Archives for category: Chicago

Guess who really puts children first? Their parents!


MEDIA ALERT: Wednesday, May 25th, 9:00 a.m.


Billion Dollar Bake Sale/Rally Demands Budget Solution; Sustainable Revenue for CPS


WHAT: Hundreds of CPS Parents from across the city are leading the first ever: “Billion Dollar Bake Sale/Rally” for Sustainable Funding to Save Our Schools. This demonstration will illustrate parents’ frustration and determination to keep the pressure on elected officials throughout the summer and demand appropriate and equitable funding for CPS schools.


The mock bake sale will include “$250K Clout Cakes,” “$100k nothing-but-crumb cakes,” “Overcrowded Cookie Jars,” etc. to illustrate how traditional methods of filling budget gaps, like bake sales, will no longer suffice. The rally/march will also include real time logging of 1000+ calls from parents to city/state representatives demanding that they put children before politics.


WHERE/WHEN: Wednesday, May 25th
9:00 a.m: Gathering at Thompson Center;
9:15 a.m: March to Dearborn and Madison
9:40 a.m: Rally/Press Conference at Dearborn/Madison (Across from Board of Ed)


CPS plans to cut budgets by 25-30% after years of massive deficits that have gone ignored by state, city and CPS. Parents will announce plans for a summer full of public protests and events to keep the heat on for sustainable funding for Chicago Public Schools.


Paris Shaw, parent Leif Ericson
Pastor Kristian Johnson, parent Ravenswood
Parent Jose Hernandez, Calmeca
Parent Tim Alexander, OA Thorpe

Photo opp: Hundreds of parents from around the city, creative signage, “baked goods” ie “$250k Clout Cakes,” Etc.

Wendy Katten 773-704-0336

Interesting times in Chicago. Frightening too. Can the nation’s third largest school district survive?


Mike Klonsky reports that Mayor Rahm, who does not like public schools, has proposed a 40% budget cut.


It is tough to teach amidst so much instability, austerity, and hostility.


Meanwhile, Blaine Elementary School’s dissident and suspended principal, Troy LaRaviere, was elected as president of the Chicago Principal and Adobistrators Association. Troy was suspended and may soon be fired, despite winning many awards. He has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm.


When Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago, he had one big idea to reform the schools and increase student achievement: a longer school day. His model, writes Mike Klonsky, was Houston. Rahm claimed that students in Houston got a total of three more years of instruction because of the longer school day.


But what’s this?,  asks Mike. The wealthy suburban districts outside Chicago are shortening their school day.


“The plan aims to reduce stress and let students get more sleep for the students who attend schools in six suburbs. The plan also proposes to ease up on the amount of homework.
“We’ve come to the decision that our kids are more than a standardized test score. We want them to be well rounded global citizens who can contribute in a meaningful way,” said District 214 Superintendent David Schuler. — ABC7 News”


Maybe Rahm’s model should be the suburbs, not Houston.


A few weeks ago, Troy LaRaviere was removed as principal of Blaine Elementary School by officials at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters. He had previously been warned about his boldness in criticizing the school system and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. LaRaviere openly campaigned for Emanuel’s opponent, Chuy Garcia, and for Bernie Sanders.


In this post, LaRaviere explains how and why he was removed from his school.


It reads like the latest issue of “True Detective.”


It exemplifies the thuggery that is often called “the Chicago Way.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had nothing to do with the “removal” or “reassignment” of Blaine Elementary School’s award-winning principal Troy LaRaviere.


Apparently the Mayor forgot that he controls the Chicago public school system. He appoints every member of the Board of Education. He chooses the Superintendent of schools.


The parents of Blaine are outraged. They can’t believe their principal was taken away mid-semester.


Troy LaRaviere wrote several posts that appeared on this blog. For his courage, I placed him on the honor roll of this blog. Read any his posts and you will see why the powers that be had to silence him. See here.  Or here.


He is fearless and outspoken. In Rahm Emanuel’s town, those qualities get you punished. Removed. Reassigned to nowhere.

Rick Perlstein is a brilliant writer who usually writes about national politics. Since he lives in Chicago, he couldn’t help but notice the hostile takeover of the public schools by a small, interconnected corporate elite. He applies his journalistic and scholarly skills to unraveling this sordid story.

