Charter funding bill loses one co-sponsor, legislation's sponsors place serious questions before Chicago Teachers Union leaders

Illinois State Representative Deb Mell decided to remove her name as a co-sponsor of a bill that seeks full funding for charter schools. She explained to the Chicago Teachers Union, which is lobbying hard to stop this bill, that the questions teacher activist Cathy (Cunningham) Yee and myself raised when we met her in her office a couple of weeks ago made her think twice.

Beth Purvis of Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) is seen above testifying on November 15, 2006 at the Chicago Board of Education's monthly meeting on behalf of that school year's expansion of the number of CICS "campuses" in Chicago. By 2009, when Arne Duncan left to become U.S. Secretary of Education, CICS was the largest public "school" in Illinois, based on a fiction created in Chicago by Duncan and the charter school backers in Chicago's plutocracy. Although there was a limited number of charter schools for Chicago, each "school" became eligible to have an unlimited number of "campuses." As a result, by 2012, CICS had more than 10,000 students at 11 "campuses" that stretched from Peterson and Pulaski ("Chicago International Northtown Campus") to 95th St. ("Chicago International Longwood Campus"). Because the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union permitted the expansion of the charters schools under President Deborah Lynch in 2003 and actually collaborated in charter expansion under Marilyn Stewart (2004 - 2010), when CTU leaders began opposing charter schools legislation in Springfield in 2010, many legislators were confused for a time. It wasn't until late 2011 that CTU had a consistent voice in opposition to charter expansion in Chicago and Illinois before the Illinois General Assembly. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. However, she told Substance that she is not yet prepared to vote against the bill, which according to the CTU, would further hurt public school funding.

The question we posed to Deb Mell, the daughter of heavyweight long-time Chicago alderman Dick Mell is, how can she support a few charter schools in her district at the expense of the many public schools.

Mell was very protective of her two or three Chicago International Charter Schools, while she blasted a few public schools. Upon further discussion, she did admit several public schools in her district were very good, and wanted to find out further the true working conditions of charter school teachers, most of who do not have a union to ensure better conditions.

Mell told us that the charter schools want the extra funding to increase the teachers’ salaries, who leave quickly for better paying jobs. We told Mell if charter schools are so concerned about teacher compensation, why are so many fighting unionization which guarantees the rights of teachers and ensures better conditions, such as lower class sizes.

The Democrats, led by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, support charter schools. In fact, a few CTU endorsed legislators signed on as co-sponsors to House Bill 4277, the Charter School Full Funding bill. That bill would further the privatization of education by outsourcing the public schools to privately managed charter operators, many of whom are supported by lots of anti-union corporate money.

Andrew Broy followed former CPS official Greg Richmond into the leadership of the Illinois Association of Charter Schools when Richmond went national after Arne Duncan became U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2009 and privatization through charter schools became the policy of the Obama administration under "Race to the Top." While constantly complaining that Chicago charter schools are "underfunded," Broy and other charter school propagandists ignore the millions of dollars in additional funds that are poured into the charter schools by the wealthiest people in the USA and resist any attempt by critics to legislate that charter schools provide the same financial transparency as the real public schools of Chicago. Above, Broy is seen speaking about the underfunding of Chicago charter schools before the Chicago Board of Education's February 2012 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The biggest surprise sponsor to many CTU activists is state Rep Cynthia Soto, who tried to champion the Carpenter school parents by sponsoring a moratorium bill to stop school closings four years ago.

While CTU-endorsed house speaker Michael Madigan forced her to take out the moratorium, she did pass a facilities bill that mandates following certain criteria with more community oversight that the Chicago Public Schools must do before altering any school buildings.

The CTU explained to Rep. Soto the problem of supporting a bill that contradicts her facilities bill, and she has indicated she will remove her name from the bill as a co-sponsor, according to CTU sources.

The problem is charter schools help to destabilize public schools, by sharing space in public schools, siphoning off students from neighborhood schools with enticements and other tricks, and then the Board of Education claims the public school is underutilized, and should be closed, further disrupting the community it serves.

The fact of the matter is Soto, and CTU-endorsed state rep Dan Burke, who introduced the full funding charter bill, are all members of one of the two political parties in Illinois that are promoting charter schools. National and local research have shown that despite their promise to promote innovation and improve the education of inner city children, most charter schools (both in Chicago and across the USA) do neither. Instead, charter schools spend significant portions of their budget on marketing and executive salaries, and as little as possible on the classroom. Charter schools and Illinois legislators who support them have to date allowed Chicago charter schools to evade almost all transparency regarding their financial affairs.

But union officials and others opposed to the privatization push by charter schools note that unless a whole lot more teachers and parents get active and call their legislators to tell them it is unfair to take money from their public schools, and divert these precious funds to special interest charter schools, the further destruction of our public schools will continue. Privately outsourced less accountable management companies focused on the bottom line will replace much of the American public educational system, beginning, as they have, with large urban systems like Chicago's. 


May 27, 2012 at 10:30 AM

By: Ed Hershey

Funding Democrats

I think this raises the point of how far we can get with lobbying alone. Even our "closest friends" in Springfield turn against us.

What do we gain by endorsing Madigan? He may not be friends with Emanuel, but you read any Shakespeare or Machiavelli and you know how this story turns out: Madigan sells us out in order to cut some deal with Emanuel. And in the meantime all we get out of it is a false sense of security.

May 27, 2012 at 11:07 AM

By: John Whitfield

Rich Whitney was the one

Rich Whitney, needless to say, was by far the most progressive gubernatorial candidate,

and was in front of the monthly CTU house meeting, letting us know that we were important. Since not endorsing him (though it may not have made a difference in the outcome)we have had the SB 7 set back with our CTU president being mugged in Springfield and flooded with last minute emails, continuing attacks on our pension, and on and on. Though the governor may not make all the difference in the world, he does have the veto power, and we're due for someone to the left of the democrats now, and someone for mayor, needless to say too.

A woman that is both african and Latina, given chicago is the way it is, that is to the left of the democrats, perhaps could do a Harold Washington repeat with a coalition that has CORE at the center. that sounds fitting and proper.

May 28, 2012 at 1:04 AM

By: Valerie F.Leonard

HB4277 Lost 3 Co-Sponsors

In addition to Deborah Mell, two Republicans have removed themselves as co-sponsors--Rich Brauer and Paul Evans.

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