Chicago spins again to avoid the 'Katrina Effect' by keeping the turnaround hearings away from the victims of Chicago apartheid... Chicago Board of Education trying to hold hearings on AUSL 'turnarounds' in secret? Hearings on four schools to be held Monday evening, March 15, at CPS headquarters

Without any notice to the media, the Chicago Board of Education's "Office of New Schools" has quietly scheduled "hearings" on proposals to subject four Chicago schools — Bradwell, Curtis, and Deneen elementary schools and Phillips High School — to "turnaround" under the controversial Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). As of late in the afternoon of March 9, 2010, the Chicago Board of Education's $5 million "Office of Communications" had provided no notification to the media of the important and controversial upcoming event.

The notification of the "hearings" to be held on whether the controversial Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) will be awarded multi-million dollar contracts to manage the so-called "turnaround" of four Chicago public schools beginning in September 2010 has been circulated almost in secret, Substance has learned. No media announcement of the hearings has been distributed by the Board of Education's Official Office of Communications, as is customary, and the "Office of New Schools" phone number on the leaflet above tells callers how they can learn more about charter schools, but nothing about the hearings. Substance graphic.The announcement was brought to the attention of Substance on March 9, four days after it was ostensibly issued. Calls to the Board's Office of Communications received no response. During the week prior to March 9, the Office of Communications has promoted a half dozen events featuring CPS officials and, in some cases, sports celebrities, while no announcement of the important hearings on "turnaround" was made public.

The time, location, and manner of notice of the hearings tells the public that, once again, Chicago Public Schools is determined to exclude the public from public debate over turnarounds and ram through a plan that was, as critics have charged for the past three years, a "done deal." -- The 'hearings' are each scheduled for one hour each, and during those hearings, most of the time will be taken up with officials of AUSL making presentations explaining how great AUSL is. AUSL and others have done so in the past at hearings such as this.

-- The 'hearings' are scheduled to take place in Chicago's Loop, at the Board of Education's fortress-like headquarters three blocks south of Chicago's City Hall. Most of the students from the schools targeted for AUSL 'turnaround' in 2010 are very poor, and few families from the communities around Bradwell, Curtis, and Deneen elementary schools and from around Marhsall and Phillips high schools can afford to spend $24 or $28 to park a car in Chicago's privatized Loop parking.

-- No 'hearings' are scheduled in the communities around Bradwell (in South Shore, at 77t and Burnham), Curtis (115th and State), or Deneen (73rd and State), the three elementary schools on the Hit List for AULS 'turnaround.' The reason for avoiding community based hearings on Chicago's 'turnaround' plan is a twofold fear on the part of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and his latest schools 'Chief Executive Officer' Ron Huberman. The first fear is that any hearing in the community will enable hundreds — perhaps thousand — of people to turn out and defend the schools from the latest attack on the public schools of Chicago's 'Black Metropolis.' Even with the kinds of shows of force that Huberman has been deploying in recent months (CPS security has been tripled during Board of Education meetings) there will be public anger.

An even more decisive reason why Huberman and City Hall are refusing to hold the AUSL hearings in the five communities on the turnaround Hit List is the possibility (however slim given Chicago's corporate media's slavish devotion to the Daley 'Miracle' narrative about school reform) is what we are going to begin calling the 'Katrina Effect.'

The 'Katrina Effect' hits when someone from a TV station (which is where the greatest amount of Chicago media manipulation is aimed) notices that all the people around the latest target of 'school reform' are black and the community has been devastated by the attack. If the hearing were to be held in the community around Curtis, for example, some reporter might wander around and notice that he has landed in one of the most devastated and completely segregated communities in the USA, much as reporters began noticing that almost all of the victims of official misplanning, negligence and neglect from Hurrican Katrina were poor and black.

Even though CNN's Anderson Cooper was willing in October 2009 to listen to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explain the Duncan version of the Fenger High School turnaround from the safety of a suite at one of Chicago's most expensive downtown hotels — and not from the infamous site on 111th St. where Derrioin Albert was beaten to death — not every reporter who came to Chicago following the Derrioin Albert murder was willing to be spun by official power in September and October 2009.

The desperation shown by Chicago's scheduling of the hearings at the last minute indicates another fear and the greatest weaknesses not only of Chicago's local version of the corporate school reform lie, but the worry that the entire project is about to explode just as it is poised to go national through Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program. Readers need to remember that in June 2009, Duncan promised to subject the 5,000 "failing schools" across the USA to the same strategies that he and his media handlers have lied to the nation about: the claim that Chicago's "school reform" has "worked." A closer look at any piece of it, from mayoral control to, especially, "turnaround," shows the opposite. That's why Duncan kept the press away from Fenger High School since October, when he came to Chicago to give Ron Huberman $60 million for that ridiculous "Culture of Calm" program. Hush money.

