Archives for category: Chicago

Jitu Brown has built a national civil rights organization called Journey for Justice, with chapters in 38 cities. He is a large and powerful man who speaks from personal experience and brings a message of determination and hope.

Jitu Brown is leading a national equity campaign based on a Quality of Life agenda that will be released with congressional members, union leaders, and others in Washington D.C. on September 22, 2022. This will be part of an Advocacy Day with hundreds of leaders from across the country supporting this platform.

Brown, a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, was recently profiled by The Hill, an influential publication in D.C. He spoke at the annual NPE conference in Philadelphia and challenged the audience to commit themselves to equity in education.

On Saturday, September 24, 2024 there will be a Quality of Life Festival held in D.C. with speakers and music, attended by thousands of people from across the country.

Most recently, Jitu and his team brought clean water to the people of Jackson, Mississippi, where the municipal water is unsafe.

The Hill wrote about him:

Speaking to The Hill from a Chicago office adorned with posters screaming “Equality or Else” and “Water Is a Human Right,” Brown talked about growing up in the Rosemoor neighborhood of Chicago’s Far South Side during the 1970s.

The son of a nurse and a steelworker, Brown was the beneficiary of the civil rights movement: He lived in a working-class, Black community and had educators who looked like him and a school that encouraged cultural awareness.

“I remember growing up as a child, feeling very warm, feeling protected, not being afraid to walk, catching the bus all over the city,” Brown said.

That didn’t mean there weren’t issues in his community. Brown’s neighborhood was straddled by two of the city’s most prominent rival gangs: the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords.

Brown said he could have easily become wrapped up in the gangs, but he had the support of his family and friends.

Jitu had his own personal struggles, but then joined a hip-hop musical group that was signed by a major label.

He left the music industry to become a community organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago.

Brown started KOCO’s youth development and youth leadership programs. As he worked with the students, schools began to take an interest. They wanted, in particular, Black men to bring their experience and knowledge into the classrooms. So Brown did.

And as he did, the inequity in the schools became quite clear.

“You’re working with these young people, but you’re noticing that at this school, there’s one computer in the entire class and there’s no air conditioning,” he recalled. “Then I’m also going to schools and other communities and I’m working with student councils. You walk in and the school is bright. The classrooms are small. They got world language. They have counselors. They have teacher aides in every class.”

Brown began to realize the discrepancies between the schools were systemic. KOCO started organizing more and more, working to stop the city from closing more than 20 schools serving predominantly Black and Brown students and conducting sit-ins at City Hall for more youth job opportunities.

The goal was — and remains — to create an equitable schooling system regardless of the students’ races, leading to the founding of the Journey for Justice Alliance in 2012.

The Alliance focuses on enacting a “sustainable community school village.”

Sustainable community schools are rooted in the principles that everybody in the school community should have input on what an engaging and relevant and rigorous curriculum looks like, schools should offer high-quality and culturally competent teaching, and wraparound supports should be available to each child.

Wraparound supports are a big focus for the Journey for Justice Alliance, Brown said.

Keep your eyes on Jitu Brown and Journey for Justice. They are on the ground and teaching people how to speak, get active, and advocate for equity.

Nothing less will do.

The National Education Policy Center has published a thoughtful critique of the strategy of closing schools. This approach was encouraged by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and by Barack Obama’s Race to the Top. Typically, the local board (or mayor) claims that the district will save money or the students will surely move to a better school. But what if this is not the case. NEPC identifies Oakland, California, as the district planning to close several schools. But it is not alone. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 schools in a single day, the largest school shutdown in U.S. history. Studies subsequently showed that the students did not benefit. School closures typically harm students of color more than white students. The same is true in Oakland.

NEPC writes:

Like others before it, the latest round of urban school closures disproportionately impacts people of color and students from low-income families. Yet there’s limited evidence that closures achieve their stated goals of saving money or improving academic outcomes.

It’s happening again.

Another urban school district, this time Oakland Unified in California, has voted to close schools that serve a disproportionate number of students of color from low-income families.

Two schools will close this year, and five more next year, according to the plan the school board approved last month. Black students comprise 23 percent of the Oakland school dis- trict but 43 percent of the students in the schools slated for closure.

Oakland is the latest in a growing collection of urban school districts that have decided in recent years to close schools that disproportionately enroll students of color and students from low-income families. Other examples include Chicago, which closed or radically recon- stituted roughly 200 schools between 2002 and 2018, St. Paul Minnesota, which approved six school closures in December, and Baltimore City, where board members decided in Jan- uary to shutter three schools.

Closures tend to differentially affect low-income communities and communities of color that are politically disempowered, and closures may work against the demand of local ac- tors for more investment in their local institutions,” according to an NEPC brief authored in 2017 by Gail Sunderman of the University of Maryland along with Erin Coghlan and Rick Mintrop of UC Berkeley.

