Archives for category: Chicago

We have learned in recent years that “reform” goes hand-in-hand with the suspension or muzzling of democracy. Mike Klonsky explains what’s behind Governor Bruce Rauner’s plan to take over Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools.

He writes:

“Yesterday, we heard the news that Gov. Bruce Rauner and top Republican leaders are planning to introduce legislation aimed at an emergency financial takeover of the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. Their rationale is the $500 million shortfall within the Chicago Public Schools system which they themselves — with help from sellout Democrats — created.

“We are told that the legislation would also allow for CPS and the city of Chicago to declare bankruptcy – something by law both cannot currently do. To sweeten the pot, Rauner threw in the promise of a elected CPS school board, but only “once the financial situation is remediated”.

“Given the history of corruption, racism, and incompetence behind Rahm Emanuel’s own autocratic rule over the schools, the promise of an elected board may sound attractive, given the widespread support shown for an end to mayoral control by Chicago voters. But it’s merely a ploy.

“The move is also Rauner’s way of heading off a budget compromise and a contract agreement between CPS and the CTU and cutting the heart out of collective bargaining rights for teachers public employee unions, statewide. It’s their alternative to raising taxes on their wealthy and corporate patrons to pay for the operation of a predominantly black and Latino school district.

“It’s the “Katrina model” which Paul Vallas used to bust the teachers union and privatize the entire New Orleans school system, getting Arne Duncan’s stamp of approval in the process. Gov. Snyder used it in Michigan to destroy democracy, including elected city government and the school system in Detroit. Snyder poisoned the people in Flint as a cost-cutting measure, along the way….

“The move brings to mind the Tribune editorial board’s call back in May, for a “Mussolini-type” dictatorship over CPS followed by the Trib’s Kristen McQueary praying for a Katrina-like storm to hit Chicago.”

How can Rauner do this when Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the legislature?

Republican leaders are exploring a plan for a state takeover of Chicago public schools that would cancel the union contracts. This article in Crain’s Chicago Business Report has greater detail than previous linked headline. 

“The Republican leaders of the Illinois House and Senate are stepping into the financial crisis at Chicago Public Schools, and it sounds like they’re proposing a solution that City Hall will not like.
“In a press conference scheduled for Wednesday morning, Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno and her House counterpart, Jim Durkin, will propose legislation that would allow the state to take control CPS and potentially push it into bankruptcy, according to knowledgeable sources.
“The latter move — forcing the school system to reorganize, and in the process dumping its union contracts — has been strongly pushed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, but resisted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But the Radogno-Durkin proposal comes at a very sensitive time for Emanuel. CPS has been pleading for state help to fill a $480-million budget hole even as Emanuel’s own power has been restricted by fallout from the Laquan McDonald police shooting.
“I’ve also confirmed that the bankruptcy clause would apply to the city itself, which has its own financial problems, and result in electing members of the Board of Education, who now are selected by the mayor. That measure could appeal to some, even some Springfield Democrats, who have grown disaffected with Emanuel’s leadership and handling of the school board.
“Specifically, I’m told, the package offered by the two top Republicans would extend to Chicago a measure authored by Sen. Heather Steans that allows the state to intervene in and effectively run troubled downstate and suburban districts. Such a move would be initiated by an independent review panel appointed by the State Board of Education.”

Governor Bruce Rauner and top Republican legislative leaders are discussing a plan to declare Chicago bankrupt and take control of the city, its finances, and the Chicago public schools.


This would give control of the city, its services, its pension obligations, and its children to an aggressive new Governor with no prior public service. Rauner was a hedge fund manager before he ran for governor. He would gain the power to appoint an Emergency Manager to make cuts. Rainer is known as an advocate for charters and privatization.



A report in the Daily Beast says that the City of Chicago lawyers advised Rahm Emanuel to pay off the family, enter into a confidentiality agreement, and keep the video of the killing of Laquan McDonald out of the public eye. This agreement was reached on the eve of the election last spring. Would Rahm have been re-elected if this video had surfaced?


The Chicago way.

This just in from the Chicago Teachers Union. With a teachers’ strike looming, Mayor Emanuel decided to stick his thumb in the CTU’s eye.





January 6, 2016 312-329-6235
Illinois Charter School Commissioner Appointed to Fill Seat on Chicago Board of Education
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union finds it unfortunate that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen to replace one of the most independent voices on his appointed Chicago Board of Education with Jaime Guzman, an Illinois Charter School Commissioner, and someone who led the Office of New Schools for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) at a time when hundreds of students had their education disrupted by school closures and turnarounds orchestrated by his department. Additionally, Guzman is an alumnus of Teach for America, an organization that has contributed to the massive loss of Black teachers and experienced educators both in Chicago and nationwide.


