EDITORIAL: How millionaire heiresses and the toadies of billionaires become the only Chicago 'stakeholders' in the Orwellian world of Chicago's corporate school reform... Brizard announces process lengthening school day by ignoring the law and thousands of elected parents and teachers (the LSCs)

Although he was not a visible presence at the media event that accompanied the signing of SB 7 in Maywood on June 13, 2011, Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean Claude Brizard was looming over the event. Why? Because it is Brizard who will have to provide the details of how to implement the long school day that was hailed (inaccurately in relation to Chicago, as some noted) by almost all the speakers at the Maywood event.

Millionaire heiress Robin Steans (above, while speaking during the June 13, 2011 signing of SB7) has been the loudest voice for corporate "school reform" in Illinois since her group, Advance Illinois, hosted an exclusive by-invitation-only-no-teachers-allowed breakfast for Arne Duncan on June 19, 2009, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. In December 2010, Linda Chapa La Via and Roger Eddy, the newly appointed chiefs of the Illinois House of Representatives, designated Steans and a couple of other corporate groups (Stand for Children and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club) as the official voices for Illinois "school reform" at the onset of the debates over what became SB7. Steans's almost hysterical union busting attacks on Chicago teachers were exceeded only by millionaire R. Eden Martin (Civic Committee), who spoke with Steans in support of the original "Performance Counts 2010" proposal and was supported the entire time by the Chicago Tribune and the other voices of the Chicago plutocracy. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But Brizard wasted little time in weighing in on the question, possibly in the process violating the law. Late on June 13, the Chicago Public Schools Office of Communications issued a brief statement by Brizard. It is quoted here in full:

“I applaud the signing of education reform bill SB 7 into law. It presents an exciting opportunity for Chicago's kids to get the instructional time they need to succeed academically. It's now in the hands of me and my team to formulate a plan to lengthen the school day and year, and we will be engaging stakeholders throughout the city in that process during the weeks and months to come.”

At the present time, and for the past 40 years or more, the length of Chicago's school day has been determined by negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union (and the other unions representing those who work in Chicago's schools) and the Chicago Board of Education.

There is nothing in Illinois labor law — or the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act — which provides for such matters to be negotiated among the so-called "stakeholders". One of the major problems with Brizard's apparent approach is defining who "stakeholders" are. At the recent "school reform" events (including the signing of SB7 on June 13), Illinois politicians apparently have decided that corporate school reform groups such as "Advance Illinois" — groups with not history in Chicago schools or Chicago parent, teacher and student work — get to be the "stakeholders" while groups (such as Chicago's PURE, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, the PTA, or the hundreds of Local School Councils) are not real "stakeholders."

Brizard's use of the corporate buzzword "stakeholders" (as opposed to, say, "parents, teachers, students, and community leaders...") is typical of the Orwellian world in which corporate "school reform" has been foisted on Chicago. While Advance Illinois chieftan Robin Steans has (according to her biography at Advance Illinois) served on the Grant Elementary School Local School Council, that made her one of more than 5,000 LSC members. Her appointment by the directors (Jim Edgar and William Daley) and the Board of Advance Illinois to the position of chief of Advance Illinois immediately made her voice and her claims the loudest in the room. When Robin Steans was then recognized by two Illinois representatives (Roger Eddy and Linda Chapa La Via, who chaired the Illinois House "school reform" committee) to be one of four groups to represent "reform" (the other three, noted in her speech to the June 13 event, were Stand for Children, the Illinois Business Roundtable, and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club), she was designated — not by voters — to speak for Chicago parents and children.

Now it appears that Brizard will be making another Orwellian end run around the city in hopes of heading off real input from the teachers (and other school workers) and the parents (and other LSC members) to push a certain version of "reform" without really listening to anyone.


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