CTU research documents 'pay to play' in Noble charter schools expansions... '“The draconian social control exhibited in most Noble Street schools reveals a deep mistrust of low-income students of color and their families...'

The "Clark" in the name of the "Rowe Clark" "campus" of the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago is Frank Clark, the former Exelon executive. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't even discuss the conflicts of interest when he named Frank Clark to be the latest President of the Chicago Board of Education in July 2015. Clark is now (October 28, 2015) ready to vote on a proposal to further expand Noble charter schools, despite the massive evidence of the unethical and corrupt practices of the school going back to its inception more than a decade ago. The Chicago Teachers Union continued its critique of the Chicago Board of Education's plans to expand the city's charter schools despite the growing evidence of charter school corruption across the city and in virtually all of the city's charter schools and "charter networks" (schools with more than one "campus"). As the Chicago Board of Education prepares to vote on a proposal to further expand the Noble Network of Charter Schools into the city's Southwest Side despite massive community opposition (and the opposition of 42 of the city's 50 aldermen to further charter expansion), the CTU has issued a press release documenting another aspect of the charter schools' corrupt activities: the infamous Chicago "Pay to Play" reality.


Pay-to-Play Schemes Continue at Board of Education: The Ignoble dealings of the Noble Street charter schools

CHICAGO—Members of the board of directors of the Noble Street charter school network, their law firms and political action committees they directly control have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians in recent years, and are seeking to expand their boot print on Chicago’s public schools with a vote on charter expansion this coming week.

In one particularly egregious instance, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) donated $1,000 to the Friends of Edward M. Burke the same week that the 14th Ward alderman signed a letter of support for Noble Street. The INCS Political Action Committee is chaired by David Weinberg, the INCS founder, president and chair of its board of directors. Weinberg also is a member of the Noble Street board of directors.

“So the guy who started INCS and sits on both boards also gives money to an alderman right after he does something for them?” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Clearly the INCS is using its political action committee to give contributions to people who do what they want.”

Chicago Teachers Union research has found records of more than $250,000 in donations from members of the Noble Street board to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the family of Ald. Burke and Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool. Noble Street also has received federal funding from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this past week with a federal grant of more than $8 million dollars from the Department of Education.

“The billionaire vulture capitalists who back Noble Street have been joined by the Arne Duncan and the feds to the tune of $8 million in support of a charter chain with a national distinction in extreme discipline policies,” Sharkey said.

The millions in grant money from the Department of Education stands in stark and disturbing contrast to the President Barack Obama administration’s and Department of Justice support for improving school discipline policies, spreading restorative justice and combatting the school-to-prison pipeline that has been devastating minority communities across the nation. Locally, after years of lining the pockets of public officials including Emanuel, Claypool, Burke and 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns (chairman of the Chicago City Council Committee on Education and Child Development), the board of directors at Noble Street are seeking new returns by imposing charter school expansion on the community of Brighton Park.

Despite this year’s steep cuts to special education funding, the crippling threat of thousands of teacher layoffs and payouts of hundreds of millions in fees for toxic swaps to fellow bankers, the business community represented by the Noble Street board seeks further deterioration of Chicago’s public school system through the continued reckless expansion of its harmful education model. None of the wealthy philanthropists backing Noble Street have sent their children to the charter campuses emblazoned with their names: Muchin College Prep, Gary Comer Prep, Pritzker College Prep, Chicago Bulls (Reinsdorf) Prep, Rauner College Prep and Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy. For the predominantly low-income students who attend their campuses, these philanthropists are deeply wedded to Noble’s educational philosophy and extreme disciplinary code; intense focus on highlighting student demerits; pushing out and expelling low-performing students; a narrow and concentrated emphasis on standardized tests; a “churn and burn” approach to teachers; and a history of fining their predominantly African-American students for small infractions to the tune of hundreds of thousands in revenue.

“The draconian social control exhibited in most Noble Street schools reveals a deep mistrust of low-income students of color and their families,” Sharkey said. This disregard has become even clearer this year, as Noble Street withdrew its proposals for North Side campuses when met with community opposition from predominantly middle and upper middle-income white families, and tenaciously turned its attack on imposing its schools on lesser-clouted communities.


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