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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Aldermen want more transparency, hearings on school closings

Ald. Bob Fioretti

Thirty-two aldermen—nearly two-thirds of the entire City Council—signed on to a resolution introduced Wednesday demanding that CPS officials tell them which schools they plan to close, how they chose those schools and why they plan to open more charter schools when the district already has excess capacity.

The resolution, introduced by Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward), calls for hearings on these issues to begin soon—about two months before state law mandates that CPS announce its plans for this year. City Council Education Committee Chairwoman Latasha Thomas (17th Ward) did not sign the resolution and her office has not yet responded to questions about whether she will schedule the hearings.

“I hope she has the courage to do it,” Fioretti says, noting that he thinks she should respect that so many of her peers support the resolution.

The City Council has held hearings on school closings in the past. However, it is usually much later in the process. Last year’s first hearing on school closings was in February, a day before the Board of Education approved the measures.

The call for hearings is the latest move signaling a backlash against City Hall’s tight control of the school system and the decisions made by the board and district. Another sign: Fioretti and other aldermen have joined in the chorus of voices calling for an elected School Board.

Even some state lawmakers are looking into revamping the way the power-brokers in CPS are chosen. La Shawn Ford, a West Side Democrat, plans to introduce a bill calling for a task force to study the idea of an elected board. He held a hearing this past week and will hold two more later in October.

Aldermen are concerned about school closings and frustrated with the way the school system is being run, says political analyst Dick Simpson. During the September teachers strike, news came out that confirming what many observers already knew: CPS officials plan on closing as many as 120 schools over the next couple of years.

CPS leaders point out that the district has more capacity than it has students.  

Aldermen have no power to control what happens in the school district, yet what happens in the schools has consequences for the people they represent. “They are worried that it will be a problem if schools close in their ward and they are seeing what they can do to lower the number,” Simpson says.

Simpson says there’s also growing frustration with the tight control Mayor Rahm Emanuel has over the school board and the district. Reforms of the past have been driven by frustration, but usually the changes were driven by the mayor, he says.

“There would need to be some additional pressure and we are not there yet,” Simpson says.

But Fioretti and Ford say they are getting an increasing number of phone calls from constituents upset with the way decisions are made in the school district.

Ford says activists in his ward wanted him to introduce a bill that would immediately end the mayor’s power to appoint the School Board, but says that he wants to look at the pros and cons of an elected board first. The task force could end up recommending that the board be split with four mayoral appointees and three elected members, he says.

The current makeup of the school board is driving some of the calls for change, he says.

“People want a change when they look at Penny Pritzker being on the school board,” Ford says. “What does she know about how to educate inner-city kids?”

Low graduation rates and poor academic performance also make people question having power concentrated at City Hall, Ford adds.

Fioretti echoes many of Ford’s sentiments. He says CPS officials should be more forthcoming about the school closings as a way to engage more people in the process.

“It should be transparent and a collaborative effort,” he says.

The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, which is comprised of legislators and community activists, also has tried to weigh in on the process. In 2011, state lawmakers detailed a process that CPS officials are supposed to follow as they make these decisions. 

But task force members did not think CPS did a good job last year in following the steps and passed a resolution that CPS was non-compliant.

22 comments

Mayfair Dad wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Courage

Can you provide a list of the courageous alderpeople who signed this resolution?

northside wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

got idea

Three elected board members. Three picked by mayor and tie breaker by lsc and teachers

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

God bless Ald. Bob Fioretti --Bob knows and he is brave

Wish our alderman had 1/2 of Bob's smarts and guts. Wish we could vote for him.

Tim Furman wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Let's Replicate Success

Let's do what they do in the school districts with all the high test scores. Let's elect the entire school board, with no mayoral appointments. Democracy does seem to work in those communities, and it's very popular overseas, too. It could work in our city as well.

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

The impact of the school

The impact of the school closings on African American students in Chicago has been horrific. As Catalyst has reported, 97 of the 100 schools closing are in the AA community. The number thrown around to close is 143 -144 schools, of course mostly in the African American Community.

There is well documented violence that has resulted as the city moves students around like chess pieces totally oblivious to the need of stability in the life of our most vulnerable population of students, who thrive on stable communities that act as surrogate parents. Get ready for more violence and carnage as students are ripped from the comfort of friendly faces and loving arms because they did not score high on a test. A test that was biased and designed to create failure for the purposes of gentrification. Where are the voices that will stand up and fight for our children? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

To Mayfair Dad- Here's the List

Today, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza filed this resolution sponsored by Alderman Bob Fioretti to hold public hearings on CPS School Closings:

BE IT RESOLVED that, in order to accomplish the stated goal of all parties to create the world-class educational system Chicago's students deserve, the undersigned members of undersigned members of the City of Chicago City Council urge the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Childhood Development to immediately hold a series of public hearings inviting members ofthe Chicago Board of Education and the leadership team of CPS to address the following queries:

1. Transparently describe the research, including any utilization formulas, performance procedures, and policies for making the currently considered 2012-2013 school facility decisions, including clear criteria for setting priorities with respect to school openings, school closings, school consolidations, school turnarounds, school phase-outs, and school boundary changes.

