Orwell and Kafka combines at nation's third largest public school system... CPS officials are purging the CPS website of financial and other data so that lies like '145,000 fewer children...' may go unchallenged
Anyone from anywhere who goes to the Website of the third largest school system in the USA today (December 6, 2012) can no longer get the massive amounts of information that once were provided to the public from the Board of Education's Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability. The office is still listed in the directory for CPS (go to Departments, then Research, Evaluation and Accountability), but when you click on the department you get the following message:
404 - File or directory not found.
The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.
Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed the current seven-member Board of Education and the first of (now two) "Chief Executive Officers" for CPS, several key documents have been disappearing, while CPS is claiming that it can't afford to provide the public with these documents in print. For more than 100 years, CPS provided budgets, annual audit books, and the agendas of the Board meetings in print at local public libraries, schools, and the offices of the aldermen. Until now. CPS officials, when they speak about things like this, claim that it is "too expensive" to provide these building blocks of democracy to the public.
But these same officials and board members have no problem providing the highest salaries in history to top executives. Jean-Claude Brizard was awarded a quarter million dollar a year contract by the Board in June 2011 and -- AND -- $30,000 in "relocation expenses." Seventeen months later, Brizard was gone (with a golden parachute worth at least another quarter million dollars) and Barbar Byrd Bennett was awarded a quarter million dollar contract -- also with $30,000 in "relocation expenses." Like Brizard, who came form Rochester, Byrd Bennett came from outside Chicago (her most recent job was in Detroit).
The Board would be able to provide the public with information with the money it could save simply by recouping the "relocation expenses" it has provided to out of town executives it has hired during the past eighteen months.
One aspect of the attack on the public's right to know came to public attention quickly on December 5, 2012, when CPS officials were quoted as saying that the city had lost "145,000 school age children..." between 2000 and this year, implying that the school system had lost that many children. The talking point (which was later found to be inaccurate even in itself) was designed to demonstrate the need for CPS to "right size" the system by closing schools.
But a quick review of the actual data shows that CPS has lost roughly 25,000 students since 2000, as I reported yesterday at Substance. But the key data that would enable any citizen to easily challenee the CPS numbers has been "disappeared" from the CPS website as completely as Jean-Claude Brizard, Tim Cawley, and the former "Portfolio Chief" Oliver Sicat have been disappeared.
The data set I used to establish the actual number of students in Chicago Public Schools for 2000 was the "Racial Ethnic Survey -- Students" as of September 30, 2000. That booklet showed that CPS had 435,000 students. This year CPS has roughly 410,000 students. The census data are largely irrelevant to how many kids are in the public schools, and the only honest way of reporting these facts is by avoiding the CPS talking points and demanding to know what the actual figure are for CPS.
This used to be easy, but beginning with the late Huberman administration and growing under Rahm's choices, CPS is actually destroying the data sets that provide these kinds of information. It used to be possible to go to the CPS website, then go to Departments, then go to Research, Evaluation and Accountability and get these reports (the Racial Ethnic Surveys of both students and staff). The last time I tried, these data were no longer available.
CPS is also purging the Web of early Board Reports, including the all-important "Action" agenda going back to the early 21st Century.
Recently, CPS has refused to publish its budgets in print and distribute them to libraries, schools and aldermanic offices, as was the procedure for the past 100 or more years. The "budgets" that CPS then posts on line are virtually useless, basically doing, on any particular day, whatever CPS wants the numbers to do. Unless someone has a huge printer to print out the budgets, they become inaccessible to most of the public.
This is obviously the policy of the Rahm Emanuel administration and the Board and executives that Rahm's appointed.
The public is then left to ridiculous talking points and endlessly revised Power Point presentations by rehearsed outsiders (most recently, Alan Anderson, who's been at CPS for less than two years), such as the "information" being provided to the public at the hearings (Meeks last week; Marquette Park tomorrow night).
The sad result is that most reporters simply report the "facts" as stated by CPS officials (or, in some cases, without even providing names, simply reporting "CPS said...") as if those "facts" were true. Yesterday when we published the fact about actual student enrollment in Chicago public schools during the last 12 years, it quickly became clear that CPS was lying with facts, utilizing its strange way of calculating the number of "school age" children to create another manufactured crisis number to fan the other lies ablaze during the discussions about utilization, etc.
We will be checking other areas as well.
But the public has to begin every discussion with some CPS official by asking "How long have you been with CPS and what are your qualifications for this job?"
Most of those CPS is sending out, led by Barbara Byrd Bennett, are overpaid corporate mercenaries who will read the scripts as ordered to provide City Hall with the facts wanted.