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Austerity instead of democracy in every possible way... 'Last call for...' highlights Vitale's plan to eliminate public participation at the Chicago Board of Education's public meetings

"Last call for Mardess Toney..." Estela Beltran said. Beltran, the secretary of the Chicago Board of Education was calling the names of those people who were supposed to participate in "Public Participation" at the June 26, 2013 meeting of the Board. But there was no "Mardess Toney" so she went on and called the next name. And the next,

Three of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education during the June 26 Board meeting, above, are Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, and David Vitale. All of the Board members were appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and deliver their scripted lines with care at each meeting, ignoring the vast realities of Chicago's real public schools as they push an agenda of neoliberal privatization, the destruction of the real public schools of the city, and the ruthless displacement of Black and other non-white children -- and their teachers. Because the Board is "balanced" with a diverse group of neoliberal apologists, the traditional critiques of the old Boards ("no Black People" for example) have been overcome. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."Last call for Marquita Ross," the voice proclaimed as the third person on the list of "Board of Education Public Speakers" continued.

It wasn't until Beltran got to the fourth person on the official list that there was anyone speaking. Georgia Walker rose and spoke forcefully about how the budget cuts at Beard School, which serves children with disabilities would hurt those children. Then two more speakers, Mary Cooper and Shauna Reitz, spoke before it was back to...

"Last call for Marshetta Ross..." who wasn't there, if in fact she existed.

While other cities hold public meetings and their boards of education listen, sometimes late into the night, until everyone who has something to say says it, Chicago's seven-member Board of Education has worked for years to push the "public" to the back of the bus, so to speak.

For decades, even though the Board of Education was not elected in Chicago, the Board functioned with various committees, each of which held public meetings to gather public input on public school policy. There was a committee on facilities, a committee on finances, and an audit committee. Major decisions were made after reports from those committees. Then came the Amendatory Act of 1995, which gave Chicago the nation's first mayoral control of a large urban school board and the notion that a "Chief Executive Officer", rather than a superintendent, should be the chief person over a major school system.

Georgia Waller, above, was the first parent to speak during "Public Participation" at the June 26 Board meeting. Waller was supposed to be the fourth speaker, but the first three called we "No Shows", typical since the Board went to online registration, capped at 60 people, in January 2013. While Ms. Waller described how the Board's budget cutbacks were going to destroy the education of the disabled children at Chicago's Beard Elementary School, the Board members sat stolidly, with none asking questions about another destruction being imposed on some of the most helpless of their victims by their policies. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.For years since mayoral control began, the public has been limited to one meeting per month. During the first years of mayoral control, the Board would meet on alternate months at a public school somewhere in the city, then at its downtown headquarters. By 2002, that one meeting would be held downtown at the Board's headquarters at 125 S. Clark St., maximizing the inconvenience to parents, students and teachers, especially as CTA fares and the cost of Loop parking increased.



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