A closer look at what has taken place in Chicago shows that the dam of public outrage is about to burst, and that Chicago's mayor and corporate rulers can no longer purchase enough preachers, politicians, professors, and "parents" to keep the truth from being dramatically told. (The "RAP" programs which seem to have died when the bullet entered Michael Scott's head last November).

An enormous mass movement has grown up to oppose everything coming out of official Chicago in the name of official corporate "school reform." This winter, the center of that was the massive resistance (mostly by Black people) to the Hit List. The corporate media (and most "progressive" media) ignored the 18 hearings between January 28 and February 10. The only record from any news organization is contained in the Substance reports and some commentary by others (including CORE). When you add the community meetings that took place later (Deneen; Guggenheim; Phillips), there were more than two dozen major events, all but two of them (Prescott) in Black Chicago.

The scheduling and location of the March 15 "hearings" shows that Chicago's ruling class is trying desperately to avoid the 'Katrina Effect' (you can read the article for details). And they are losing.

What should be done: Force the world to see the "Katrina Effect" here in Chicago before Barack Obama and Arne Duncan are able to Katrina schools in the 50 states and all the territories under the guise of "Race To The Top." Chicago is key.

Despite the cost and inconvenience, communities are once again mobilizing for Monday's hearings, which will be held under conditions amounting to martial law, and to demand that real 'hearings' on AUSL be held in the five communities (Bradwell, Curtis, Deneen, Marshall and Phillips) at the schools as well.

The video of each community, as well as the visuals showing all the parents, teachers, political leaders, and children will show how apartheid — and the Katrina Effect — are at work here.

For the past eight years years (since the attack on Dodge, Terrell and Williams elementary schools by Arne Duncan and Michael Scott in April 2002), one of the things Substance done is walk these communities as the Hit List unfolded. Now, finally, thousands of people are mobilized to tell the truth about the entire project, from the closing of Williams after the vicious gang wars caused by the destruction of public housing momentarily lowered the ITBS scores in 2002 to the fatal turnaround of Fenger High School (and the replacement of veteran teachers, most black, by novices, mostly white) under the Board's version of "turnaround."

Anyone walking around Bunche Elementary School five years ago (when it was sabotaged and turned over to Providence St. Mel's to become "Providence Englewood Charter Campus"), Copernicus and Fulton three years ago (two AUSL victims that were turned around, according to Arne Duncan, because they were feeding into the "failed" Harper High School, even though they weren't sending any kids to Harper), or to Bradwell, Curtis, Deneen, Marshall and Phillips this year, people are seeing the devastation caused by the combinations of apartheid and corporate school reform, with the primary victims being Chicago's black people, from the local leadership (schools, teachers, principals) to the children.

It would have made a great movie five years ago, when a few people photographed the large protests against the Bunche charterization (and Antoinette Waldon — who is now leading the Bradwell fight — at the Mayor's Office with Marilyn Stewart and several hundred of their friends). Those struggles are on the record, thanks to a handful of reporters, none from the major Chicago media.

The hearings and protests against the closings of Dodge and Williams in 2002 (Terrell was a separate case, although an interesting early example of how opportunistic the unions could be in cutting lucrative deals and propping up the Daley "school reform" myths) were a major beginning. Deborah Lynch's loss of the union presidency in 2004 was a setback, because her successor didn't understand or have a strategy to fight the privatization attacks on public schools (at least at first).

The Fulton, Copernicus and Harper turnarounds three years ago (the 2008 Hit List) showed the early impacts of the mortgage crisis and the foreclosure disasters that hit Chicago's inner city (and communities like Englewood) first. Anyone who wants to tell the story of any of these schools can simply walk a two-block radius around the school that has supposedly "failed" and document, visually and with human interviews, the real "failure" — the terrible toll taken by Chicago's apartheid and the reign of Richard M. Daley on the children and families of Black Chicago. Every school on this year's Hit List except Prescott (which got off) is in a similar situation. Every one. Yet the schools is "too costly" (McCorkle; Las Casas; Schneider) or a 'failure" (Bradwell, Curtis, Deneen, Marshall, Phillips).

The Big Lie, when it comes out of Chicago, is now getting bigger as it goes national and is told through the velvet tones from the lips of Barack Obama or the bumbling silliness of Arne Duncan (and his comment about the Katrina opportunity in New Orleans for "school reform"). This is a story about the destruction caused by globalization in our own back yard and the combination of our locally perfected apartheid and the rape of the urban landscape by the "global city" (to quote one part of a much larger analysis).

Because the legal complexity of doing "turnaround" (which is legally the failed program of "Reconstitution" under Illinois law) CPS this year is more vulnerable than ever.

To be precise about what the Board voted to do February 24.

