MEDIA WATCH: Tribune editorial against the elected school board is more incoherent than its usual way of viewing the 'small folk'...

Erica Clark of Parents 4 Teachers at the back of the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education after Board security dragged her from the podium for trying to read the complete list of all 50 schools that were being closed that day by Board vote. The Board voted to close the schools without ever hearing their names, voting only to approve the "Board Reports" listed on the agenda by the number of each Board Report. Clark and others attempted to at least get the names on the video record of the Board meeting, but Board President David Vitale ordered her silenced by CPS security, and Clark was dragged to the back of the meeting room. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.On March 7, 2016, the Chicago Tribune published a sententious editorial that seemed to oppose the plan to have an elected school board for Chicago's public schools. To read the Tribune's editorial, one would believe that things had been going just fine under the school boards appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley during the 1990s and early 2000s, and by Mayor Rahm Emanuel since May 2011. Although the Tribune's news coverage of the actions of the city's school board have improved in recent years despite the Tribune's editorial biases, the incoherent attempt to explain why Chicago does not need a real elected school board would have earned and "F" or a "D" had it been subjected to the same scrutiny required when teachers grade the essays of their students in Chicago's real public schools.


Chicago Bloat of Education, Tribune editorial, published (on line on March 4, 2016) In print March 7, 2016

You might think, based on a rare, overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Illinois House on Thursday [March 3, 2016], that creating an elected Chicago Board of Education is a terrific idea. After all, what else would get a landslide 110-4 vote in the usually fractious House?

But this proposal is fingernails-on-chalkboard terrible.

Two of the seven Board of Education members who joined in the nearly unanimous vote to close 50 of Chicago's real public schools at the May 22, 2013, meeting of the Board were then President David Vitale and Board member Andrea Zopp. (Two Board members voted against the closure of two of the schools, but that didn't change the outcome). Zopp has been claiming that she represented the "community" since leaving the Board and campaigning for the Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2016. As CEO of the Chicago Urban League, Zopp supposedly represented Chicago's African American "community." The vast majority of the schools Zopp voted to close were all-black. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The bill would sweep aside the current seven-member board, appointed by the mayor, and install an unwieldy 21-member board chosen by voters from 20 newly created districts, with a president elected at large.

That's 21 newbies who would wrestle over the helm of a near-bankrupt school district. And that's just as many new political fiefdoms for the Chicago Teachers Union to attempt to control with its robust war chest.

Does Chicago need a school board that is three times the current size? No. That sounds like a bloated governmental body that would be just as ineffective as another that we can think of the one with 50 aldermen.

Yes, we recall that in last year's mayoral elections, voters in 37 wards said through advisory referendums that they wanted the school board to be elected.

We understand the anger and frustration over the current board and its predecessors. Their oversight or lack of it drove the system to its current position, on the brink of insolvency. The school board over the years has had some of the brightest and most politically involved people in Chicago serve on it. But it has become clear that the who's who haven't always known what's what.

Chicago, be wary of an elected school board.

The most glaring example is the board approval of more than $23 million in no-bid contracts that led to a guilty plea by former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on a charge of wire fraud. That was a huge amount of money, going to a company that had business ties to Byrd-Bennett. Yet the board members didn't ask questions about the contract, and there wasn't a single vote against it.

CPS faces a huge budget deficit not just this year but the next and beyond because of massive pension payments that can't be put off any longer.

We suspect that an elected board, sensitive to voters' (teachers', parents') ire, would be less willing to cut expenses, close schools or reduce payroll than an appointed one. An elected board could be stacked with CTU-friendly candidates whose instincts would be to spend and borrow if that's even possible with the system's junk credit rating to maintain the status quo.

The bill's chief sponsor, state Rep. Robert Martwick Jr., D-Chicago, tells us he is mindful of the CTU's clout in possibly controlling board seats. He says smaller districts to be drawn by the legislature will encourage grass-roots organizing, "limit the influence of outside money" and guarantee minority representation.