2. Provide a list of all schools being considered for such actions.

3. Describe the rational and reason of opening more charter and contract schools, as described in the CPS publication: "Call for Quality Schools", while we are in the midst of current plans to decrease the inventory of excess school buildings. Describe the projected financial savings of any such actions

4. Explain the resulting impact on student attendance these policies will have.

5. Pursuant to proposed state legislation (HB4487 - School Closings Moratorium), CPS shall comply with the intent and spirit of Public Act 097-0474. The Chicago Educational Facilities Taskforce (CEFTF), created by the Illinois General Assembly, found the final Guidelines for School Actions issued by CPS, in an attempt to comply with Public Act 097-0474, are out of compliance and lack transparency.

6: CPS shall inform the Committee on Education and Child Development and members of the City of Chicago City Council on the progress ofthe complete compliance with Public Act 097-0474.

Click here to see the resolution at the City Clerk website.

Signed by:
Alderman Joe Moreno 1
Alderman Robert Fioretti 2
Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. 27
Alderman Pat Dowell 3
Alderman Jason Ervin 28
Alderman Deborah Graham 29
Alderman Leslie Hairston 5
Alderman Ariel Reboyras 30
Alderman Roderick Sawyer 6
Alderman Sandi Jackson 7
Alderman Scott Waguespack 32
Alderman Anthony Beale 9
Alderman John Pope 10
Alderman James A. Balcer 11
Alderman Nick Sposato 36
Alderman Emma Mitts 37
Alderman Tim Cullerton 38
Alderman Toni Foulkes 15
Alderman JoAnn Thompson 16
Alderman Mary O'Connor 41
Alderman Lona Lane 18
Alderman Michelle Smith 43
Alderman Matt O'Shea 19
Alderman Tom Tunney 44
Alderman John Arena 45
Alderman Howard Brookins 21
Alderman James Cappleman 46
Alderman Rick Munoz 22
Alderman Amaya Pawar 47
Alderman Michael R Zalewski 23
Alderman Michael Chandler 24
Alderman Joe Moore 49

Mayfair Dad wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Thanks for the list

Just as I suspected - Alderman Laurino (39th) missing in action...again.

@the123chi wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

The Real Injustice

In Chicago right now, there are 123,000 students stuck in failing schools. These schools are almost all clustered in African American communities and have been allowed to languish for far too long.

Sure, hold hearings about school closings, but don't slow down opening new schools. The 123,000 students in our communities can't continue to wait. Enough IS enough. We need quality schools with high expectations for each student, teacher, and parent.

CPS Teacher wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Alderman List

No Ed Burke, either. Surprise, surprise.

CPS Teacher wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Ed Burke

Just a side note. Our school has invited Ald. Ed Burke on many occasions throughout the years to attend any and all school functions and he has never turned out or responded. How interesting that he finally visited our school, after 16 years that I had been there, with a big police presence and of course lots and lots of media to handout Christmas presents. Had Santa and everything. Guess what the presents were? Knit caps with his name on them! What kid wants a hat with Ald Burke's name on it? But the media captured it all. What a jerk.

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Tothe 123 chi

I am responding to this myth.
n Chicago right now, there are 123,000 students stuck in failing schools.

If students are considered failing, there are multiple ways to determine success. Basing everything on a biased invalid test that is only used for the purposes of making children feel inadequate if they do not "measure up" to the standards of the mainstream culture is lubricious. Who sets the standards of assessment? What are the real intentions when we live in a society where institutionalized racism is status quo.

At this point, trust in the system is crucial. No one is buying the nonsense anymore. These test are just a way to gentrify communities, fail children and penalize teachers for having the guts to work with "At risk" populations oi students.

2nd ward parent wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Fioretti

Can I just say I love my alderman. If he had not gotten sick a year ago he could have been our Mayor. I hope Fioretti gets a second chance. He is one of the good guys!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Give these schools wrap around services and you'll see better

performing and healthier students. you think a charter will go into these schools and change all for the better as they kick out kids that don't fit?
Charters get more money and services than neighborhood schools get. Don't you see the decades of set-up for failure here.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Fioretti for Mayor

I second the motion: Fioretti for mayor.

It's time to stop closing schools just to open charters that do not perform better. But they do provide private equity managers -- like Bruce Rauner and DFER's Whitney Tilson -- a golden opportunity to make a mint. Education is the next bubble market.

Here's how the business is getting done.

1.) Clinton-era New Markets Tax Credit -- It's worth 39% to investors in new charter school buildings. They can double their money in 7 years. Entirely risk free! There is no other investment like that in our current low interest rate environment.

2. Sale-leaseback of existing public school buildings to charter management operators. Think parking meter deal. CPS sells the buildings for too little to investors who upgrade them and rent them back to charter management operators. Charters get stuck with high rents in perpetuity.

But will we ever know what rent charters pay for their buildings?

Charters are non profit and do not have to report the details of their finances. The Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act do not apply to them.