1. The Board voted to approve the "turnaround" of the five schools (and the destruction of the three others still on the Hit List; let's not forget them),

2. The Board did not vote to turn four of those five over the AUSL (the motions were deferred), so

The Board has the legal power to

1. Reverse the vote on "turnaround" from February 24 (legally, any member who voted for the turnaround can move to reconsider, and a majority and rescind the turnaround vote) and

2. Reject AUSL and order that 'turnaround' be based on the less expensive alternative of providing all the million dollar resources that would go to AUSL to the present schools' leadership, community, and staff.

When the Chicago Board of Education meets again on March 24, 2010, it will have to vote again if AUSL is to be approved for "turnaround" at the four schools that were promised to AUSL. The Board will also have to explain why the $5 to $10 million AUSL will get in CPS and corporate funding to do its "turnaround" couldn't have been given to the current staffs and communities of Bradwell, Curtis, Deneen, Marshall and Phillips.

Maybe during the Board of Education meeting, Ron Huberman will explain how AUSL, which supposedly operates public schools, has its own privatized public relations firm (Public Communications Inc. at One East Wacker Drive), and why Huberman gives private PR people the run of his press conferences, as he did during the media event that launched this year's Hit List on January 19, 2010 at CPS headquarters.

As the people from the schools on the 2010 Hit List (even Marshall, where the opportunists are the most widely spread, from the LSC to the physical education department) are showing, there is a lot or organizing still taking place to expose and stop this year's version of Chicago's Big Lie. 


March 10, 2010 at 7:06 PM

By: Jim Vail

How costly?

Here is a budget question. Yes, millions go to AUSL to manage schools, whereas this money could go to the schools directly that desperately need the money in overcrowded classrooms for example.

But CPS is determined to fight the union under the pretext that they can cut all those veteran teacher salaries, benefits and pension payments - which I'm sure their actuaries are grinding the numbers, to do the switch a roo, and take that money from the unionized staff and feed it to privatized vendors.

So - does CPS see itself saving money in the long run by going to war (not declared obviously) against the teachers union and thus continue the neoliberal assault on workers (teachers and other staff in the schools) because it will ultimately cost less to be rid of the union.

Think Wall-mart.

Believe me - it comes down to the bottom line - it's their interests at the top, or our interests at the bottom.

And to me - the most sure-fire way to do this is either eliminate your union leadership competition (in Latin America for example) or buy them off (here in Chicago no organized CTU fight against Ren2010 until recently).

It's a shame not all of us are supporting Substance to inform people so they know exactly what is happening and be out on the streets to stop this.

March 11, 2010 at 1:15 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

The objective? Complete bourgeois power.

Most times in history, the ruling class will pay an enormous "price" (in dollars) to retain its power (far beyond the dollars). Remember: They are wasting taxpayer dollars to install scab groups like AUSL (and the CPS operated "turnarounds" under Donald Fraynd and Barbara Eason Watkins) within the public schools (and within the CTU). To them, it's worth the price. Power is the main objective. If, as at Wal-Mart, that power can also come in a union-free environment, they are all the happier. But if they have to have a tame, lapdog company union that's OK with them.

In the short run, both the ruling class and the CPS administration (i.e., the Daley administration) will pay an enormous price in dollars to break the unions — or to tame them into lapdogs like Marilyn Stewart was offering until she got caught. Management does not care about having a company union; what they are breaking is a fighting union. The surrender of Marilyn Stewart to the management philosophy gave Arne Duncan the job of U.S. Secretary of Education, thanks to the Chicago Teachers Union and the American Federation of Teachers. The TAP and Fresh Start programs were necessary so that the Obama administration could claim, with some half truth, that Arne Duncan had achieved "labor cooperation" (something that was not true when Debbie Lynch was leading the fight against the first two years of "Renaissance" — 2002 - 2004 — by the way).

What we witnessed in July 2008 at the AFT convention, right down to Barack Obama's lie to the convention that he did not have the time to stop by and be with the teachers in person, was the careful preparation of what is now the most vicious assault on teachers in the history of the American Presidency. Under Arne Duncan; Barack Obama; and a Democratic Party supermajority in both houses of Congress.

Locally CPS (management) will suffer any short term financial "loss" in exchange for long-term power. The objective is to subordinate labor, including what was once the most militant public employee union of the Reagan era, the Chicago Teachers Union. Remember, five years after the myth of PATCO (Reagan's busting of the air traffic controllers union), we struck in Chicago for 19 days and won.

The ruling class has never forgiven us for that, and the assault on the CTU, from inside and outside, has been relentless since those days in September 1987, the last time we struck.

They want company unions and workers who are completely at the mercy of management. For several years, Marilyn Stewart provided them with the slaves they crave, most dramatically during the AFT convention, when she served up TAP and Fresh Start as part of the national sellout that led to the Duncan appointment.

Now that we have a Teacher Basher in Chief in the White House and a bunch of union busters at the U.S. Department of Education, we're paying the price, but not any longer just in Chicago. The whole nation and its public schools are now poised to pay a huge price for the opportunism that we were unable to stop here in Chicago public schools and within the Chicago Teachers Union.

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