Gov. Bruce Rauner supports an elected seven-member school board but only as part of a GOP-introduced bill that would allow the state to take over CPS if it is deemed to be failing financially. That bill would also forbid board candidates from taking donations from teachers unions or district contractors.

The just-passed House bill doesn't go that far.

The vote, however, did give Democrats and Republicans a chance to express their outrage at CPS' fiscal mismanagement just before the March 15 primary ... and a chance to throw a sharp political elbow at Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

How does that help Chicago Public Schools students and their parents, facing the abyss of a financial debacle and a threatened teachers strike? It doesn't.


Historic Elected School Board Vote

Chicagoans moved one step closer to being able to elect our school board members after the Illinois House passed HB 0557, which would take unilateral control of the schools away from the mayor for the first time since 1995.

Thanks to everyone who joined our coalition pushing for this change over the last five years. You helped us canvass, made phone calls and visits to legislators and some of us even went to the state Capitol a few times. This shows what can be achieved when people across the city join to together in a movement for change.

The bill passed the House on Wednesday by a landslide, bi-partisan 110-4 vote. But Senate President John Cullerton has been non-committal about its prospects in that chamber.

We need to keep the pressure on. Find your state senator here and call today. Ask them to support the elected school board bill coming over from the House. Ask them to urge Sen. Cullerton to allow a vote in the Senate.

Chicago Teachers Are Under Attack

CPS has been demanding that teachers take a 7 percent pay cut beginning in April. Although CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has delayed that threat, he just imposed three unpaid furlough days amounting to a 1.6 percent cut for teachers.

Teachers have been working without a contract since last June and CPS claims it wants to negotiate a fair deal with the union. But with these unilateral cuts, it seems more like the district is pushing teachers to strike. The CTU is calling for a day of action April 1 to protest the cuts.

What can you do to stand with our teachers?

? Call the mayor, (773) 744-3300, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, (773) 553-1000, and say NO pay cuts for teachers. The teachers working conditions are our childrens learning conditions.

? Organize a parent meeting at your school to discuss whats at stake in the current teachers contract fight. P4T can help. Email us at .

? Contact your elected officials and demand more revenue for CPS. Releasing surplus TIF funds and going after big banks for their bad deals could help close the budget gap.

? Call Gov. Bruce Rauner, (312) 814-2121. The governor is threatening a state takeover of CPS, but he cant even pass a state budget. Tell him to keep his hands off our schools.

Run for Local School Council

CPS has extended the deadline for parents, teachers and community members to run for their school's Local School Council (LSC).

LSC's are an important--and democratic--governing body in the school. The LSC must approve the school budget and hires the principal--two areas that can help shape the culture, climate and academics of any school. The LSC elections take place on spring report card pick up days, this year April 13 for elementary schools and April 14 for high schools. Info and forms for running can be found here or by calling 773-553-1400.


Broke on Purpose: Fight to Fund Our Futures with CTU President Karen Lewis and others March 9, 6 p.m., Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington

New P4T Website... Check out the new P4T website,, complete with a new donation button so you can help fund our work.



Last week the Illinois House voted overwhelmingly for an elected representative school board in Chicago. Last Thursday the House passed HB 0557 110-4 with huge bipartisan support. The bill creates an elected school board in Chicago which would abolish the current system of Mayoral control of the Board of Education. This is a huge victory, but just one of many steps that need to happen before we finally have a democratically elected school board. Send a message to your state senator to help get an elected school board over the finish line!

The victory last week wouldn't have happened without the work of our member organizations and our hard working United Working Families members. We all collected thousands of signatures to make sure that elected representative school board was on ballots in dozens of wards across Chicago last Spring and then worked hard to make sure that it passed in tremendous margins in each ward it was on the ballot. For well over a decade parents, students and community residents have been fighting to ensure that Chicago has the same level of democratic control as is enjoyed elsewhere in Illinois. Chicago is the only school district in the state where the mayor appoints school board members.

Let's make sure that the momentum continues, please take a minute to send a letter to your state senator and ask that they immediately follow the example of the House and pass HB 0557. Chicago parents have been disenfranchised for far too long. Lets bring democracy back to our schools.


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