before a vote by the school board to shut nearly 50 public schools.

“While dissatisfaction with the mayor on education crossed racial lines, it was more intense among African-American voters. Critics contend black neighborhoods were disproportionately targeted for school closings. Fully 77 percent of black voters disapproved of Emanuel’s handling of the city’s schools while only 14 percent approved.”

“Among parents of children in Chicago Public Schools — about one-fifth of those taking part in the survey — nearly 4 out of 5 disapproved of the mayor’s handling of public education while only 19 percent approved. But even those without children in the public schools disapproved at a 62 percent rate, while only 27 percent approved.

“Emanuel’s approach on charters versus neighborhood schools was roundly criticized by voters: 72 percent disagreed with that approach, compared with 18 percent who agreed. African-American voters most severely opposed the policy — at 83 percent — while only 10 percent agreed with Emanuel. Nearly 8 in 10 parents of CPS children also were opposed, as well as 75 percent of female voters, 69 percent of men and 63 percent of whites.”

“Little more than 15 months ago, more than one-third of Chicago voters did not choose a side between Emanuel and the union. The latest poll finds that the bulk of those voters have opted to side with the union: 62 percent, up from 41 percent in May 2013. A total of 23 percent sided with Emanuel, up from 19 percent more than a year ago. Only 7 percent opted to choose neither the union nor the mayor in the new poll.”

The Tribune has been a vocal critic of the CTU. Friday afternoon is traditionally the time to release stories to get minimum attention.

The conclusion to be drawn from this poll is that Rahm is in big trouble because of his hostility to public schools and his devotion to privatization.

Will wonders never cease? Chicago seems to yearn for more Gulen charter schools, affiliated with the reclusive imam Fetullah Gulen. Gulen is the largest charter chain in the nation. They use a variety of names, but their boards are made up of Turkish men, as is most of their staff.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a new Gulen school would open in a building owned by a bank whose chairman, David Vitale, happens to be president of the Chicago Board of Education. Vitale will recuse himself from the vote. The Gulen movement is expanding in Chicago and expects to have five charter schools. (see Fred Klonsky’s blog on this subject.)

“Concept, whose Des Plaines headquarters were raided by the FBI in June, says it will pay $210,000 to rent the property on a one-year lease, with options to extend the lease for another year or two, tapping taxpayer money provided by the Chicago Public Schools. The rent would go up 3 percent a year.”

Gulen schools have names like Magnolia Science Academy, Horizon Science Academy, Sonoran Science Academy, Lisa Academy, and many more.

They frequently take legislators on jaunts to Turkey. Why Americans are turning to Turkey for science instruction is unknown. .

Fred Klonsky writes that in 2007, the Chicago Tribune praised CEO Arne Duncan because he would not be content with principals drawn from the ranks. not Arne! He was looking for superstar principals. Duncan was CEO because he lacked the experience as a teacher or a principal to be a superintendent.

The Tribune singled out one of Duncan’s “superstars”: Terrence P. Carter.

““Used to be, as long as the lights were on and the heat was working and teachers reported to school, your job as principal was basically done,” said Terrence Carter, principal of Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “Now, in the age of more accountability, there’s a paradigm shift for what skills principals need to have.”

“For Carter, who also attended that day, the training reviewed skills he already knew. Carter represents a new breed of principal, many of whom recently entered the profession from the business world through a selective principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. In that program, prospective principals focus on becoming academic leaders and conducting rigorous evaluations of teachers, students and curricula.

“That’s the challenge and the opportunity for Chicago: to draw dozens more leaders like Terrence Carter into the most challenging public schools and to help them thrive.”

Klonsky writes:

“Carter is now the center of controversy in New London, Connecticut where his application for school superintendent is on hold while the board investigates his claims of a doctorate from among other universities, Stanford University in California.

“Stanford denies he received a doctorate from them.

“Prior to applying for the job in New London, Carter worked as a principal for CPS and as an executive director for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is responsible for managing most of CPS turnaround schools.

“CPS board president David Vitale and chief administrative officer Tim Cawley both come from the ranks of AUSL.”

Yet, Klonsky writes, the Chicago Tribune has not seen fit to report about Arne Duncan’s superstar, and Duncan has no comment.

The Chicago choice system works exactly as every choice system works: It segregates students by ability.

“But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.

“WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an “EXPLORE” exam about a month into the school year.

“The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.

“WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.”

And more:

“The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city’s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it’s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.

WBEZ’s analysis shows:

Serious brain drain. The city’s selective “test-in” high schools — among the best in the state — capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them — 96 percent — enrolled in just six of the city’s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city’s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city’s top performers.

“Clustering of low-performing students. Fifteen percent of the city’s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average. The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.
Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting. WBEZ’s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers.
Within neighborhoods, more sorting. Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.”

Some reform.

EduShyster’s guest blogger Patrick Hayes, a fifth-grade teacher from Charleston, South Carolina, asks a simple question: “If you could ask Arne Duncan just one question what would it be?”

Try this one: “what would you get Bill gates for Boss’s Day? The man has everything.”

But he actually has a bunch more questions, which Duncan can answer with pre-packaged non-responsive answers.

Like: why do you push states to adopt value-added measurement, when your own department shows it has a failure rate of 36%?

Or, why do you promote merit pay, when it has failed everywhere?

Or, why do you keep bragging about Tennessee and D.C. when the other 11 states “using the same playbook… had below-average, flat, or negative growth?”

