1995 News Briefs
January 23: Anneberg Grants
The Annenberg Foundation officially announces it will provide $49.2 million in matching grants over five years to networks of Chicago public schools that are striving to create more personal learning environments, among other improvements. Annenberg is distributing $500 million nationwide.
February: Repair estimate
Various studies put the cost of repairing Chicago school buildings and relieving overcrowding at $2.9 billion.
February 8: Several questions
Seventy-five principals appear before the Scbool Board's budget committee, demanding parity with teachers in salary raises. Chairman Clinton Bristow responds: "At this time the system is struggling for its very survival."
February 14: Privatization
At the urging of the Chicago School Finance Authority, the School Board "outsources" janitorial services in 10 schools.
February 20: New math, science requirements
The School Board unanimously agrees to increase, in phases, the number of science and math courses required for graduation. The plan will require 1,200 new classrooms and 240 new teachers; it will cost up to $20 million.
February 21: Chapter 1 controversey
School reformers denounce a Republican bill that they consider an "opening salvo" to allow the board to use schools' state Chapter 1 funds to plug the budget deficit.
March: Crumbling buildings
A Chicago Sun-Times series, "Schools Still In Ruins," reports cronyism, overbilling, faulty procedures and other problems rampant in the board's facilities department. Meanwhile, buildings continue to deteriorate.
March 15: Budget optimism
The School Board says its 1995-96 revenue shortfall will be half what had been expected, due largely to teacher retirements.
March 22: Employee discipline
In a first, Supt. Argie Johnson publicly announces disciplinary action against 16 employees, including a principal accused of paying parent-stipend money to her son. "We are making a concerted effort to ferret out misconduct," she says.
March 30: Web connection
DuSable High School becomes the first Chicago public school to acquire Internet access.
April 3: Austin remediation
Under pressure from Supt. Johnson, the subdistrict superintendent overseeing high schools reluctantly puts Austin High on remediation. Under the Reform Act, subdistricts, not the general superintendent, can put schools on remediation. Four elementary schools already had been put on remediation.
April 6: Daley discipline
Outraged by the system's low expulsion rate, Mayor Richard M. Daley calls for the creation of alternative schools to "isolate the troublemakers."
April 13: Facilities privation
School officials announce they will turn over the running of the facilities department to a private company, yet to be selected.
April 26: Daley takeover deal
Mayor Daley and top GOP leaders informally sign on to the basics of Gov. Jim Edgar's Chicago school reform proposal. The School Board would be pared from 15 members to 5; the grass-roots nominating commission would be eliminated, with the mayor appointing board members directly. A chief executive officer would run the system. Teacher strikes would be banned. Principals would get more control over their staffs. details
April 27: LSC ethics resolution
A School Board resolution on local school council ethics aims, among other things, to prevent principals from buying LSC support through gifts and favors and to keep businesses owned by LSC members out of the school.
May 10: Accountability plan
Supt. Johnson unveils a plan to create an independent accountability division to evaluate schools at least once every four years.
May 30: Daley takeover law
Sweeping revisions to the School Reform Act become law. The mayor gets control of the school system, and his team gets access to well over $100 million in previously earmarked funds, which paves the way to a balanced budget and four-year union contracts. The revisions also take major powers away from school unions and dilute the authority of local school councils. details
Sweeping amendments to the Chicago School Reform Act become law. They include a clause permitting CPS to contract for services with any party, including services performed by union members. The clause was used immediately to privatize some janitorial services.
June 7: Daley policy positions
Mayor Daley announces that he supports smaller high schools, merit pay for staff, alternative schools, private management of troubled schools, among other reforms.
June 8: LSC Role
Mayor Daley assures local school councils that their input will still be needed, even though they won't have as much authority as they did before.
June 27: Union lawsuit
The Chicago Teachers Union goes to court to overturn sections of the revised Reform Act. Soon, it enters into an unprecedented era of cooperation with the School Board. details
June 29: Vallas, Chico appointments
Mayor Daley formally announces his new leadership team, which includes his own chief of staff, Gery Chico, as School Reform Board president and his budget director, Paul Vallas, as chief executive officer. Subsequently, dozens of city employees follow suit, taking new jobs at board headquarters on Pershing Road. details
July 3: City agencies
Paul Vallas and Chief Education Officer Lynn St. James announce that they intend to better coordinate the services of city agencies that serve schoolchildren. "You get a lot of duplication of the same efforts," says Vallas.
July 5: Principal-removal milestone
For the first time since the Reform Act was passed, a principal is removed as part of the remediation process. Alfred Clark replaces James L. Williams at Austin High; within months, Clark is replaced as well. details
July 6: Sharon Grant plea
D. Sharon Grant, immediate past president of the School Board, pleads guilty to income tax evasion charges.
July 11: Furniture flare-up
In the first of a string of highly publicized jabs at waste, Paul Vallas confronts Lynn St. James and Chief Accountability Officer Patricia Harvey for having ordered new carpets and furniture.
