Schools

  • What Rauner's election means for Chicago

    20 November 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on what actions Gov. Rauner might take that affect Chicago, and more.

  • State/county election brings choice insights

    30 October 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the Sun-Times Rauner endorsement and McKinney resignation as a low moment in Chicago journalism, and more.

  • Reelection run means selective endowment

    13 October 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on parents who vote for Rahm having delusional issues, and more.

  • Emanuel's privatization: a clean sweep?

    2 October 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky, speculating on which city services Mayor Emanuel wouldn't privatize, and more.

  • A principled stand against the administration

    10 June 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the issues about which principals as a group remained silent, and more.

  • The resegregation of Chicago public schools

    19 May 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on whether Chicago schools' resegregation reflects a national trend, and more.

  • Council rules favor mayor

    27 January 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how aldermen game the rules to bury insurgent motions, and more.

  • Can gentry's video prompt poor parents to perfect schools?

    24 January 2014

    On our Facebook page, a subscriber named Marc recently asked, "Can low income African American parents transform their neighborhood school like the parents of the Nettelhorst school?" He included a link to a 13-minute video (posted on YouTube) that describes how local parents helped improve the North Side's Nettelhorst Elementary School, at Broadway and Belmont.

    My reaction: If they had similar resources, maybe.

    The video features Jacqueline Edelberg, a mother in the neighborhood of Nettelhorst who sought a school to which she could eventually send her young kids. She and another mom toured the nearby Nettelhorst, but found it lacking.

    Speaking in the video of what led her to organize local parents to help improve Nettelhorst, Edelberg recalls, "My husband said, 'You're not working now, go make yourself useful.' "

    That comment underlines what's clear from the video: Edelberg—as well as the parents she helped organize—have spouses, stable income, and good education. I don't think this holds true for many parents of Chicago's public-school students.

    Among those who've written about this disparity of resources is the Chicago Reader's Steve Bogira, particularly in his recent, multi-part series on the inequities of Chicago public schools.

    In an article titled "Three families tell us why they ditched CPS" that appeared on Sept. 26, 2013, Bogira writes, "Middle-class parents tend to be zealous advocates. They're more likely to know an alderman or a reporter, and make noise about a problem their children's school is facing."

    Bogira's article features parents who, like many others, spurned Chicago for the suburbs so their kids could go to good schools. In the article, a parent named Sue opines about the challenges faced by the parents in her former North Park neighborhood, which is populated by many low-income Asian immigrants: "You really didn't get those ethnic groups to participate [in their children's schools], because they're out of their comfort zone, or they're out working numerous jobs, or they don't understand English."

    In an earlier article, Bogira quotes from an essay by Richard Kahlenberg that appeared in the journal American Educator. In middle-class schools, Kahlenberg wrote, parents volunteer more often "and know how to hold school officials accountable when things go wrong."

    I don't mean to imply that one can't mobilize parents who live in poverty, have a low level of education, and/or lead stressful lives. In fact, such efforts exist—like the Parent Mentor Program of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, which specifically targets parents in low-income communities.

    But you can't just show low-income parents a video by their middle-class counterparts and say, "Go do this."

  • Charter schools: where does the money go?

    17 January 2014

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the level of scrutiny the public has of neighborhood vs. charter schools, and more.

  • Democracy elusive in Chicago public schools

    12 December 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on how moving special programs out of Lincoln Elementary could solve overcrowding, and more.

  • Alderman wants to know who benefited from charter school

    26 September 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on charter schools' responses to FOIA requests, and more.

  • Rahm: less chess, more Cermak TIFs

    12 September 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on front-end vs. back-end TIF district reforms, and more.

  • Mayor Emanuel: A tough leader for a tough city, or just an a-hole?

    29 August 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on Mayor Emanuel's payback to the Whittier protestors, and more.

  • How I spent my summer break: firing teachers

    15 August 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the mayor using school principals as propaganda show ponies, and more.

  • Deciphering the city's “20 percent” surplus

    6 August 2013
    In my 7/25/13 interview with Ben Joravsky, we couldn't bring clarity to a statement that appeared in a 7/23/13 Sun-Times editorial ("TIF cash only a start for CPS"):

    The city estimates a surplus this year (half of which goes to the schools) may yield only $10 million for CPS, but it could be larger. It all depends on how carefully the city scrubs each TIF—determining how many dollars are already spoken for and how many aren’t—and what percentage is counted as surplus. The city currently uses 20 percent.


    The city uses 20 percent of what, for what?

    The answer came in another Sun-Times editorial, this one on 8/4/13 ("A small lifeline for our schools"):

    . . . the city historically allows only 20 percent of uncommitted cash to count as surplus. City Budget Director Alex Holt told us last week that 20 percent was "probably the starting point" this year.


    In other words: Of each year's budget surplus for which the city has no plans, the city's been able but unwilling to spend four-fifths of it.

  • Tracking TIF's tall tales

    25 July 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the actual amount of the city's TIF surplus, and more.

  • As schools starve, Mayor Emanuel finds $5 million for hot dogs

    11 July 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the intended investment payoff of tax-increment financing, and more.

  • How Chicago's five-year school plan was dead on arrival

    27 June 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on why CPS's tax levy has increased while it cuts its budget, and more.

  • Hard cuts for neighborhood schools

    21 June 2013
    Neighborhood public schools will see drastic budget cuts for the coming school year, reports the Sun-Times.
  • Mayor Emanuel's FOIA policy: don't ask because we won't tell

    16 May 2013

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on CPS's statutory obligation to retain policy-related records, and more.