In Chicago, Rahm’s Reform Vision in Deep Dish

The final “vote” on which Chicago Public Schools to shutter may be a done deal, but the implications of the largest single school closure in US history will be felt well beyond the Windy City. Mayor Emanuel, who has long tethered his political fortunes to hedge-funded education reform, now has poll numbers hovering near the bottom of Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, the Chicago media has suddenly awakened and is practicing, once again, the long-lost art of journalism. And Chicago charter school fever is beginning to look an awful lot like old-fashioned Illinois-style “pay to play” corruption. In other words, on this bad news bears day, my outlook is decidedly wine-box-half-full…

The white course
Let’s start with Mayor Emanuel’s poll numbers. Did I say they were in Lake Michigan? I meant living on Lake Shore drive in a million dollar plus unit with great lake views. A recent poll found that the only voters left who unabashedly approve of the mayor’s education reform agenda are wealthy whites who live in the city’s lakefront wards. Six in ten Chicagoans oppose Rahm’s school closure plan, while a full 75% say they don’t like his vision for education in the city. Of voters with children who attend the Chicago Public Schools, just 9% said they side with the mayor in the debate over how to improve the schools. Fifty-four percent said they now side with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Welcome back, journalists. We’ve missed you!
The past few weeks have seen the kind of reporting that’s all too rare in today’s Walton-funded era of achievement gaptivism. Check out, for example, this “fact check” prepared by a local public radio station in which reporters examine the justifications being given for the mass school closings—and debunk virtually all of them. Even the Chicago Tribune, which just weeks ago ran an editorial trumpeting the results of a pro-charter push poll, got in on the action. The Trib dug deep into official documents to dispute many of the claims being made by Mayor Emanuel et al and revealed once again just how dependent hedge-funded “reform” is on a lax and fawning press.

Pay for play
Meanwhile reporters at the Chicago Sun Times have been busy digging up the dirt on the state’s largest charter school operator: UNO Charter Schools. It turns out that Illinois’ new favorite past-time, *crushing* the achievement gap by constructing shiny academies of excellence and innovation, looks an awful lot like the state’s old favorite past-time: cash-fueled corruption.

Race to the top
The disproportionate impact of school closings on minority students has already resulted in multiple law suits. But could it finally prompt a conversation on the great white elephant in the room: the overwhelming whiteousness of the education reform movement vs: the communities that reformers are intent on improving? Based on this intriguing tweet from Teach for America CEO Matt Kramer, I’d say the chances are good.

We are so over
In case you missed it, opposition to the school closings in Chicago even precipitated an education reform break up. I’m talking, of course, about the recent decision by the University of Chicago chapter of Students for Education Reform to divorce their national organization. In this Dear John letter, the Chicago students hint at their discomfort with being the fresh Chicago faces of SFER’s national agenda. As for what that agenda is, I will say only that SFER is likely the only grassroots student group in the country to be funded by the Walton Foundation.

Even Republicans are pissed
And now a gratuitous shout out to my favorite Windy City blog: Chicago Public Fools.This Chicago Public Schools mom is representative of the astonishing diversity of voices that are now questioning the city’s education reform mantra. In this post, Red in a Blue City, she fillets would-be school privatizers like lake trout.

Karen Lewis rocks
Even though I am *technically* married, I have been crushing on Karen Lewis since the first time she used the expression “full-tilt bozo,” the precise definition of which I still don’t know. In case you missed it, she was overwhelmingly re-elected by the members of the Chicago Teachers Union last week and pledged to spend her next term making education equal in all of the city’s neighborhoods. Now there’s a thought…

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7 Comments

  1. I love it! Maybe the tide is starting to turn. We sure need things to turn the other way in Michigan. We could learn a thing or two from our brethren to the south and west.

  2. Love your Twitter exchanges with Kramer yesterday. A lot like my giant Maine Coon kitty funning with a mouse. “Take off that cat suit and I’ll talk to you,” squeaked the mouse, er Matt.

  3. Your writing style is mahvelous and always makes me smile. 🙂

    Thank you for this great post.

  4. Yes we are making progress however we need to keep the pressure on for a national change in direction as many of our school boards (Oakland, CA) have been packed with school reformers. This past election we were overwhelmed with pro-privatization money and they swept all the board seats and now there is a rush to dismantle our public education system. There is an army of TFA teachers and what were once jobs for community members have been transfered to corporate contractors. The money keeps going missing and they use words as weapons against our teachers and what is left of our unions.

  5. There are hundreds of carry outs from Washington, DC to Baltimore, MD areas that sell “Lake Trout” and chips where the fish never saw a lake and are not from the Trout family; they are mostly from the Cod family (mostly Ling, Whiting) and generally any fish with white flaky meat.

  6. Minneapolis mayor RT Rhambak may want to pay attention to Rham’s polls. He and DFER, along with the multiple “reform” organization$ in Minneapolis are set to wage an all out attack on the Mpls teacher’s union beginning mid June. It will be for the kids, of course.

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