Independent Fighter Hopes to Unseat Machine... An interview with Rudy Lozano

When it comes to politics, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and his Machine rule this city like no other. He controls a lot here — from the City Council and civic foundations to state legislators and the city courts. Many believe he also controls the Chicago Teacher’s Union in the form of Marilyn Stewart and the UPC Machine, which has done very little to stop his privatization plan called Renaissance 2010 which has closed many public schools and replaced them with non-union charter schools.

Rudy Lozano Jr. (above in shirt and tie) with supporters. Substance photo by Jim Vail.And despite the growing anger of people who do not want their neighborhood schools closed, not one local politician has dared addressed the Chicago Board of Education about the problems of the Renaissance Plan which disenfranchises the communities.

In the spirit of upcoming local elections for city-wide offices and the Chicago Teachers Union presidency in May, Substance will feature a series of interviews with the politicians who want to protect public education.

Today’s one-on-one interview features Rudy Lozano, a 34-year-old former teacher and community activist who is seeking to upset Machine incumbent Daniel Burke for State Representative in the 23rd District. He spoke with Substance about what he hopes to accomplish as a legislator.

SUBSTANCE: Could you tell our readers a little about your background?

RudyLozano: I’m 34 years old and have worked in non-profits all my life. I worked with the Association House of Chicago, the Institute for Latino Progress, and the Little Village Community Development Corporation. I’ve been an activist following the footsteps of my father (Rudy Lozano Sr. was a community activist and labor organizer who helped elect Mayor Harold Washington before being murdered in 1983 just weeks after narrowly losing a race for 22nd Ward alderman). I also worked at the Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy and the Little Village Lawndale High School as the director of the after school programs. I also taught Latin-American studies and social justice.

SUBSTANCE: So why did you decide to run for state representative?

Lozano: What made me decide to run for office was the lack of resources in our community. Part of my non-profit work was based on grants from donors or state funding. A lot of it is temporary and based on issues that are trendy. Now you have the health issues and prevention funding. The need for services — housing, education, health care – are always based on funding from the state, federal, city or private, and this depends on the legislators. So I find myself also being a lobbyist in Springfield for funding. So now I can decide rather than lobby legislators who don’t always understand our issues. It only makes sense if we have legislators who have direct experience with the needs of our communities. Many of our legislators are groomed and hand-picked and not based on their actual experience in the communities they serve.

SUBSTANCE: What was it like lobbying down in Springfield?

Lozano: It was a big challenge because many of our legislators were unaware of the impact state funding has on our communities. They cut funding for Ceasefire and its violence prevention programs, bi-lingual education and special education. The classrooms are overcrowded, so schools in our district have to go to year round.

SUBSTANCE: What do you think of the Renaissance Plan to privatize education?

Lozano: I think it’s a band aid solution to a much more serious problem. I don’t agree shutting down schools and displacing children and destroying the adult – youth relationships will solve the problems in our communities. The real issue with the graduation rate and academic performance has a lot more to do with equitable funding and professional development for teachers and parent and community involvement. I think we need a strong public education, and this plan (attacks) these important issues by firing all the staff and dismantling the Local School Councils.

SUBSTANCE:: What do people say to you about public education and charter schools?

Lozano: The challenge most parents face is where do I send my kids to school — the options are limited to have an education parents feel good about. A lot of people think a charter school is better than the public school because the perception is discipline is addressed more and they tend to have shiny new buildings. Parents are afraid if they shut down their charter schools and have to go to a bad neighborhood school. We know it’s a myth, but it requires a discourse, information, data, and a lot of research. That’s the challenge. We need to inform parents about the difference between charters and public schools.

SUBSTANCE:: What do you think of charter schools?

LOZANO: I’m not anti-charter, but I have serious problems with the charter school approach. 1 – They don’t have boundaries and they cream the best students which is not fair to the neighborhood children. 2 – Charter school teachers are not unionized. All workers should have the right to organize. My father was a labor organizer. 3 – The last issue is they are disempowering to the communities because there are no Local School Councils which give the community control over the school.

SUBSTANCE:: What about UNO Charter Schools? Their director Juan Rangel is supporting your opponent Dan Burke.

LOZANO: Juan contradicts the vision of his own organization about communities and Latino empowerment. Instead, he represents business as usual and plantation politics at best. He has the opportunity to get behind the candidate from the community, pioneering Latino empowerment, (but) instead would rather be a subsidiary of machine politics in the name of community empowerment. The UNO vision pre-HDO (Daley’s Hispanic Democratic Organization Machine that was recently disbanded due to corruption) was an advocate in the late 80s for Local School Councils and now they advocate charters that pretty much dismantle LSCs. It’s another contradiction.

SUBSTANCE:: The Chicago Tribune wrote that the key issue between you and your opponent is charter schools. They claim Burke has upped funding for charter schools, while you want to emphasize public schools. Is that why UNO is playing a big role to defeat you?

LOZANO: (UNO) has always been an appendage of the Daley Machine. And Burke has a lot of clout and power in the city of Chicago. Burke has been able to co-opt all the elected Latino leadership to serve his interests and HDO helped put him there. He’s not accountable to the community. We’re an example of what democracy should look like. Burke and UNO say they’ve done a lot. What they’ve done is serve their own interests. While all kinds of human services are being cut, they grant UNO $98 million to build a handful of charters who don’t have accountability or oversight to hold Burke or UNO accountable. In the meantime, we have public schools overcrowded. You don’t have to even close a school, just take all their students. We’re going to fund the (charter) school and at the same time ignore the public school and these kids don’t matter. It’s you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.

SUBSTANCE: How are doing in terms of the funding? What support do you have?

LOZANO: 99% of my campaign is volunteer driven. Burke has $277,000 sitting there and his brother (Alderman Ed Burke) has $6.3 million in the bank. We have raised $120,000. I am running with Jesus "Chuy" Garcia who is running for commissioner the Cook County Board. Alderman (Ricardo) Munoz has endorsed me, as well as Citizen Action Illinois, Workers United from SEIU and Local 1110 of the UE. Also Congressman Danny Davis has endorsed us.

SUBSTANCE: I understand you are an associate member of CORE, a coalition of teachers who like yourself are looking to upset the machine of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Lozano: I decided to join because I value the work they’re doing to improve public education and protect it.

SUBSTANCE: When is the election?

Lozano: The election is February 2. And we need volunteers to help out. You can get in contact with us through our Web site


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