fake-photo credit: EduShyster
Rick Perlstein been covering the melt-down in Chicago Public Schools. This (great) piece is about a teacher who was laid off due to budget cuts. It’s also about the same set of crazy priorities in “reform”that I wrote about yesterday, where Philadelphia public school parents do not know if their schools will be open in the fall yet they are supposed to attend meetings with consultants hired by a billionaire donor on a new school grading system. They cancelled the remainder of the new school grading system meetings in Philadelphia. I think that was a smart move “for the children” because the parents are probably busy trying to find a school that will be open and functioning in a month.
Here’s the thing: blog post was written to respond to the public outpouring of response that followed the news this week that Xian had been laid off again. At Gage, Xian had helped students who led a symbolic boycott of standardized tests. Maybe that’s why he was laid off again.
If so, his principal had a nice bit of cover—his layoff was part of the axing of 2,113 Chicago Public School employees who got the ax in what is being sold as an absolutely necessary budgetary move.
Displaying the sensitivity for which city government under Mayor Rahm Emanuel has become known, the layoffs came just before the announcement of the awarding of a $20 million no-bid contract to train principles and other administrators, to an outfit called “Supes Academy,” for which Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has recently enjoyed a lucrative consultation contract. Supes is co-run by an “education reform” hustler named Gary Solomon who took a settlement with a suburban Chicago district in 2001 for allegedly sending sexual explicit emails to students; he went on to such sterling and selfless educational endeavors as sales associate for Princeton Review (CPS was one of his clients). His partner Thomas Vranas, whose online biography, the sterling Chicago education reporter Sarah Karp found, boasts “that he got his start by creating an urban tutoring program in Chicago that served 8,000 students. However, none of the biographies specify the name of the tutoring program and he did not respond to email questions about it,” and “that he started a wireless Internet company, a sales and marketing company and a venture capital firm. None of the companies are named.”
The firings, incidentally, also came shortly after Mayor Emanuel announced a $55 tax-increment financing grant to a very rich private university, DePaul, to build a basketball arena on the lakefront. The grant is especially horrifying because it makes mincemeat of the standard “TIF” formula—where the money is ostensibly paid back to the city in the form of future property tax revenues—because the land the arena is to sit upon will be effectively tax-exempt. It looks like a straight up giveaway.
But the city can’t afford to pay teachers like Xian Barrett. Make no mistake about that.
When I interviewed Xian this summer, I asked him how high-stakes testing has changed his life as a teacher. He answered, “It’s sort of omnipresent and it takes away from what should be going on. All of our professional development now is around testing and managing data.” But, he emphasizes, it is crappy data—which, as an algorithm expert and a rotisserie baseball obsessive, he should know.
The Supes Academy is, of course, a for-profit:
Yet in a city that is home to major universities and non-profit organizations that train and support principals, the for-profit Supes Academy got the contract without competition. (CPS considers the contract a “sole-source request,” the same as a no-bid contract.) The Supes website states that the organization runs similar academies in 14 school districts, most of them small.
Anything that can be bought and sold will be bought and sold.
Anything that is not, does not exist.
Might as well codify the Rules of Acquisition as law now. The Constitution just seems an old quaint piece of parchment to the Ferengi masters.
I really wish Rahm Emanuel took up a job with a fancy title on Wall Street, because I think that is where he belongs and where his sympathies lie.
I think there is a class of Democrats, who went to elite universities and then into big business, who are only Democrats because they do not want to associate with a party of Jesus freaks.
I do not know why these people want to be “public servants”, because not being in charge and serving the needs of others runs against their nature.
Wow. That’s really crappy.
@Violet: Is a lowly schoolteacher going to get Rahm a cushy six-figure academic job after he gets voted out? I don’t think so. Priorities people!
@Yatsuno: A lowly teacher might be able to bring him down, though. David and Goliath.
Do you think Rahm is going to slum it for only a six figure salary? I do not think he’ll give up the power trip of politics for less than seven figures.
Mnemonic device: the principal is (allegedly) your pal. “Principles” are those things the little people are lacking whenever they question their betters.
@Violet: The basketball arena thing is horrible just on its own terms, never mind in comparison to the city school system. The proposed site is halfway across the city from the university and there isn’t really a strong reason why the university needs a fancy arena in that area, never mind one that comes with pricey giveaways from the city.