With the mayor’s selection of Guzman, more than half of the Board of Ed’s members are now unabashed charter supporters. Considering that charter schools only serve 15 percent of CPS students while taking in 18 percent of the district school-based funds—not to mention the additional funding and support received from CPS’ Central Office—it is clear that the mayor and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool intend to greatly expand charter schools in Chicago. The public, on the other hand, has shown time and time again that it chooses publicly run neighborhood schools over privately run charters.


“Through overwhelming voter support for an elected school board, it’s clear that the public wants a democratic board of education that represents the diverse interests of students and parents across the city,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “While Mr. Guzman does have teaching experience, which is a rarity for members of the mayor’s handpicked Board, our students and their families do not need another pro-charter, politically connected rubber stamp who will continue the decimation of our neighborhood schools through charter expansion.”





Despite declining enrollments, despite the closing of 50 public schools, the Chicago Public Schools board (hand-picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel) is seeking to expand the number of charter schools. The great advantage of charters, from the Mayor’s point of view, is that they are mostly non-union. So think of it as payback to the Chicago Teachers Union for its insistence on adequate resources for the public schools.


Despite declining student enrollment and dozens of dramatically under-enrolled schools, Chicago is seeking potential new charter schools for the city.



In a Request for Proposals issued Wednesday, CPS says it’s looking for dual language schools, “Next Generation” schools that would blend technology and traditional teaching, and—in a first—it wants a “trauma-informed school,” where staff would get training to support students with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or exposure to trauma.



The district is prepared to give charters that already run schools approval for up to four additional campuses. And it’s poised to grant approvals now for campuses that wouldn’t open for several years, to allow more time for planning a school’s opening, the district says in a press release.



In recent years, the district had named Neighborhood Advisory Councils where community members could give input into charter proposals. Those are now scrapped, saving roughly $170,000, CPS says. Instead, charter schools themselves will “directly engage residents in obtaining the support of their desired school community,” according to the release.

“It looks like they’re making it even less democratic,” said Wendy Katten, director of the parent group Raise Your Hand, which has had members serve on the advisory councils.



Katten says many considered the NACs “flawed” because CPS seemed frequently to ignore the advice of the councils, but “at least it was an opportunity to look at the proposal, to really scrutinize it as a community. To take (that) away—and to have the charter operators do the community engagement—that’s even more of a sham than what currently has existed. The real question is, our city needs a massive debate about opening any kind of new schools in a city that has just hemorrhaged students,” said Katten.



A Chicago columnist asked a while back whether Rahm Emanuel would have been re-elected if that video of the death of Laquan McDonald had been released before the election–and six months after Laquan’s death. The video shows that the boy was walking away from the police when he was shot sixteen times. The mayor or someone in his administration refused to release the video. Since it was made public, there was yet another police killing; two people died, a mentally troubled adolescent and a 55-year-old mother of five who made the mistake of opening her door to see what was happening.


Some commentators say the protesters in the streets are the same people who voted for the Mayor’s election opponent, Chuy Garcia. Others think that Rahm is in deep trouble.


This article in the Washington Post says that Rahm is under siege, and it is personal. It is not only the actions of the police that have burst his bubble, but lingering anger about his abrupt closure of 50 public schools, almost every one of them located in a black or brown neighborhood, disrupting the lives of children who need security and continuity, not disruption.


The protests reflect frustration with chronic problems Emanuel inherited in Chicago, a city long plagued by police brutality, failing schools, rampant gang violence and dire ­finances. But as Emanuel enters his second term, critics say he has deepened distrust in City Hall through a string of scandals affecting his administration, a lack of transparency and his abrasive personal style.


More anger may be on the way.


The Chicago Teachers Union voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, which may happen this spring. The public schools have been subject to repeated budget cuts, losing teachers, programs, and services, while the hand-picked school boards continues to open new charter schools, which will be lavishly funded by their benefactors.


How much more can the city take?



Parents in an elementary school in Chicago brought  cleaning supplies to their children’s school, because of the filthy conditions in the bathrooms. The leadership of Chicago Public Schools, controlled directly by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, privatized custodial services last year, and at that time the principals complained that the schools were getting dirtier by the day because of the loss of their custodians.


Would Mayor Emanuel tolerate these conditions in his own children’s school? Would any member of the Chicago Board of Education? What do you think?



On Saturday, a handful of pre-kindergarten parents packed yellow rubber gloves and spray bottles of vinegar and baking soda solution and headed to Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School, 2022 W. Washington Blvd., on the Near West Side, where they spent the morning cleaning their children’s washrooms.


The parents felt they didn’t have a choice: Upon entering the bathrooms, they found pools of day-old urine on the floor, feces smeared on the walls and clogged, stinking toilet bowls. In the past few weeks, the school had an E. coli outbreak and more than half of the kindergarten students missed school because of various diseases, including a stomach bug, diarrhea or vomiting, said Michelle Burgess, head of the school’s parent-teacher association.