He begins with a story about an educator who was recently “reassigned” (fired) by the Mayor’s school board.

Perlstein writes:

“This past September, an award-winning Chicago Public Schools principal named Troy LaRaviere published a post on his blog that began, “Whenever I try to take a break from writing about CPS to focus on other aspects of my professional and personal life, CPS officials do something so profoundly unethical, incompetent and/or corrupt that my conscience calls me to pick up the pen once more.”

“What had Principal LaRaviere going this time? We’ll get there eventually. But first we have to back up and survey what brought the Chicago Public Schools to this calamitous pass in the first place. It’s hard to know where to begin. Though when it comes to the failings of America’s institutions you can rarely go wrong by looking to the plutocrats.

“Travel back with me, then, to July of 2003, when the Education Committee of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago — comprised of the chairman of the board of McDonald’s, the CEOs of Exelon Energy and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, two top executives of the same Fortune 500 manufacturing firm, two partners at top international corporate law firms, one founder of an investment bank, one of a mutual fund, and the CEO of a $220.1 billion asset-management fund: twelve men, all but one of them white — published “Left Behind: Student Achievement in Chicago’s Public Schools.”

“Chicago’s schools were in pathetic shape, these captains of industry explained: only 36 percent of eleventh graders met or exceeded state reading standards, only 26 percent reached math standards, only 22 percent were up to snuff in science, and 40 percent had by then dropped out.

“They found hope, however, in a new kind of educational institution called a “charter school” — “publicly-funded but independent, innovative schools that operate with greater flexibility and give parents whose children attend failing schools an option they do not have.”

“At that point Chicago had fifteen charters. The seven that were high schools scored an average of 17 percent higher on Illinois’ relatively new benchmark, the Prairie State Achievement Exam, said the report. Their graduation rates were 12 percent higher, attendance rates 8 percent higher, and dropouts 9 percent lower.

“So if a little was good, more must be better — right?

“Chicago should have at least 100 charter schools,” the Education Committee concluded. “These would be new schools, operating outside the established school system and free of many of the bureaucratic or union-imposed constraints that now limit the flexibility of regular public schools.”

“The problem was a school system that “responds more to politics and pressures from the school unions than to community or parental demands for quality,” and a municipal government that worries more about “avoiding labor discord and maintaining the political support of teachers and their labor unions than with advancing the education of children.”

Charters, though — poof! — possessed the magic power to make all the bad stuff disappear, because they bottled the stuff that made America great: “Competition — which is the engine of American productivity generally.” But how might schools, like convenience stores, compete? Just measure student performance, and close the schools that “underperform.” The 103-page report thus deployed the word “data” forty-five times, “score,” “scored,” or “scoring” 60 times — and “test,” “tested,” and “testing,” or “exam” and “examination,” some 1.47573 times per page.

“And, since these were the behind-the-scenes barons who veritably ran the city, it wasn’t even a year before the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on 125 S. Clark St. announced the “Renaissance 2010” initiative to close eighty traditional public schools and open precisely one hundred charters by 2010.

“Lo, like pedagogical kudzu, the charters came forth: forty-six of them, with names like “Infinity Math, Science, and Technology High School,” “Rickover Naval Academy High School,” “Aspira Charter School,” and “DuSable Leadership Academy of Betty Shabazz International Charter School.” Although, funny thing, rather than resembling the plucky, innovative — “flexible” — startups the rhetoric promised, the schools that flourished looked like factories stamped out by central planning. The skills most rewarded by Chicago’s charter boom became corporate marketing, regulatory capture, and outright graft.

“Left Behind” singled out one “stand out school”: the Noble Street Charter High School. Following the Renaissance 2010 report, Noble Street metastasized into the “Noble Network.” They opened sixteen schools, many named after the businesspeople who funded them, like Pritzker College Prep, Rauner College Prep, Rowe-Clark College Prep. (John Rowe and Frank Clark are both executives of the energy company Exelon, formed in a merger brokered by Rahm Emanuel in his investment banker days; Rowe was a member of the committee that authored “Left Behind” and also a member of the Noble Network’s board of directors.)