There’s a quote in the Perstein article from a student, who says the teachers who were not fired we’re neutral or sided with the school board and not with the students.
What kind of toxic learning environment have you created, when students view the administration as their enemy?
Public schools are not businesses; students are not commodities; children are not widgets.
On the one hand, the privatization of our public schools by corporate shysters is an abomination.
On the other hand, if I came to work and organized my employer’s customers to boycott my employer, I’d be deservedly fired. He was hired to do job and decided to go rogue. That’s the risk you take.
@dmsilev: Plus the Blue Demons suck!
That’s $55 million…and the people of Chicago really ought to tear that bastard Rahm limb from limb.
@NotMax: Actually, public schools ARE businesses; students ARE commodities; children ARE widgets. Increasingly so, anyway; it’s a business model that works. There’s just too goddam much money in education — teaching kids/running schools is expensive — for high-end thieves to just allow it to flow by them untouched. It took them a long time to get around to it, and to figure out ways to siphon off those funds, but now that they’ve started slurping it up, man, look out: They’re all in.
Don’t know about you, but I always viewed the school administration as the enemy. They had their goals and requirements and they did not always match up to mine. I have never viewed any school administration as having the goal that students learn and improve their knowledge. The administration is about control, not learning.
Today, in Signs You May Spend Too Much Time on Twitter: I just tried to retweet this.
I’m surprised, because it’s Rick Perlstein! Maybe he doesn’t proof when he’s upset.
Paul in KY
@Gene108: Good point, Gene.
It’s happened other places, though, without firings.
Gin & Tonic
Bad linky and problem with your closing tag, Kay.
@Gin & Tonic:
Is it fixed? It should be fixed.
I look forward to seeing Rahm Emmanuel in a prison cell across from the latest of Illinois’ incarcerated governors.
Doubt that will happen though. I think the corruption in public office now has become so completely entrenched that we are well along into Barbara Tuchman’s prediction: Every successful revolution puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed.
Yes, there are. They mesh well with the type of East Coast Republicans who are vaguely socially liberal and a bit embarrassed by their loudmouth inbred cousins (not enough to stop being Republican, but, you know, it’s still embarrassing).
I imagine those two do a lot of commiserating in their Georgetown houses and Manhattan penthouses about all these unruly plebes in their respective parties.
@Gene108: Haven’t there always been “limousine liberals”?
CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett needs to do some prison time.
You and I must have been in the same school system.
It’s crappy AND totally untrue. That arena is NOT “being built FOR” De Paul. That TIF money is NOT going to De Paul. That TIF money is going to an entire planned development project consisting of a 10K ~ 12K seat arena which De Paul has agreed to pay (upfront) $100 million dollars to rent for a minimum of 10 men’s basketball games, some women’s b-ball games and graduations (as well as any playoffs and tournaments they can get to host) over the course of 10 years.
That development will create a tourist magnet restaurant / bar “bridge” between the convention center and the new “Motor Row” entertainment district containing The Blues Hall of Fame, Chess Records, VeeJay Records (the Beatle’s first label) etc. Some members of Cheap Trick have already started building a venue there, and the area is warehouse to condo conversions and loft crazy.
This will mean a residential and tourist friendly shopping and entertainment zone extending from the lakefront all the way west to Chinatown. A distance of more than one mile.
I wish all these Rahm haters would stop lying about the terms of the De Paul LEASE arrangement (it is NOT being FOR them, they are going to RENT it) and all the firebagging just because they want to score points against Rahm for whatever reason they can manufacture.
Never happen. This is her third city. They’re reforming Cleveland right now, after she reformed it. She still owns her house in Ohio. We may be reaching the time where we reform reform, and get a new batch of reformers. I’ll let you know.
@j: Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.
I don’t know, but I was not always as irked by the Rahm’s of the Democratic Party as I have become. For whatever reason, there vision for America and what needs to be done are divergent.
There may have been a time, when making sure capital did well because the prosperity was shared might have been true, but right now what’s good for capital means nothing for the rest of us.
And Rahm and others just do not get this.
@j: facts, schmacts. We on the left are part of the perceived reality based community.
Gin & Tonic
@Kay: Sort of. The link you have goes to an article about Seattle. That blockquote about Providence comes from out of nowhere. I thought you had another link to the source of that, but it went away in the edit.