July 12: Stockpiled supplies
Chief Operations Office Ben Reyes, who held the same post at City Hall, holds a press conference to showcase a warehouse full of school supplies and furniture that the previous School Board failed to distribute.
July 20: Balanced budget, teacher raises
Top school managers announce they have overcome the projected $150 million revenue shortfall for 1995-96 and are offering teachers raises of about 3 percent for each of the next four years. The budget mix also includes administrative cuts and new programs. details
July 26: Ethics policy
The Reform Board approves an ethics policy that, among other things, seeks to prevent members from benefitting financially from their positions for up to a year after leaving office.
August 3: Teacher contract vote
In their earliest vote on a contract, teachers give overwhelming approval to their first four-year agreement.
August 14: Teacher provisions
The Reform Board affirms as a matter of policy several seniority measures that previously were in the Chicago Teachers Union contract. It similarly reaffirms class-size limits. Last May, a Republican-dominated state Legislature limited collective bargaining in the Chicago public schools to compensation.
August 16: School Reform Survey
The Consortium on Chicago School Research reports that teachers believe that school reform has helped them professionally but that only about 1 in 4 believes it has helped students. The report is based on a survey of 8,800 elementary school teachers.
September 5: Court Ruling
In the wake of a U.S. Appellate Court ruling, school officials and reform groups say that constitutional challenges to the Chicago School Reform Law are "running out of gas." The appellate court upheld a district court ruling OKing the state's removal of tenure from Chicago principals and the establishment of parent majorities on local school councils.
September 20: Multiplex, Sylvan
Board officials unveil plans to allow several small new schools to set up shop in a large, shuttered high school. They also announce that Sylvan Learning Systems will train up to 1,500 high schoolers to serve as tutors.
September 25: Business manager internships
Board officials announce plans to give college business majors one-year internships as business managers for beleaguered principals.
September 26: Freshman academics
Paul Vallas proposes a network of middle schools and freshman academies; subsequently, he discards the middle school idea but requires freshman academies. details
September 27: Prosser crisis
In its first clash with reform groups, the Reform Board approves a policy for intervening at schools it determines to be "in educational crisis." The move allows it to carry out previously announced plans to remove administrators and local school council members from Prosser Vocational High. Subsequently, the board amends the policy to meet reformers' objections.
September 27: LSC ethics continued
The Reform Board approves an ethics policy that seeks to prevent local school council members from using their positions for financial gain.
October 2: IGAP results
Scores on the 1995 state IGAP tests are published. Four Chicago elementary schools claim the top four places in the state in reading and math; city high schools are clustered at the bottom of the list. Historically, scores have dropped between 8th and 9th grades in part because higher-achieving 8th-graders leave the public school system for high school.
October 8: LSC advisory board
The Interim Local School Council Advisory Board makes recommendations for choosing members for a permanent Advisory Board. Later, the Reform Board ignores most of the recommendations, including that a majority of members be elected rather than appointed. details
October 11: Clemente finances
Creating a new designation, the administration puts Clemente High School on "financial probation" for faulty record keeping and improper use of funds. details
October 15: Deseg commission shakeup
Paul Vallas ousts all 15 members of the Desegregation Monitoring Commission, citing money spent on personal expenses at commission gatherings, e.g. liquor, steaks and hotel rooms. In a week, he announces a new seven-member commission.
October 22: Repair privatization
The Reform Board approves paying private firms $100 million to do school repairs.
October 30: Student failure study
The Consortium on Chicago School Research reports that 30 percent of all Chicago public high school students failed eight or more classes by the time they were juniors and that 26 percent of all sophomores were absent more than 40 days during the 1993-94 school year. CEO Paul Vallas and Chief Education Officer Lynn St. James blame poor preparation. "When kids are in high school with 3rd-grade reading levels you can't expect them to be engaged [in school]," says Vallas.
December 5: Principal training
Vallas and St. James announce the start of a 6-month training program for new principals.
December 8: Residential schools
Vallas backs a plan to create two residential facilities within public schools for children who are homeless or in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. Later, he drops the idea.
December 11: School construction plan
School officials unveil a $787 million borrowing plan to construct 30 new schools and 45 additions in 5 years and to rehabilitate existing schools. Rehab projects include building repairs, lead abatement, lockers, energy efficiencies, playlots, parks and other improvements.
December 14: Direct Instruction
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Reform Board has spent almost $1 million on implementing Direct Instruction at eight schools. details
December 22: Voucher ruling
The Illinois Appellate Court rejects a bid by 100 parents to establish a voucher program in Chicago.