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Op-Ed Wed Feb 11 2015

An Ode to the Appointed Chicago School Board Members

By Dave Stieber

Let's just get the following truths about the Chicago School Board out of the way:

  • It is appointed by the mayor and not elected by the people of Chicago. It is the only school board in the entire state of Illinois that is not elected.

  • It closed the most schools in the history of the United States.

  • It allows our neighborhood schools to be criminally underfunded.

  • It has opened excessive numbers of new charter schools and allowed them to take public school money even though they do no better and often worse.

  • It allows banks to make millions off our students through toxic loans that the board agreed to and refuses to renegotiate on.

  • It allows our kids to be in the most militarized school system in the country. As if our streets weren't already violent enough, let's give the military access to all of our kids as well. Yes, that seems logical.

  • It has board members on it like Deborah Quazzo, who uses her role to cut deals and give CPS contracts to her friends.

Let's move on to things we maybe don't know about this board.

They are very afraid of losing their power. Yes, they will claim that they are just "volunteers" on the school board, who are dedicated to helping all students. They act is if they are volunteering to serve on this board, because no one else wants the responsibility. Well news flash: David Vitale, Jesse Ruiz, Carlos Azcoitia, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines, Deborah Quazzo and Andrea Zopp... your appointed days are numbered.

Chicago will get an elected school board in the near future. Those of you on the school board are just essentially clinging to the "good ole days" when you could do what you want and not be under scrutiny.

The scrutiny is here, School Board. But good for you, you do have some options:

  • You can fight tooth and nail for your "volunteer" positions. This is the path you seem to have chosen, unfortunately.

  • The better option, you can quit and then encourage your dear friend Rahm Emanuel to realize an elected board is coming, whether any of you like it or not.

The truth is regardless of who ends up being our next mayor in a few weeks (please, please, please, Chicagoans, let it be Garcia or Fioretti), the days of the appointed school board are over.

Sadly, history has seen far too many people clinging to power in fear, and not letting democracy actually be carried out. These people who clung to power and refused to even give democracy a chance are now often referred to in an unflattering light in the history books I use with my students.

And yes, School Board members, you might be sitting there on your high and mighty throne thinking things like, "I don't care if people disagree with my decisions, because I am doing what is best for the kids." But how can you do what is best for the kids if you won't even allow their parents to have a say in what is best for them? By not letting parents or anyone else in this city vote for the people on the school board you are playing the role of someone who thinks they know what is best for all of us. This action is attached to historical words like paternalistic, racist or privileged, to name just a few.

The model you are following is one used by people who colonized other countries and forced the people in those colonized places to believe religions, creeds and values that were not their own. This was all done with the idea that, "We know what is best for you, because we are better than you." Don't you see it, School Board? This is the role you are playing.

You don't know what is best for the people of Chicago. Only the voters do, but here in lies the problem... you won't let the people vote!

There will be a movement to oust you. It is coming — actually it has already started. Aldermen in Chicago are taking notice, and parents and the community have already noticed and are speaking out. Count your days, because they are becoming fewer.

Sure it will be embarrassing, briefly, if you just stepped down from your "volunteer" role.

But believe me it will be even more embarrassing when you are forced off your throne, by democracy.

And believe me, democracy is coming.


David Stieber is a father, husband, CPS teacher of History. Dave is passionately committed to promoting and improving urban public education, while simultaneously improving the lives of his students. He earned his masters in Urban Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @D_Stieber.

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