In Oakland, community members and educators reacted to the closures with protests, marches and a hunger strike.

When urban school boards close campuses, they typically cite the schools’ poor academic performance or to the need to save money by shuttering buildings that are under enrolled

Yet it’s unclear that closures serve either goal.

In their policy brief, Sunderman, Coghlan, and Mintrop find limited evidence that student achievement improves as a result of school closures designed to improve academic performance.

“[S]chool closures as a strategy for remedying student achievement in low-performing schools is a high-risk/low-gain strategy that fails to hold promise with respect to either stu- dent achievement or non-cognitive well-being,” they wrote.

It causes political conflict and incurs hidden costs for both districts and local communities, especially low-income communities of color that are differentially affected by school closings. It stands to reason that in many instances, students, parents, local communities, district and state policymakers may be better off in- vesting in persistently low-performing schools rather than closing them.

Similarly, NEPC Fellow Ben Kirshner and his CU Boulder colleagues Matt Gaertner and Kristen Pozzoboni found several harms for the high school closure they closely studied. Writing in the journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, they identified declines in the displaced students’ academic performance after transferring to their new schools, and they found that these students had difficulty adjusting to their new schools after their old relationships were disrupted.

The Oakland closures have mainly been justified as saving money by closing under enrolled schools that can’t take advantage of the economies of scale available to larger schools. Similar arguments were made in Baltimore and St. Paul…

In Oakland, a combination of factors, including gentrification and pandemic-related enroll- ment declines, caused the student population to decline 11 percent over the past five years to just over 37,000. The school closures were touted as a way to address the district’s $90 million budget shortfall.

Yet in a commentary in The Mercury News, NEPC Fellow and CU Berkeley professor Janelle Scott pointed out that even the claimed fiscal savings are minimal. A consultant’s report estimates the Oakland closures could save as little as $4.1 million.

“These estimates don’t fully account for disillusioned families and school staff who will like- ly leave OUSD for private, charter and public schools, fatigued by the constant threat of closure and consolidation,” Scott wrote.

Please open the link and read the full report. Many schools have been closed since the passage of No Child Left Behind. Arne Duncan, among others, celebrated these closings, promising to replace the closed schools with even better ones. That didn’t happen.


Arne Duncan announced that his hat is not in the ring.

Let me start by saying Arne Duncan was a disaster as Secretary of Education. He went around the country bashing public schools and teachers, while lavishing praise on charter schools and Teach for America. His “Race to the Top” was a disaster. Congress gave him $5 billion to “reform” American schools, and he wasted it on unproven fixes, like evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, touting the Common Core, and underwriting tests for the Common Core. He predicted vast academic improvement but there was none. He blamed teachers and parents for the failure of his “reforms,” most or all of which were inspired by Bill Gates.

I met him early on in his tenure as Secretary of Education and concluded he was a nice guy but probably the dumbest person I had ever met in public office. He had Peter Cunningham to craft his remarks and speeches.

Guess what? He might run for mayor of Chicago. Why not? Rahm Emanuel was smart and evil. He closed 50 schools in a single day. Could Arne be worse?

Fred Klonsky thinks so. He will keep a close eye on Arne.

Chicago was the starting place for Arne Duncan’s very bad ideas about school reform. Duncan boasted about how many schools he closed, working on the theory that the students would transfer to a better school or a charter school. As Eve Ewing documented in her book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard, Duncan’s punitive approach wreaked havoc on black and LatinX students, communities, and of course, neighborhood schools. Arne Duncan, the President who appointed him (Obama), and the mayor who followed his failing model (Rahm Emanuel), pushed policies that hurt children and educators. The mainstream media has not yet held them accountable. Perhaps this settlement will. Meanwhile, the thousands of African American teachers who were fired in New Orleans lost their court battle and will never receive either compensation or acknowledgement of the injustice done to them.

Chicago Teachers Union

For Immediate Release|

CONTACT: Chris Geovanis, 312-329-6250312-446-4939 (m)

Mayor’s Board of Ed to vote on compensating Black educators harmed by racially disparate ‘turn-arounds’

CHICAGO, Dec. 13, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement today in wake of CPS’ statement on the Board of Education’s upcoming consideration this Wednesday of a settlement agreement related to the racially disproportionate layoffs and terminations of Black teachers and paraprofessionals in ‘turned-around’ schools in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Chicago Teachers Union aims to defend public education in the City of Chicago for staff and students—including for the vast majority of Black and LatinX people in the city. 

On Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Education will vote on a settlement between the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, and CPS relating to layoffs and terminations from their positions that had a disparate racial impact on African American teachers and paraprofessionals resulting from the Board’s turnaround policies and in certain CPS schools in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The agreement concludes nearly 10 years of litigation and will result in the creation and distribution of a settlement fund to benefit those staff members affected by the turnarounds. Resolving this matter is in CPS students’ best interest and will allow the District to move forward while the impacted teachers and staff will receive some compensation for the harm that was done to them. As a union, we have fought for increased funding for schools, adequate staffing and fair treatment of all teachers, regardless of race.

The cases settled are Chicago Teachers Union et al. v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Case Nos. 12-cv-10311 and 15-cv-8149), both pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The CTU will issue further statements once the final terms of the settlement are documented and submitted to the court for approval.”


The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, over 350,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at via To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from CTU Press, please click here.

Jan Resseger hopes that Pedro Martinez, the new superintendent in Chicago, will eliminate the disastrous policy of “student-based budgeting.” The importance of the topic is not limited to Chicago. School officials in Los Angeles are considering a similar program. Everyone needs to learn the lessons that Jan describes. Schools in impoverished communities suffer most from this budgeting method and are “trapped by student based budgeting in an accelerating cycle of decline.”

She writes:

Martinez previously served the Chicago Public Schools as Arne Duncan’s chief financial officer. WBEZ’s Sarah Karp summarizes what have been some positive—and urgently needed—changes in the school district since Martinez left in 2009: “The good news for the new CEO is that CPS is relatively financially stable, at least in the short term. The school district received more than $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money to be spent over three years… Former CPS CEO Janice Jackson and Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade made equity a focus. They sent extra money to schools serving poor students. They also gave schools the opportunity to apply for specialties, such as dual language or International Baccalaureate programs. In the past, the mayor and school leaders picked which schools got these special programs without any indication as to how or why they were chosen. Jackson and McDade also developed curriculum for every grade and every subject that they touted as a first for the district.”

However, enormous challenges persist. First are the politics. Karp continues: “Few people would disagree that the Chicago Teachers Union and the mayor have a toxic relationship.”

But the biggest problem is structural—at the heart of the operation of the school district: providing quality programming in a district that operates with a plan called “student based budgeting.” Karp explains: “Since Martinez left Chicago Public Schools in 2009, enrollment has dropped by some 80,000 students. This has hit neighborhood high schools particularly hard, leaving some with very few students. At the same time, the school district changed how it funds schools so they get a set amount per student, leaving low enrollment schools with limited budgets. The end result: schools with few students in huge buildings that can’t afford robust programming.”

Student based budgeting sets up a race to the bottom. Once students begin to leave, the district cuts the school’s budget, which inevitably means reducing teachers and diminishing programming. And the downward cycle accelerates.

Student based budgeting was instituted in 2014. Several years later in 2019, researchers at Roosevelt University evaluated the plan: “In 2014, Chicago Public Schools adopted a system-wide Student Based Budgeting model for determining individual school budgets… Our findings show that CPS’s putatively color-blind Student Based Budgeting reproduces racial inequality by concentrating low budget public schools almost exclusively in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods. The clustering of low-budget schools in low-income Black neighborhoods adds another layer of hardship in neighborhoods experiencing distress from depopulation, low incomes, and unaffordable housing.”

Please open the link and read it all.

Jan Resseger is puzzled that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot selected San Antonio Superintendent Pedro Martinez to lead Chicago’s public schools. His experience and views overlap with those of Arne Duncan, for whom he served as Chief Financial Officer. Parents and teachers wanted the next superintendent to be an instructional leader. Martinez has no experience as a teacher or a principal. He represents the failed ideas of corporate reform. Twenty years of test score driven decisions—closing schools and replacing them with charter schools— should be enough.

She writes:

For WBEZ, Chicago’s best education reporter, Sarah Karp introduces Pedro Martinez: “Turning to a non-educator with deep Chicago ties, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot named former Chicago schools official and a current San Antonio schools superintendent Pedro Martinez as the next CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Martinez, who was born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, will be the first permanent Latino leader in the school district’s history… Martinez worked as CPS’ chief financial officer under former CEO Arne Duncan… Martinez is an accountant who has been called ‘analytics heavy.’ And in San Antonio, he has expanded charter schools as well as partnered with private organizations to take over failing schools. These ideas have been popular in Chicago, but they have fallen out of favor in recent years… Martinez has never taught or run a school as principal. And, thus, in choosing him, Lightfoot is rejecting the input of parents and others who said they wanted someone with a strong instructional background with ‘boots on the ground’ experience… Martinez is a graduate of the Broad Superintendent Academy training program. Critics say the Broad Academy promotes school leaders who use corporate-management techniques and that they work to limit teachers’ job protections and the involvement of parents in decision-making.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot selected Pedro Martinez, Superintendent of the San Antonio School District, as the Windy City’s public schools.