“These are preschoolers. They go to the bathroom and miss. The boys play in the urinals. And sometimes can’t get to the toilet fast enough. It’s understandable,” said Angela Morales, the parent of two children who attend the school. “But they need to clean. We can’t have our kids be in this filth.”


Parents claim the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision last spring to award multi-million dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.


The decision to privatize much of the custodial work was made in light of “daunting financial challenges” faced by the district, CPS officials have said. Surveys conducted by principals and parent organizations at the beginning of the school year aired numerous complaints of filthy conditions inside some school buildings after the custodial changes.


Aramark and Chicago Public School officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.


Questions about school cleanliness grew further in early September when district officials announced close to 480 subcontracted custodians who work in CPS buildings would be laid off by Aramark.


CPS officials in March signed a minimum three-year contract worth up to $260 million with Aramark. SodexoMAGIC also received a minimum three-year, up to $80 million contract for facility upkeep earlier this year.


The reduced contracts, Suder parents say, have led to the school operating with two full-time custodians and one part-time custodian as opposed to operating with four full-time custodians as it had in previous years. Parents claim that since the reductions, janitors have done a poor job maintaining regular cleaning duties and, for the past three months, have mopped the floor with water—and nothing else.



Sara Sayigh is the librarian for the DuSable campus. She was suddenly laid off, then just as mysteriously rehired.



She wrote the following:
Chicago Public Schools and other school districts have been imposing the conditions of “school reform” on students, parents and communities with relatively little opposition from communities of color up until recently. I will never know the true reasons why my position was suddenly cut by CPS a week and a half ago- I do know that the decision was not at the building level – my principal is extremely supportive of the library, but I am sure that these decisions are made in an atmosphere of cynicism and disregard for the students who will be affected.

Since 2012 when ⅔ of CPS schools had a librarian, half of those positions have been cut resulting in a system where only ⅓ of CPS schools have librarians as of the beginning of this school year 2015-16. Even more have been cut during this school year. I know many of the librarians personally, especially the high school librarians.

Once the librarian is cut, the library is nothing more than a room, and the collection is dispersed and ruined. Many studies have shown the importance of school librarians but rather than cite them here, I urge you to find a single privileged person whose child goes to a school without a librarian and library. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s children go to the Lab Schools where there are 7 or 8 librarians.

As of the current school year 2015-16, there are only 3 out of 28 predominantly African American high schools in CPS with librarians. So while the loss has been felt across the CPS system, it has disproportionately affected African American children and teens like my students.


There have been a number of excellent news stories and posts.


I especially recommend these two – School Library Journal writer Christina Vercelletto: In Chicago, Bronzeville School Librarian Layoff Inspires Outrage—and Support
and this one by the blogger Julie Vassilatos also known as Chicago Public Fools: Who lays off librarians? CPS, that’s who
The sleeping giant of student and parent activism has been awakened and that is the CPS appointed Board of Education’s greatest fear. The Board has done whatever they want to their staff but they cannot ignore the voices of their students and parents. CPS schools have been stripped of staff that are essential to a well functioning school; we no longer have social workers, nurses and other clinicians (staff shared among several schools), an adequate number of counselors, special education teachers and aides, art and music teachers and librarians. I am glad for my students that their “read in” protest attracted so much attention and support. Due to my students’ actions, CPS had to re-open my position for the rest of this school year. I hope that what my students have done will inspire others to take action together.



Sara Sayigh

Mike Klonsky reports that Sara Sayigh, the librarian for the DuSable building has been rehired. The Chicago school superintendent Forrest Claypool said “an anonymous donor” had funded the position. Mike suspects that student protests brought about the sudden change.

As one of our readers pointed out recently, the elite of Chicago don’t think that public school children need libraries. But the University of Chicago Lab School–where Mayor Emanuel and Arne Duncan send their children–has many librarians.

Mike Klonsky writes:

“While I’m elated to hear that students at DuSable (I still call it that) have their beloved librarian Sara Sayigh back, CPS’s statement explaining the whole affair, is borderline laughable. An anonymous donor? Really, Forrest Claypool? Are teaching and staff positions at CPS now like endowed chairs at the university, dependent on the benevolence of wealthy patrons? Is that even legal? Will it become part of the next collective-bargaining agreement (if there ever is a next)?

“We’ve already got high schools named after billionaires line Gov. Bruce Rauner, retired ComEd CEO Frank Clark and Exelon’s John Rowe. What’s next? The Ken Griffin Social Studies Teacher at Lindbloom? The Anonymous Donor School Clerk at Bronzeville Military?

“Sayigh’s retention means we’re back to three out of 28 high schools with a student population over 90 percent African-American that have a library staffed by a certified librarian. The others are Morgan Park High School and Chicago Vocational Career Academy.”

Sadly, DuSable is no longer a school. It is a building that houses three privately managed charter schools. They too need a library and a librarian.


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