DEATH NOTICE: Don Moore, leader of Designs for Change and decades-long voice for parents, dies

Don Moore, who for most of his career served as Executive Director of Chicago's Designs for Change, has died, sources from his organization and long-time friends confirmed to Substance on September 1, 2012. A lengthier appreciation of the life and work of Don Moore is being prepared by people who worked with him at Designs for Change and on the various projects he undertook and will be published here at when it is completed. Substance does not yet know the arrangements.

Don Moore (above right rear) at the press conference on February 3, 2009 on behalf of the so-called "Soto Bill" which was intended to stop the Chicago Board of Education from closing the schools on the "Hit List" that year. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Moore provided research on behalf of community groups such as those represented above against CPS policies to close, privatize and undermine the city's real public schools. Speaking above is Valencia Rias, who worked at Designs for Change for many years. Beside Rias (in glasses) is State Rep. Cynthia Soto, who sponsored the legislation. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Veteran Substance staff (including this reporter) remembered Don Moore through more than three decades of struggles for the rights of parents and students in Chicago's public schools. Don Moore founded Designs for Change with a group of others more than 30 years ago. He received his doctorate in education from Harvard in 1985 and devoted the rest of his career to research, writing and testimony regarding education reform in urban areas.

Following his receipt of a doctorate in education (EdDO) from Harvard, Moore returned to Chicago and devoted the remainder of his career to research and advocay regarding Chicago's public schools in particular and urban schools in general. A great deal of his work showed the dramatic refusal of urban public school systems to provide required education and services for children with disabilities. His work also included one of the first major studies exposing the dropout scandal in Chicago, the necessity of more parental involvement in the schools (which helped give rise to the Local School Councils), and alternative programs for teenagers (which helped inspire "Metro High School").

Some of the most important (in terms of impact) work of Designs for Change was in the area of special education reform.

Above, Don Moore (right) takes a moment for the Substance camera at the June 21, 2006 hearings on the CPS budget. With Moore are representatives of Access Living Chicago, a major disability rights organization that had provided dramatic testimony at that year's budget hearings in opposition to the cuts in special education services. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Beginning in the 1980s, Designs researchers exposed how CPS was refusing (not simply "failing") to provide children with disabilities with the services to which they were entitled. That research helped lead to the famous "Cory H" decision in federal court. Under Cory H, Chicago's special education programs are still being monitored for compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other federal laws. Recent court action in the Cory H case monitoring the failure of the current administration of Chicago Public Schools has been reported in Substance. Two decades after Cory H, CPS is still refusing to comply fully with the IDEA, while spending millions of dollars per year on legal fights to limit it.

Don Moore (above, speaking) at the June 28, 2006 press conference that challenged the Board of Education's claim that it had to close another phony budget "deficit" by cutting $26 million from the school system's special education budget. At the press conference, which was organized by Designs for Change, SEIU, Access Living, and the Chicago Teachers Union, Moore presented data from state tests showing that CPS was failing to provide legally required services to children with disabilities. Later at the Board of Education meeting that day, speakers challenged the Board's claims and demanded that Board President Michael Scott and then CEO Arne Duncan stop discriminating against children with disabilities. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Over a period of more than 30 years, Don Moore's presentations to the Chicago Board of Education and to Illinois legislators helped frame the debate on dozens of school issues. After corporate "school reform" took over the power in Chicago's schools following the passage of the 1995 Amendatory Act, the kind of research provided by Designs for Change was less and less popular among those who ruled Chicago's schools. During the late 1990s, then "Chief Execuctive Officer" Paul G. Vallas disliked Moore and the research of Designs so much that at one point Vallas ordered CPS security to force the group out of the lobby of CPS when it was holding a press conference. Moore and the members of the press had to do the press conference on the sidewalk — in February when the temperate was around ten degrees and the wind chill well below zero.

In 2006, Don Moore was one of those who joined in protest against another round of cuts to special education services in Chicago. Others included disability rights groups (like Access Living Chicago) and two unions (CTU and the Service Employees International Union). The 2006 protests forced CPS to admit that it had exaggerated its "deficit" claims that year and restore more than $15 million to special education services. For years he regularly testified at the annual hearings on the Chicago Board of Education budget.