Martinez is a “reformer.” In San Antonio, he was known for his obsession with data and commitment to opening charter schools. He is a graduate of the tattered Broad Superintendents Academy. He is chairman of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Chiefs for Change brings together superintendents who share the test-and-punish ideas of the failed corporate reform movement (closing low-scoring schools, opening charter schools, relying on high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by test scores, collecting data about everything, distrust of unions, etc.).

Martinez is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. He holds an M.B.A. from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And, of course, he is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy. He worked for Arne Duncan as Chief Financial Officer when Arne was Superintendent in Chicago. He was “Superintendent-in-Residence” for the Nevada Department of Education. Prior to that, he was superintendent for the 64,000-student Washoe County School District, covering the Reno, Nevada area.

Like Arne, Martinez was never a teacher or principal.

Mike Klonsky writes about the public schools that were closed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel (recently appointed as Ambassador to Japan). Emanuel ordered the closure of 50 schools in one day, something never done before by anyone. The reason given was “underutilization.”

Now, in the midst of the pandemic, Chicago public schools are overcrowded.

Klonsky writes:

Back in 2016, there was a plan to turn Dett into a center for women and girls or an artist incubator but potential buyers for the building backed out. So CPS was stuck with it. Neighborhood students were instead assigned to nearby Herbert or enrolled in charter schools.

Today students are back in school in Chicago with classrooms packed to overcapacity. Many schools are overcrowded with some kindergarten classrooms stuffed with more than 30 children, a horrifying thought in the middle of this deadly pandemic when there’s not yet a vaccine available for young children.

The lack of available classroom space forced the board to roll back its distancing requirement from six feet to three feet “wherever possible” with unmasked kids often eating together, shoulder-to-shoulder in school lunchrooms. In the high schools, we’re seeing images of students, many unvaxed, packed together in crowded hallways between classes.

I can’t even imagine being a short-handed teacher, trying to keep up with 32 or so kinders, keeping them masked and at least three feet apart, all the while trying to do some great teaching. And yet, like so many heroic doctors, nurses, and front-line medical staff, teachers are giving it their best shots. But I doubt this mode is sustainable.

CPS is operating in crisis mode in a churning sea of divisive state politics, racial segregation and inequities, all exacerbated by the resurgent Delta variant.

Schooling in a pandemic and preparation for post-pandemic schooling offers a chance for school planners and educators to take a more holistic approach and to try and undo the damage done by the mass closing of schools a decade ago.
The idea that we still have boarded-up school buildings and schools in some neighborhoods with excess classroom space, while in others, students are dangerously jammed together, is mind-boggling.

The public schools of Chicago have had an appointed school board for more than 150 years. In 1995, the law was changed to give the Mayor full control of the schools. He named the members of the school board, and they followed his wishes. Mayoral control of the schools, I have come to believe, is a terrible idea. Theoretically, the Mayor is accountable, but in reality, he or she never is. There are too many issues, and education gets low priority. However, we have seen Mayors using the schools as political props, heralding any progress as the fruits of their labor. We have even seen examples where Mayors distort the data to claim credit.

An elected board is not perfect. No system of governance is. But it gives parents and community activists the opportunity to be heard, even to run for election. With an elected board, there are checks and balances. Democracy is better than authoritarianism. That is why it is so outrageous to see billionaire faux-reformers creating stealth organizations to funnel money to their candidates. True grassroots candidates can ever compete with big money from out of state financiers.

The Chicago Teachers Union issued this statement yesterday.

Elected school board is an historic achievement for Chicago’s students, families and school communities

After more than 150 years of appointed boards of education in Chicago, the road to the city’s first fully elected representative leadership has come to an end.

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature of House Bill 2908, creating an elected representative school board for Chicago Public Schools:

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature today of HB2908, the historic bill to create an elected representative school board for Chicago, caps a decades-long fight by parents, rank-and-file educators and community activists to provide our school district the same democratic rights afforded to every other district in the state of Illinois.

Students, families and educators will now have the voice they have long been denied for a quarter of a century by failed mayoral control of our schools. Chicago will finally have an elected board accountable to the people our schools serve, as it should be.

Our union is grateful to the grassroots movement that led with us in this fight. We owe special thanks to state representatives Kam Buckner and bill sponsor Delia Ramirez, Sen. Rob Martwick, Illinois Speaker Chris Welch and Senate President Don Harmon. All were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation to the governor’s desk. We are also thinking tonight about our beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT. This victory is hers as much as it is a victory for our city. Here’s to you, Karen.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, over 350,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at