Education Reform — A Cover for Cronyism?
In the latest round of school closings in Chicago, schools are either being slated for turnaround or closure. Turnaround means the entire staff is fired and forced to reapply for their jobs. Closing schools will transfer their students to schools run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) a non-profit that draws in millions from the Chicago Public Schools. Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tapped Tim Cawley, the managing director for AUSL to be the Chicago Board of Education’s Chief Operating Officer. There was little room for debate over whether or not the AUSL model is any better, but the Board is doing everything in its power to make these turnarounds and transfers a done deal. Unless we can have an open discussion about what schools need, the Chicago art of cronyism will run the way we teach and learn across the nation.
The phrase “education reform” has been co-opted to mean a narrow party program advocated by the reform establishment (mainly billionaires and their designees) that includes a barrage of testing, charter schools, and taking experienced educators out of the classroom.
None of these measures have a track record of success, but the actual facts get obscured by Hollywood films and connected charter groups. It’s hard to get into the conversation when the corporate side of education reform uses the term as a bludgeon against anyone who questions its agenda — even when the concerns are supported by research.
Although some schools on the closure list like Casals Elementary and Lathrop school have outperformed AUSL schools, despite the board taking resources out of traditional schools and pushing millions into AUSL.
Julie Woestehoff from Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), described the tactic:
I think it’s deliberately starving these schools so that they become weaker and weaker before they’re killed off. It shows that they feel absolutely no responsibility toward schools that are struggling. They’re deliberately undermining them.
This was in response to an admisson from Tim Cawley, Chief Operating Officer of CPS stating that CPS doesn’t get enough “bang for the buck” in investing in struggling schools.
The press asked Cawley why Lathrop School is included in a $660 million capital improvement plan and CPS backtracked and stated that the school will not get the money if it is voted by the Board to be closed.
If the closing is approved, students from Lathrop will be transferred to Johnson Elementary School, an AUSL school.
This draws a lot of questions. Before the media brought to light the fact that Lathrop was slated for closure and receiving funds for capital improvements, what was the plan for Lathrop school’s building?
Another school, Guggenheim Elementary found itself on the closing list for the second year in a row. This may have been another case of sabotage.
Teachers and parents have been noting that the disruption of Guggenheim caused by the change of administration at the school would have eliminated the school from consideration for closing in previous years. But apparently that is not the case this year. The controversial new principal and assistant principal of Guggenheim were not in attendance.
At Guggenheim, Lathrop, Crane and other school community meetings busloads of people from outside the community were brought in to shill in favor of the turnaround. Some are believed to have been paid for their time.
School sabotage, sham community hearings, and clouted officials funneling money back into their organizations? Does this sound like “Education Reform” or does it sound like the same old, same old Chicago-style cronyism?
You be the judge.