Lots more good questions to ask Arne, but Patrick does give us the answer to his first question:

“So Arne…whaddya’ get Bill Gates for Boss’s Day? Maybe you could ask your chief of staff and deputy secretary.

They used to work for him.”

Patrick, by the way, is the Director of EdFirstSC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group working to empower people who care about public schools. If you live in South Carolina or care about it, join EdFirstSC.

Michael Klonsky covered the crucial Board of Education meeting about the budget for Chicago schools and says it demonstrated why mayoral control is a failure.

The board decided that one way to deal with the fiscal crisis is to hire more press secretaries!

“The budget once again cuts funding for neighborhood schools and programs serving kids with special needs, while funneling millions more into the pockets of privately-run charter school operators. It was passed by the mayor’s hand-picked minions (at least by those who showed up) of bobble-heads despite loud protests from the gallery of angry parents and school activists.”

Mike quotes George Schmidt, who wrote:

“George Schmidt does a good job of calling out no-show board members.
Considering that they only have to perform that public duty one day a month, and at a location conventient to their downtown offices, the seven members of the Board have seemed since the year began to be alternating “days off” so that they don’t have to listen to the public criticisms of their hypocrisies and craven subservience to the mayor’s privatization programs. And so it was on what is arguably the most important meeting of the year, July 23, 2014. That was the meeting at which the Board was to approve its annual budget. Deborah Quazzo, the millionaire financial planner, was missing, just as Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen and Mahalia Hines had been during the previous months.”

Mayoral control makes a mockery of democracy, especially when the Board is run by the mayor’s pals and parents are disregarded.

Federal law enforcement agencies, armed with search warrants, raided the offices of Concept Schools in Illinois.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
“The recent FBI raid at the Des Plaines headquarters of Concept Schools focused on many of the politically connected charter-school operator’s top administrators and companies with close ties to Concept, according to federal documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

“Authorities last month said FBI agents carried out raids at 19 Concept locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as part of an “ongoing white-collar crime matter” but declined to provide further details of their investigation.

 

“Copies of the search warrants that FBI agents served in Des Plaines and a subpoena seeking records show investigators went hunting for a wide range of documents pertaining to Concept president Sedat Duman, founder Taner Ertekin and other current and former executives of the fast-growing charter network.

 

“The investigators also sought documents about companies that were hired by Concept to perform work under the federal “E-Rate” program, which pays for schools to expand telecommunications and Internet access.

 

“Concept is linked to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, and has developed strong relationships with many local politicians, including state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

 

“Four of Concept’s 30 publicly financed schools are in Illinois, including the 600-student Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park and two campuses that opened a year ago in the Austin and McKinley Park neighborhoods. Chicago Public Schools officials approved another two Concept schools on the South Side for the 2014-15 school year.

 

“For one of the two newest Concept sites, in Chatham, more than $528,000 in public funding was earmarked to pay rent for the coming school year to an arm of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Charles Jenkins, gave the invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 swearing-in and served on Emanuel’s transition team….

 

“The federal documents obtained by the Sun-Times, however, reveal that the FBI is taking a close look at the operations of Concept.

 

“Federal law enforcement authorities in Cleveland, who are leading the probe, sent a grand-jury subpoena to Concept on May 30. The subpoena gave the charter chain’s administrators until June 17 to provide a long list of records…

 

“The warrant gave agents the right to take any documents relating to Concept’s involvement in the E-Rate program as well as “all bank records,” “all general ledgers,” “all calendars,” “all documents related to employee travel” and “all telephone records, telephone lists and contact lists.”

 

“Concept officials have said they were cooperating with the investigation and would not make any further comment.

 

At a public hearing, Chicago parents and teachers demanded to know why the city closed 50 public schools while opening charter schools.

“How could CPS continue to cut budgets at neighborhood schools while opening new charter and contract schools — even after shutting down a record number of schools just a year ago?

“We need to pull the money from the plan of expanding charter schools, reinvest in neighborhood schools in our communities,” said Scott Hiley, a special education teacher at Lincoln Park High School whose classes have so many desks jammed in that he has little room to move around.

“Still, “my school is fortunate. We’re still open. Kids don’t have to bring their own toilet paper,” he said at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, the West Side location of one of three simultaneous two-hour meetings held throughout the city Wednesday night on the proposed $5.76 billion spending plan.”

“That plan, to be approved on July 23 by the Board of Education, includes about $67 million in cuts to district-run neighborhood schools and $62 million in increases for charter schools over last year, including to the scandal-ridden UNO Charter Network, and the Concept Charter schools that are under federal investigation. Neighborhood high schools have suffered the largest cuts, according to budget documents. CPS links the cuts and raises to enrollment shifts.”

The audience erupted in laughter and derision at some of the officials’ efforts to justify cutting public schools while opening charter schools.

A recent poll shows that if Chicago’s mayoral election were held now, union leader Karen Lewis would beat Rahm Emanuel.

“If the mayoral election were held today, the lightning rod union leader who was the architect behind a 2012 teachers’ strike would beat Emanuel by 9 percentage points in a head-to-head contest, the survey found.

“Lewis was leading Emanuel 45 percent to 36 percent with 18 percent of the likely voters undecided.

“And Emanuel could face an even steeper hill if he faces Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, long considered his most formidable challenger.

“A head-to-head contest found Preckwinkle romping Emanuel by a stunning 24 points.

“Preckwinkle dominated with 55 percent of those surveyed. Emanuel notched just under 31 percent.”

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