BUDGET WATCH 2015: The Metaphysics of Mendacity, by Forrest Claypool and Chicago's corporate media... The CPS 'Incubation and Innovation' office is still in the 2015 - 2016 Proposed budget, while the historically mendacious CEO grabbed a cheap headline by dumping its 'Chief Officer' (maybe)...

We could begin this report with a CORRECTION to a previous Substance article. But it's really only an analysis of how the new regime at Chicago's public schools is carrying on the tradition of the old regime in trying to obfuscate, mislead, and/or dupe Chicago citizens and taxpayers, possible (we're not sure about this) with the usual assistance of Chicago's corporate media. Those who have been reading the news and editorials the past couple of weeks know that Chicago has gotten rid of its public schools' "Office of Innovation and Incubation."


Actually, to quote Jon Stewart: Bullshit. The "Chief Officer" may no longer be with us, but the office is there, right there in Forrest Claypool's proposed budget, and ready to be displayed to the public when the Board hosts its annual budget hearings Tuesday.

On August 10, 2015, following news reports, Substance reported that the newly installed "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public school system, Forrest Claypool, had eliminated the ridiculous "Office of Innovation and Incubation" at the central office of the third largest school system in the USA. Our story was according to news reports, since the CPS "Office of Communications" no longer hosts press conferences (or, as they are called today, "pressers"), and has blacklisted Substance from its meager diet of press releases and exclusive interviews with selected in the tank reporters. Not only did Forrest Claypool get the "news" story, but he got an added editorial attaboy from the Chicago Sun-Times. We reported it at:

So, those who believe what they can Google (or is it now google) know that Claypool has moved quickly and decisively to eliminate ridiculous examples of bureaucratic waste. Blah Blah Blah. Except he hasn't.

Well, the re-deployment of Chicago's former "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation," Jack Elsey, may or may not be true. But if the Proposed Budget that Claypool dispatched to the city for review the same week is to be believed, then the "Office of Innovation and Incubation" is still around, and will probably get larger. Whatever Elsey's fate, that office is still around. It was always a mystery why the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education (all appointed and slavishly loyal to Mayor Rahm Emanuel) voted unanimously and without debate to import him to Chicago, pay him $165,000 a year, and put him in charge of the only "Office of Innovation and Incubation" in the history of American public schools. Oh, and pay him $7,500 to move to Chicago from Detroit, where he had been working to destabilize Detroit's public schools under Barbara Byrd Bennett.

According to the Proposed Budget issued by Claypool, that office is still around, singing its own praised and set to cost the city some millions of dollars.

In Claypool's Proposed Budget, which citizens are supposed to discuss with a straight face on Tuesday evening, August 18, 2015, anyone can read the following about next year's Office of Innovation and Incubation. It's on page 37 of the Board of Education’s “Proposed Budget” (“Departments” section), and the public can read as follows:



As the designee for the Chicago Board of Education (BOE), the legal entity that authorizes all new schools regardless of governance structure, the Office of Innovation and Incubation (I & I) manages a portfolio of over 141 charter and contract schools, 13 Alternative Learning Opportunity Programs (ALOP), and 2 Safe Schools that educate well over 60,000 students. The office provides direct support to a divers set of schools – Traditional and Options – for youth with varied needs that include, but are not limited to, students seeking alternatives to the neighborhood school, re-enrollment dropouts and young adults who are currently in school but significantly off-track for graduation, students who have been expelled or are in need of alternative placement for behavioral reasons, and student involved in the juvenile justice system. The Options schools include ALOP programs and Safe Schools, but also certain charter and contract schools, and four District-run schools.

But if the Office of Innovation and Incubation has no "Chief Officer" for the 2015 - 2016 school year, what about its numbers? Well, that office, at a time when the corporate reports claim CPS has (again) been reducing "central administration" will still be drawing more than $11 million after this new budget is passed at the Board of Education's August 26 meeting.

According to the Proposed Budget (“Departments”, page 38), the Office of Innovation and Incubation had budgeted $12.8 million for FY 2015 and had a staff of 69.

Supposedly, the Office will have a budget of (only) $11.1 million for FY 2016, and a staff of only 35. The office has also put a $2 “contingency” into the Innovation and Incubation budget. The "contingency", according to a note, is because CPS is expecting an incubation and innovation grant of $2 million, but the grant hasn’t come in yet.

If the latest narrative for August 2015 is true, the reduction in the FY 2016 "Innovation and Incubation" budget is because there will be fewer or no “new schools starting in FY 2016…”

Anyone trying to locate the “Office of Innovation and Incubation” in previous CPS budgets will find the task difficult -- actually impossible. The incubation and innovation office is itself an innovation incubated by the Board of Education, under then-President David Vitale (and Vice President Jesse Ruiz) and the once-upon-a-time CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett. The "Office of Innovation and Incubation" did not exist prior to Byrd Bennett’s arrival in Chicago from Detroit (first as a consultant and supposedly "Chief Education Officer" in March 2012 and after November 2012 as "Chief Executive Officer"). Without discussion or debate, the Board of Education voted to create that Office of Innovation and Incubation at its December 2012 meeting, and that office will still exist now that both Byrd Bennet and her fellow Detroit educational leader (Jack Elsey) are gone from Chicago.


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