When members of the Chicago Board of Education were challenged on the "facts" that they claimed justified certain decisions, they were often unable to control their hostility towards those who presented the facts, both to the Board and in public. One of the few Board officials who could control his anger at those who challenged Board policies against the public schools and disabled children was then Board President Michael Scott, whose continuous smile masked his adherence to the same agenda. Above, Scott is seen explaining to the disability rights activists testifying at the June 28, 2006 meeting of the Board that the Board would love to fully fund programs for children with disabilities, but that the "deficit" just would not allow it. A few months later, the audited financial report of the Board showed that Scott and his fellow Board members had, again, been deceiving the public about the claims of the deficit and the need to deprive disabled children of their educations. Left to right, above, Board members at the time were Clare Munana, Michael Scott, Tarig Butt, Rufus Williams, and Alberto Carrero. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The arrival of the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't stop the need for defense of the Local School Councils that Moore had helped create with the 1988 reform legislation. In early 2012, Designs for Change challenged the mayor's school board for what many said was sabotage of the LSC elections. "The problem is that this election, the first under our new Mayor and schools CEO, just doesn’t seem to be a priority for them, Moore said on Chicago Newsroom. “There have been a whole series of obstructions by CPS of the effort to recruit LSC candidates," he told Chicago Newsroom in a show in early 2012.

By that time, the defunding of groups like Designs for Change by Chicago's plutocracy had become toxic for the future of such organizations. Designs for Change had been founded during an era when philanthropic organizations funded a range of organizations (such as Designs for Change, the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, and PURE) that were regularly critical of the policies of the city government and CPS administrators.

By the late 1990s, with the "mayoral control" model of corporate school reform in place, the major funders had begun to starve such groups of resources in Chicago, while paying lip service to a mission to improve education. During the time that Arne Duncan served as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, any requests for corporate or foundation funding for independent research and advocacy had to be vetted by Duncan and people in the mayor's office. The Chicago Community Trust, supposedly an independent group, became a clearing house to insure that independence such as that showed by Designs for Change was starved of funding. After the departure of Schools CEO Ron Huberman following the announcement that Mayor Richard M. Daley would not run for re-election in 2011, the Chicago Community Trust's chief, Terry Mazany, served briefly as Interim CEO of CPS, demonstrating to most critics that the independence of the city's so-called "philanthropic community" was a hypocrisy.

One by one, the groups that had been able to provide independent educational research to debunk the claims of corporate schools reform were denied money by the 401(c)3 foundations that supposedly acted with neutrality. In order to try and stave off the end, Moore used as much of his personal resources as he could to keep the doors open at the Designs for Change offices on Chicago's near west side. But the end had come just before his death, and with it came the demise of one of the last independent research and advocacy groups in Chicago.

Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan (above, shown during the testimony against the special education cuts at the June 28, 2006 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) pioneered most of the major attacks on public education as policies in Chicago during his years (2001 - 2008) in power in Chicago's schools. Duncan's wealthy family background also made him a part of the group of Chicago's wealthy elite who systematically defunded groups like Designs for Change that challenged the claims of those promoting corporate "school reform." Duncan's appointment as U.S. Secretary of Education by Barack Obama in 2009 simply brought the "Chicago boys" and the Chicago plan to the nation under the U.S. Department of Education's "Race to the Top." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As of September 1, 2012, the Designs for Change website ( is still up. Designs for Change recently left its offices at 815 S. Western Ave. in Chicago, according to those familiar with the current state of the organization.

As of Substance press time for this notification Substance does not have information about the arrangements. 


September 2, 2012 at 12:09 PM

By: Patricia Hamilton

The Death of Don Moore

Don was a warrior in the fight for our students, and their right to the best education possible. Education Reform was his goal. He will be missed. R.I.P. Don!