3. New common core standards created a nationwide, scalable market for online curriculum, tests, and text books. Think Pearson, McGraw-hill, Murdoch's Amplify, formerly Wireless Generation.

Before common core, the education market was fragmented and controlled by the local school board. Not any more, thanks to Obama's Race to the Top.

4. Apple i Pads, Microsoft's new tablet, Dell, and other tech companies have products to deliver the online tests and curriculum.

4. New investors and their money are needed to fuel the hedge fund managers' hostile take-over of American public schools.

Enter the investment visa program, called EB-5. It is a "green card via a red carpet." The wealthiest Chinese, unhappy with their own government and their own government schools, can invest $500,000 or $1 mlm and get a green card. And they have, already, invested $30 mln in Florida charters.

No kidding. Our do-nothing Congress got this law passed.

So much for -- it's all about choice, it's all for the kids, blather.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

SAVE CPS MONEY, AUDIT PROSSER CAREER ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL

If CPS really wanted to save money and free up money for teacher raises, CPS would do audits on coaches' pay and hours, make them swipe in/out, and pay them for the hours they actually coach.

"Public League coaches all get paid the same rate, $24.10 an hour for fiscal year 2013, according to the newly negotiated contract between the Chicago Public Schools and its teachers. The hourly rate rises to $24.58 and then $25.08 in the next two years.

But all CPS head coaches aren’t treated equally. Some (basketball, football) get paid for 240 hours work per season ($5,784 in fiscal 2013), while others (swimming, wrestling, track and field, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, water polo, lacrosse) are compensated for 200 hours ($4,820). Near the bottom of the salary ladder are cross country, tennis and golf, whose head coaches are paid for just 65 hours ($1,566.50)."

(source: http://highschoolsports.suntimes.com/home/15566499-390/cross-country-cps...)

I'm in the building at Prosser and there's no way our football coach (the infamous Jeffrey S. Bates) puts in 240 hours, especially since he does nothing but have two meetings prior to the 1st practice. Bates doesn't scout or watch any film on opponents and there's NO off-season program for the football team. And, Bates did the same thing as basketball coach.

Also, Bates is somehow getting stipends for being a basketball and softball coach. Yet, he doesn't coach either sport. Who's watching the henhouse here?Our Principal Kenneth Hunter and AD Martin Walsh blindly sign off on Bates' hours and don't question anything. Why is this? Isn't there some kind of fraud here?

As for Bates being the head football at Prosser, here's what I learned and ballparked if you calculate the hours actually put in for practices and games together:

(5) 2-hr practices before Prosser's 1st game = (10) hours

(4) 2-hr. practices before each of their NEXT 5 games = (40) hours (add 16 more hours for the last 2 games = (56) total hours of practice time for the season)

(6) game days where the team is together for (4) hours = (24) hours (add 8 more hours for last 2 games = (32) hours of game day time for the season)

So, Bates will end up with (98) total hours for the 2012 season not (240) hours. Bates should be paid $2362 for the 2012 season, not $5784.

That's $3422 which should be going to other coaches in other sports, especially with Prosser being 0-6, being outscored by 318-6 this season for an average of 53-1 in their games this year, and all while Bates talks on his cell phone during games and let's his grossly underpaid and more unqualified assistant coaches run practices during the week. Plus, Bates isn't certified by ISBE, doesn't have an ASEP (American Sports Education Program) or any other football coaching certificate, and didn't complete the CPS mandated concussion training program.

Do you want some irony in Bates overpayment as Prosser's head football coach?

In my 'very fair' calculations, Bates is being over paid $3422 for the 2012 season. And the $3422 overpayment to Bates = (2) coaches' salaries of $1566.50 ($3133) for bottom of the salary ladder sports of cross country, tennis and golf.

Or, a Bates's $3422 overpayment is a little more than 2/3's the salary of a swimming, wrestling, track and field, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, water polo, lacrosse, who are compensated for 200 hours ($4,820).

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Prosser Complaint

My suggestion is to send your complaint to the D.A. and BGA.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

BGA

Funded by Bruce Rauner

Anonymous wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Fioretti

Bob Fioretti is my alderman, too, and he is so busy running for Mayor that he is a truly lousy alderman. I don't believe in promoting anyone who doesn't do his current job, and Fioretti is a complete failure at providing constituent services. His on-line message service doesn't even provide an automated response, and as for actually addressing the problem -- filling a dangerous hole into which a young child has already fallen; adding signage at dangerous intersections -- he is a complete no-show. Does he not know the phone number of the folks in the Streets and San ward office? In my 40 years in Chicago, I have lived in six wards. Fioretti is by far the worst alderman I have had.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Call 311?

Let's stick to education on this blog. Otherwise we will think you are a troll.

Jeremy Peters wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Also missing Roberto

Also missing Roberto Maldonado of the 26th ward. Every pissed off teacher from Clemente should get off their asses and beat down his door!!!

Jeremy Peters wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Cheers to Roderick Sawyer from the 6th!

Glad to see the apple didn't fall far from the tree!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Ald. List

Where's Suarez?.....rumor is there's a school closing in his district. MIA?

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