Five minutes or you're out! Chicago Board of Education's attack on democracy sets new record, shutting down public sign in after less than ten minutes ten days before the Board even meets.

Considering the importance of the upcoming Board of Education meeting, scheduled for January 22, 2014, and the numerous problems in early childhood education (which I teach), I was prepared to speak at the Board meeting, and decided to sign up to speak. As readers of Substance know, the Board of Education began in January 2013 to restrict the number of people who could sign up for "Public Participation" to a total of 60, and to force people to sign in by going on line.

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale (left) goes over the abbreviated speakers list for the December 18, 2013 meeting of the Board of Education of the third largest school system in the USA with Board Secretary Estela Beltran (right). Since January 2013, Vitale's Board has been slowly strangling the ability of the public to participate in the supposedly public meetings of the Board by restricting the number of speakers during "Public Participation" to 60 and then forcing speakers to "consolidate" on common topics. For the January 22, 2014 meeting of the Board, Vitale's machinations have reached their apogee, as the Board President and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have conspired to ensure that the majority of the official speakers will be praising the Board's plans to expand the city's charter schools -- ostensibly to "relieve overcrowding" -- by two dozen or more less than a year after Vitale's claim that the biggest problem facing Chicago's public schools was so-called "underutilization." On January 13, 2014, Vitale and other privatization leaders helped the charter schools get the majority of public participation spots in the limited speaking spots allowed for the meeting on January 22. Substance photo by David Vance.I logged on at 8:05 a.m. and all the spots were already filled! That's even less time than the public had to make the time in December 2013, when the spots were filled within 32 minutes. As readers of Substance know, the logic, such as it is, upon which Board President David Vitale (a millionaire banker and corporate executive) had ruled on the total number is that each speaker is supposed to get only two minutes to speak, and that "public participation" is not allowed to last more than two hours. Both of these attacks on democracy are Vitale's decisions. Over the years, as Substance reported for more than a decade, the Board (under five presidents) allowed as many people as wanted to sign up and allowed the time for public participation to go beyond the two hours. But since Rahm Emanuel's Board was appointed in May 2011, the Board has gone out of its way to strangle democracy.

But five minutes?

I am very interested into seeing who filled those spots and if they are legitimate speakers representing the issues of the people. I would bet many of them are Pro-Charter school hacks that CPS drug out of whatever rock they were hiding under.

While the public laughs at the ironies of the bureaucrats and Board members of the Chicago Public Schools during their routine attempts to manipulate public perception by choking off speakers during the "Public Participation" sections of the monthly school board meetings, the Board members and top administrators begin each meeting pledging "liberty and justice for all" without smirking. Above, left to right are: Board member Andrea Zopp, Board Attorney James Bebley, Board member Carlos Azcoitia, Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett, and Board member Deborah Quazzo. Substance photo by David Vance.Or perhaps, CPS filled some of those spots themselves. Last month, nearly half those who signed up to speak -- forcing out others -- were from "Chicago Lives Healthy." All of them wanted to speak on one topic -- daily physical education. The public won't know until the morning of January 22, 2014, when the official speakers list of 60 becomes public. Meanwhile, odds makers would do well to bet that the majority of those who were able to sign up to speak under Vitale's rules will be supporters of the massive expansion of Chicago charter schools which will be the main topic on the agenda.

Considering the way the BOE works, nothing would surprise me.


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