DEATH NOTICE: Don Moore, leader of Designs for Change and decades-long voice for parents, dies
Don Moore, who for most of his career served as Executive Director of Chicago's Designs for Change, has died, sources from his organization and long-time friends confirmed to Substance on September 1, 2012. A lengthier appreciation of the life and work of Don Moore is being prepared by people who worked with him at Designs for Change and on the various projects he undertook and will be published here at substancenews.net when it is completed. Substance does not yet know the arrangements.
Veteran Substance staff (including this reporter) remembered Don Moore through more than three decades of struggles for the rights of parents and students in Chicago's public schools. Don Moore founded Designs for Change with a group of others more than 30 years ago. He received his doctorate in education from Harvard in 1985 and devoted the rest of his career to research, writing and testimony regarding education reform in urban areas.
Following his receipt of a doctorate in education (EdDO) from Harvard, Moore returned to Chicago and devoted the remainder of his career to research and advocay regarding Chicago's public schools in particular and urban schools in general. A great deal of his work showed the dramatic refusal of urban public school systems to provide required education and services for children with disabilities. His work also included one of the first major studies exposing the dropout scandal in Chicago, the necessity of more parental involvement in the schools (which helped give rise to the Local School Councils), and alternative programs for teenagers (which helped inspire "Metro High School").
Some of the most important (in terms of impact) work of Designs for Change was in the area of special education reform.
Beginning in the 1980s, Designs researchers exposed how CPS was refusing (not simply "failing") to provide children with disabilities with the services to which they were entitled. That research helped lead to the famous "Cory H" decision in federal court. Under Cory H, Chicago's special education programs are still being monitored for compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other federal laws. Recent court action in the Cory H case monitoring the failure of the current administration of Chicago Public Schools has been reported in Substance. Two decades after Cory H, CPS is still refusing to comply fully with the IDEA, while spending millions of dollars per year on legal fights to limit it.
Over a period of more than 30 years, Don Moore's presentations to the Chicago Board of Education and to Illinois legislators helped frame the debate on dozens of school issues. After corporate "school reform" took over the power in Chicago's schools following the passage of the 1995 Amendatory Act, the kind of research provided by Designs for Change was less and less popular among those who ruled Chicago's schools. During the late 1990s, then "Chief Execuctive Officer" Paul G. Vallas disliked Moore and the research of Designs so much that at one point Vallas ordered CPS security to force the group out of the lobby of CPS when it was holding a press conference. Moore and the members of the press had to do the press conference on the sidewalk — in February when the temperate was around ten degrees and the wind chill well below zero.
In 2006, Don Moore was one of those who joined in protest against another round of cuts to special education services in Chicago. Others included disability rights groups (like Access Living Chicago) and two unions (CTU and the Service Employees International Union). The 2006 protests forced CPS to admit that it had exaggerated its "deficit" claims that year and restore more than $15 million to special education services. For years he regularly testified at the annual hearings on the Chicago Board of Education budget.
The arrival of the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't stop the need for defense of the Local School Councils that Moore had helped create with the 1988 reform legislation. In early 2012, Designs for Change challenged the mayor's school board for what many said was sabotage of the LSC elections. "The problem is that this election, the first under our new Mayor and schools CEO, just doesn’t seem to be a priority for them, Moore said on Chicago Newsroom. “There have been a whole series of obstructions by CPS of the effort to recruit LSC candidates," he told Chicago Newsroom in a show in early 2012.
By that time, the defunding of groups like Designs for Change by Chicago's plutocracy had become toxic for the future of such organizations. Designs for Change had been founded during an era when philanthropic organizations funded a range of organizations (such as Designs for Change, the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, and PURE) that were regularly critical of the policies of the city government and CPS administrators.
By the late 1990s, with the "mayoral control" model of corporate school reform in place, the major funders had begun to starve such groups of resources in Chicago, while paying lip service to a mission to improve education. During the time that Arne Duncan served as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, any requests for corporate or foundation funding for independent research and advocacy had to be vetted by Duncan and people in the mayor's office. The Chicago Community Trust, supposedly an independent group, became a clearing house to insure that independence such as that showed by Designs for Change was starved of funding. After the departure of Schools CEO Ron Huberman following the announcement that Mayor Richard M. Daley would not run for re-election in 2011, the Chicago Community Trust's chief, Terry Mazany, served briefly as Interim CEO of CPS, demonstrating to most critics that the independence of the city's so-called "philanthropic community" was a hypocrisy.
One by one, the groups that had been able to provide independent educational research to debunk the claims of corporate schools reform were denied money by the 401(c)3 foundations that supposedly acted with neutrality. In order to try and stave off the end, Moore used as much of his personal resources as he could to keep the doors open at the Designs for Change offices on Chicago's near west side. But the end had come just before his death, and with it came the demise of one of the last independent research and advocacy groups in Chicago.
As of September 1, 2012, the Designs for Change website (www.designsforchange.org) is still up. Designs for Change recently left its offices at 815 S. Western Ave. in Chicago, according to those familiar with the current state of the organization.
As of Substance press time for this notification Substance does not have information about the arrangements.