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Education Wed Feb 04 2009

Direct Action May Save Chicago's Schools

The recent actions by CORE, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, under the umbrella group GEM (Grassroots Education Movement), may have brought life back to a moratorium on school closings that was tabled in the General Assembly in 2007, and re-introduced by State Representative Cynthia Soto.

Rep. Soto announced the moratorium at a press conference held at her office on Tuesday, February 3.

From Medill Reports-Chicago:

"[Rep.]Soto presented a similar version of this bill in 2007, but it was tabled, she said, because former schools CEO Arne Duncan offered to work with legislators on a new decision process. But the district has broken its promises, she said, and continued its Renaissance 2010 program, aimed at opening 100 new schools by 2010."

Had the bill been passed, or had Duncan kept his promise, the staffs and faculties at Copernicus, Fulton, Howe, and Morton elementary schools, along with Orr and Harper High Schools, would still be intact. Apparently, this type of reneged horse-trading was overlooked during the Senate confirmation hearings of Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education.

Rep. Soto called a press conference yesterday, well attended by members of CORE and GEM, where she called for a one-year moratorium on school closings and reorganizations.

From ABC 7:

"So you are hearing from my constituents. They want a moratorium now and that's what this bill will do. There is going to be a process...and we are going to be investigating how the old process works," said State Rep. Cynthia Soto, (D) Chicago.

Protesters last week at the Board of Education called for a moratorium on school closings and an end to the Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 program. Over a thousand flooded the streets to have their voices heard. Apparently Springfield was listening.

This won't be an easy task. According to the Chicago Tribune:

The idea could face a significant hurdle, however. Mayor Richard Daley controls the school system that's recommending the school closings and consolidations. Legislation the mayor opposes often has difficulty winning approval in Springfield.

Protesters mentioned that this year's opposition is stronger than last year's because this year, the teachers are on board. The Chicago Teachers Union is the largest in the city and represents 31,000 members. Although the number has shrunk in recent years, mobilization of its members will make it a sizeable force.

In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) are also pushing for democratic reform of its schools. In 2002, the mayor of NYC was given the control of the schools, much like what happened in Chicago in 1995. One of Mayor Bloomberg's major changes was to place a majority of seats on its school board in the hands of political appointees (in Chicago, all members of the Board are appointed by the Mayor).

According to the New York Times, The UFT proposes the following:

...the mayor should appoint five members, rather than eight, to the 13-member Panel for Educational Policy, which could limit the mayor's influence and control over education policy.

Disclosure: I am a member of CORE and a delegate to the CTU.

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Curtis / February 13, 2009 8:19 PM

Actually, the new bill is quite different than the 2007 bill -- and has a lot more support in Springfield than the Tribune report indicated. Lots of details here:

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