@dmsilev: The RENTED arena will be located 2 miles south of De Paul’s downtown Loop campus, and only 5 miles south of their main campus in Lincoln Park. In other words, 2 ‘L’ stops from the downtown campus, or a 15 minute ‘L’ ride from Lincoln Park, with no transfers involved. Currently, to get from the main campus out to the suburbs where they now play is a 16 5 – 20 mile trip and you must have a car, or else take at lest 2 “L” trains and at least one other bus line. Plan on a 2 hour trip each way to get to or from a game there.
@j: I’ll take your word for it. I’m not from Chicago and know virtually nothing about the city, although I have been there once or twice.
So how did this story get out and get legs? Is it because people hate Rahm? It’s easy to believe it because education gets the short end of the stick most of the time.
@raven: Which facts? My real ones, or Perlestein’s lying by omission ones.
@j: Seems like the connection between the arena and the schools issue may be hype. Your comments regarding the arena don’t address the school issues. Do you know if the stuff Perlstein says about the layoffs, Supes and Byrd-Bennett is accurate?
@Violet: Yes, it was conflated with the closings of schools and the (still ongoing at the time) teachers’ strike. This arena expansion to McCormick Place has been in the works for over 2 decades, but now the area is becoming repopulated and the housing crash is almost over.. Plus, DePaul stinks now, and even changed conferences, so they need a stadium as big as Allstate Arena anymore. The Ray Meyer era is long gone, and rich suburbanites just aren’t tooling into the lots in their BMWs these days.
I appreciate how you stay vigilant on this topic since I’m not able to keep up with the goings-on each day. As a proud O-bot who knows that any objective analysis shows that in totality President Obama is the most liberal President in many generations, which I’m very happy about, I do wish he wasn’t such a cheerleader for charter schools and that he’d force Arne Duncan out of there. He has done some stuff to strengthen public schools in general which has helped swing the pendulum back, but this topic is one that I have had a difficult time finding Obama Administration actions to promote. There’s still time, and I think better things will happen if we deliver a Democratic House and Senate in the 2014 midterms. We all know what to do.
@j: Hell, Joey is long gone.
@j: so they don’t need a stadium as big as Allstate Arena anymore.
OT – I took my puppy to work yesterday.
@Botsplainer: Ah hah, what a knucklehead! I’ll be he is a blast.
@Botsplainer: This is our friends pup. He’s just a year and clocks in about 120. He’s so goofy and so sweet! I think they is kin.
The idea of for-profit education leaves me so infuriated I can hardly type.
My first job out of grad school was at a business college that was theoretically non-profit, but it ran an “overage” of over a million dollars every year. The college president got a bonus based on how big that number was. Every book in the library, every dollar paid to a teacher came out of his pocket. It was a deeply corrupt system, even though most of the teachers I knew did the best they could. It’s immoral.
Damn, that’s a big guy.
Somebody was telling me yesterday about a friend with an Akita that he thought was approaching 200 pounds. Apparently, just about everything is a challenge because of the size.
Hoo boy, here goes…
The schools closings are due to the housing projects being torn down, so these school buildings, some of which were built to hold 1,000 students, are almost empty (250 – 300 pupils). There are neighborhoods where the only standing structure for blocks around is the school.
Here is an interactive map showing the schools and neighborhood population loss of school aged kids, and a list of which schools were closed, where the kids will be transferred to and how crowded (or not) the schools currently are:
For instance, at random I copied this stat from this school:
Ana Roque de Duprey Elementary School Closing De Diego will receive students 28% (92/330)
(That means that it currently held 28% of its capacity, seeing as how it was built to hold 330 kids but has an enrollment of 92.
As for the Teachers Unions gripes about class size, that is something that Karen Lewis negotiated, and she got what she wanted. The maximum class size is in the contract, which she drew up and called a strike in order to force, and her members ratified it.
The TIF money CAN NOT be used for any other purpose other than local neighborhood improvements. It isn’t tossed into a big ol’ pot and anybody with a tin cup in hand can just reach in and grab a hunk.. Schools are paid for (mostly) by property taxes; so it makes sense that increasing the businesses and residences in that area will add to the property tax base, which the schools get most of.
Perlestein’s contention that the RENTED (by De Paul, for 10 years @ 10 million smackers per) will take that property off the tax rolls is specious at best. The development also consists of a hotel and bars and restaurants, which due to being in the McCormick Place (McPier) TIF district WILL pay benefits. It won’t hurt the average citizen at all, unless they plan on taking a taxi to, staying in a hotel room near the convention center, (and in that case I’d like to know why, and so would your spouse).