“Indeed, Noble runs just the kind of schools you’d expect to be sponsored by industrialists: their students are underprivileged waifs in uniforms who are fined for minor disciplinary infractions. The network is “founded,” its promotional materials promise, “on many of the same entrepreneurial principles that have built successful businesses — strong leadership, meaningful use of data, and a high degree of accountability.”

This is a well-written story of arrogance, greed, corruption, and deceit.

It is reassuring to see the Chicago story breaking out of the education media and into broader political discourse. The article “follows the money,” which is necessary these days. The character who is missing in this drama is Arne Duncan, who launched “Renaissance 2010,” which was a dismal failure. Why was he selected as Secretary of Education? Why was he allowed to impose the Chicago model on the nation? The public schools needed help and they were plundered. They became a plaything for Chicago’s elite. No one seemed to think about the children.

Melissa Sanchez of Catalyst Chicago reports that the Walton Family Foundation will no longer fund charter schools in Chicago due to its unfavorable political climate. This is a great victory for the parents and educators of Chicago! The climate is unwelcoming to charters because the public is resisting, understanding that charter expansion means public school death.

Hallelujah! Resistance works! Jitu Brown, Katen Lewis, and other community leaders deserve congratulations.

Sanchez writes that Chicago used to at the top of Walton’s list for new charter money. No more:

“Just a few years ago, Walton spent more money to help start charters here than anywhere else in the nation. In large part, the money flowed in because of the presence of a powerful pro-charter mayor who controlled the city’s school system.

“We’re very confident in the city’s leadership, particularly the mayor, to help expand and strengthen the charter sector in Chicago,” the foundation’s then-deputy director of education reform said in 2013.

“But now, a deep and seemingly intractable financial crisis, an unprecedented wave of public backlash against privately run charters and the district’s own slowdown of charter expansion have made Walton shift its course.

“The foundation—which says it has given start-up funds to one of every four charter schools nationwide—is pulling out of Chicago. Between 2009 and 2014, Walton gave nearly $7 million in direct grants to charters in Chicago, including the UNO Network of Charter Schools and Urban Prep Academies, among others, according to tax records. (Another $8 million was targeted to fund state policy and advocacy work, and to start charters elsewhere in Illinois.)

“We take no pleasure in this,” says Marc Sternberg, Walton’s director of K-12 education programs. “When you look at the Nobles and the Perspectives and KIPPs in Chicago and the impact they’re having, and when you look at their aggregate performance, Chicago does very well. It is unfortunate that there aren’t opportunities to help [organizations] like them grow their impact, especially when the need in Chicago is so acute.”

“Walton’s withdrawal is just one of the signs that Chicago’s once-rapidly expanding charter sector is facing a harder sell in an increasingly hostile political climate.”

Walton identified 13 other districts that it will target to destroy traditional public schools. These include Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Memphis, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Denver, Camden, Washington, DC; Atlanta, Memphis, Houston, and San Antonio. New Orleans is already nearly 100% charter, but Walton won’t rest until every last public school is replaced by a privately managed charter school.

Walton no longer has Newark on its priority funding list. Another “hostile political climate.”

Parents, educators, and citizens in the 13 districts: You are forewarned! Walton is coming to eliminate your local public schools and replace them with corporate chain schools. If you fight back, you too can create a “hostile political climate” and send the billionaires packing!

Troy LaRaviere has been an exemplar of courage and integrity as principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago. He was president of the city’s principal’s association. He was education advisor to mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia. He endorsed Bernie Sanders and made a commercial for his campaign. He has criticized Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked board. Finally, someone decided Troy had gone too far. He has been removed, a replacement has been chosen.


Educators are not supposed to speak out.

The outspoken elementary school principal Troy LaRaviere was summarily removed from his position, without explanation. He endorsed Chuy Garcia against Rahm Emanuel in the last election. He encouraged his students to opt out. He is principled and fearless. He is an outstanding educator but that was not good enough in a city with mayoral control.


Fred Klonsky comments here on LaRaviere’s abrupt ouster.



Mike Klonsky reports from Chicago that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and her slate of officers were re-elected by acclamation. 


She is a much beloved figure in Chicago, and had she not suffered a major illness last year, she would very likely be Mayor Lewis today. She is far more popular than Rahm Emanuel.


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