September 2, 2012 at 12:50 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Passing of Another Great Education Leader

I've known Don for many years and although we did not always agree, I admired him for the care and dedication that he showed for the students of Chicago especially those with Special Needs. He will be sorely missed.

September 2, 2012 at 6:11 PM

By: Joanne E. Howard, Ph.D.

Don Moore

Don Moore will be remembered as a warrior in the fight for school equality and social justice. His family, colleagues, friends, and admirers have certainly lost a champion for human rights. Don, ever the optimist with his unfailing eye for people who were "right on the issues" left a legacy for all of us to follow. Don was humble and committed - working 7 days a week to support LSCs, teachers, and underperforming schools. He always knew how to get the word out about the gems in Chicago Public Schools. The Board of Directors of Designs for Change, the staff of DFC, along with Don's family are making arrangement for a memorial service. We want to be respectful and appropriate in our commemoration of Don's life. We will communicate the arrangements on our website and through the social media. On behalf of the board, we thank everyone for their continued support of DFC and Don.

Joanne Howard, Ph.D.

Chair, Board of Directors

September 2, 2012 at 7:36 PM

By: Phillip Jackson

Mr. Don Moore

The Black Star Project sends condolences to the family, frineds and co-workers of Mr. Don Moore. We knew Mr. Moore to be one of the last and one of the few serious reformers of education in Chicago. Designs For Change was seriously underfunded with dollars, but always "overly" funded with spirit and fight on behalf of Chicago's children and parenst. Don has earned his rest.


Phillip Jackson

December 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM

By: DAnne Burley

Don Moore wanted his dream to live on

I was involved with Designs for Change for years went to Springfield under Don. Joan has on Lakeview High Shcools LSC, and saw how this organization bought parents and schools together on the issue of parental rights connecting parents with the board and stopping the abuse of funding within Illinois Schools which went on for years in Illinois.

I spoke to Don just days before his death asking him to come on my talk show. I am dealing with a new level of abuse within the Justice system which is allowing those from within the schools to place kids in jail for CASH. Two judges were arrested in the state of Pa. for this and its happening all over the nation right under the eyes of our government.

Since I am formerly a Court employee and whistleblower and talk show host I am going after the bad guys and wanted to inform more parents so I called the Guru of Reform Don Moore. He told me that the grants stops coming in for Design and of the lack of concern by grant givers lead him to close his office but he was still going to fight from his home. I also watched by friend Joan work hersef to death and die for the cause as well. The cause was to save our children and this condition still rages on because the parents have loss connection to groups like Design and there is no funding sources due to new government rules which restrict giving. Yep I know all about it report of this daily as other open policies of abuse which is happening all over the nation which will lead to the end times, which means freedom as we know it. Our children are the for running for abuse and being harmed while money is still being stock piled up with no accountiabilty from anyone. ( Illinois Lottery Money, Cigarette Law Suit Money and all of the other loot going into the schools again with seemingly reports of still not having enough to afford a good education for our children) our children within the United States within education rating are now ranking lower than some third world countries in education. Basic rights of parents in schools have gone back to the day prior to the reform and schools are nw targeting kids into the Kids to Jail programs setup in schools which I am investigating on air which has created a new money pool for the corruption from within to rise up again now with a direct tie into law enforcement and the courts. The basic rights of parents is now going back to the beginning of reform. They are bringing money into the schools which seemingly goes into the hands of those who are in charge of using school money for other things in and or outside the school system. the word accountability was Designs for Change, Don did not want his organization to die with him or did others like Joan and all of the others who worked hard within and fought for the rights of parents.

I know what I saw and the condition has worsen. No money for agencies to fight back and parents are now in jeopody of losing their rights again. I am looking for those who were involved in Design to contact me we need to keep Don dream alive. He told me he moved into his Randolph street home and was still working on these issues just prior to his death I am again fighting about the illegal ear marked operation during with the Kids to Prison program and IEP and other issues which are plaguing our nations schools call me I am on the air daily lets keep Don Moores vision alive 224-325-6622 or 888-816-0570 We need Design for more change NOW Don you will be missed

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