The head of the schoolo board? The last one was a disaster and didn’t last a year. She replaced him with her “privatize! privatize! privatize!”
I don’t trust her, and Karen Lewis may even run against Rahm next time. She may not win, but she will certainly weaken him.
Sorry for being long winded, but I hope I answered your questions.
@Botsplainer: Especially if it goes after someone/thing. Those dogs were bred to hunt and they are badass.
@j: Great job!
Agreed. I’ve had kids in public schools for a long time now. I’m on my fourth through this system, so I’ve seen it change first-hand. I’ve been watching “reform” for a decade now, under both Bush and Obama, and all I’ve seen is more standardized testing and more trashing of public schools. My 4th grader has a measurably worse public school experience than his older brother, although he doesn’t know it, of course, because his entire experience has been under the version of “reform” we’ve adopted and practiced for a decade now. This is an ordinary middle class public school district. If this is my experience, and it is, I know I’m not alone.
They should talk to someone else. Get another opinion. Taking your entire policy direction from Bill Gates and the rest of the backers of this thing is a bad idea.
Since we are talking about schools, and school reform, this might be a place to leave this piece.
Why the standards and accountability movement is finding more and more resistance.
It’s so good to see Tony Bennett, leading light of school ‘reform’, exposed.
@Kay: My kids are in a fairly urban public school and it’s been getting better in recent years, but of course we’re in a very blue state and the funding has been increasing for our school. They’ve been shifting more funding to disadvantaged schools in attempts to balance out the inequities that have existed for decades compared to suburban schools, so surprise surprise, more funding and attention, and better results without any charter nonsense involved.
Seems to me President Obama made a choice to prioritize some other major issues before education, and trusting his team, which he unfortunately left in the hands of Arne Duncan, to make progress in the meantime. I really hope he gets more personally involved in education issues, since like so many other issues, he’ll move things in a better direction, and getting off the charter school sauce will be necessary for that to happen, and probably replacing Duncan. All we can do is keep pushing and working locally…step by step.
The most infuriating part about the whole school reform movement is that it’s built on the lie that all our schools are in trouble. Most of our schools are doing fine, and they’d be doing even better if they got adequate funding and protection from misguided “reformers”. Yes, there a minority of schools that are in real trouble, but that’s mostly because they’re in desperately poor areas where the big problems are coming from the overall environment rather than anything the schools are doing wrong. So we’re tearing down our whole educational system, ostensibly to deal with problems in a small minority of schools that aren’t a result of the schools themselves.
This is such a great post and the photo is perfect! My granddaughter goes to a public high school in Philly and it has been such a roller coaster for her and her parents for several years. The SRC has failed the all of Philly schools and should be torn asunder. I guess this will be a job for the next Democratic governor as all others, including Ed Rendell have failed miserably.
That said she has had a wonderful education due to the principals, teachers, aides, other support staff and parents and kids at each of her public schools.
He promised them rehabbed public schools (the receiving schools) and new programming. He also promised them he wouldn’t convert their public schools into charters. I’m not talking about the teachers. I’m talking about the people who wanted to keep their local schools, and fought for a year to keep them. I’ll see if he follows through. So far, all they’ve gotten are further losses. Not looking good so far on the promises, but we’ll see.
It’s a weird form of slander, what they’ve done with lying about the NEAP scores. I mean, really. How disgusting is it to continue to insist that poor kids are doing worse in school when the opposite is true, that they’ve been steadily improving for 20 years? Kevin Drum is the only Lefty who has written about this lie, and even he got it wrong on high school graduation rates (but he’s honest enough to correct, which he did when he looked into it further). Why is Kevin Drum the only person writing about this, as far as high profile Lefties?
They’re basically lying about poor kids to push this “reform” agenda. We’re all just going to ignore that?
Same as with voter fraud. Tell people something’s a problem until they believe it and then butt in.
“Posit: people think a bank might be financially shaky.”
“Consequence: people start withdrawing their money.”
“Result: pretty soon it IS financially shaky.”
The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion
Ummm, dude’s out. Apparently our malicious reports have taken down another rising star of the school reform movement. Aren’t you all ashamed of yourselves?
y’all think Chicago is bad, you need to look at what’s happening in Philadelphia.