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Chicago school board continues phony 'accountability' and 'transparency' on charter schools

The talk was all about how the latest CPS "Portfolio" plans would add both "accountability" and "transparency" to the city's growing number of charter schools and so-called "campuses," but when it came time to walk the walk, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education had voted, once again, to expand the city's charter schools while leaving those already in place with virtually none of the "accountability" which has been decimating the city's real public schools. Additionally, despite all talk about "transparency" from CPS officials and from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the city's charter schools, which now constitute the second largest school system in Illinois, are still permitted to hide virtually all of the more than $350 million of taxpayer money they are spending in Chicago every year.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Portfolio Officer" Oliver Sicat (above left) looks on while Mark Sheridan Elementary School parent Jennifer Biggs (at microphone) speaks out against the Longest School Day during the March 28, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Later in the meeting, Sicat presented the Board with what CEO Jean-Claude Brizard claimed was a charter school "accountability" plan. Under Sicat's plan, which came to the Board in Power Point format and was approved later by a unanimous Board vote, charter schools may implement their own "turnaround" programs without facing the same fate as the city's real public schools. One month earlier, CPS had approved the largest number of "turnarounds" in history -- ten total -- and no real public school was offered the option of doing its own "turnaround." The "metrics" used by the Board to destroy the ten schools (which had nearly 1,000 workers in them, almost all of whom will be fired) came from Sicat's office. Sicat came to CPS last summer from the Noble Network of Charter Schools, and had never taught one day in a real Chicago public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.What happened during the March 28, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education continued the ten year CPS tradition of waiving the responsibilities of the charter schools to level with the taxpayers, while talking about them as if their privileged status — mostly unaccountable and completely lacking in transparency — continued. When the voting actually took place, the seven Board members voted for words, not deed. Charter schools were again expanded in Chicago, while charter school finances remained in the "none of your business" category.

Two examples were staring the Board members in the face had they bothered to ask critical questions, rather than continue the usual unctuous nonsense that has characterized their repartee since they were appointed by Mayor Emanuel in June 2011.

On the one hand, any taxpayer could learn, from public CPS records, that the missing bureaucrat from the March 28 meeting, Jamiko Rose ("Chief Officer for Family and Community Engagement", or FACE), had been paid $152,000 for her first and only year in that newly created position. On August 24, 2011, when the Board appointed Rose to the "New Employee" status of "Chief Community and Family Engagement Officer" (at a salary of $152,000 per year), Board Report 11-0824-EX18 became part of the public record. Subsequently, the public could peruse the Board's Position Files and learn that during the 2011 - 2012 school year, when CPS supposedly didn't have enough money to pay contractual raises for its unionized workers, the newly created FACE department expanded so that by February 2012 it had 16 employees, most of them newly hired.

Jamiko Rose was not at the March 28 Board meeting.

But Elizabeth Purvis was. Purvis, who introduced herself during public participation as the executive director of the Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS), is being paid at least as much from tax dollars as Jamiko Rose, and has been for more than seven years. But there is nothing in the public record to tell the public how much an "executive director" for a charter school is paid, even those all of the major charter holders in Chicago (UNO, Aspira, Chicago International, Noble Street, University of Chicago, and Perspectives) have a bureaucracy that expands beyond the individual charter schools themselves. The cover up remains in place even as "transparency" is touted.

CICS is an appropriate place from which to view the expansion of un-accountable privatization through Chicago's charter schools. In addition to its dozen "campuses", CICS has a central bureaucracy of more than a dozen people, headed by Beth Purvis. Anyone who was curious as to how CPS came up with the idea (new this year) to have a newly created $2 million FACE department (at a time when CPS claimed it didn't have the money to pay the contractual raise for its unionized workers) had to look no further than the CICS bureaucracy. CICS has had a director for "Family and Community Engagement" for more than five years. The idea for the controversial new bureaucracy within the city's public school system came from one of the dozen privatized miii-systems within the growing archipelago of Chicago charter schools.



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