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Today’s must read

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014

* Back in December, the Sun-Times ran a long piece online by Timothy Meegan entitled “Selecting charters in Chicago a rigged game.” Meegan wrote about how Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NACs) were set up to allow communities to review proposals for new charter schools

[Neighborhood Advisory Councils] are being facilitated by members of Stand for Children, a pro charter school organization. The NW Side NAC is being facilitated by Juan Jose Gonzalez, Stand for Children’s Chicago Director, a fact he refused to reveal in public when asked at a NAC meeting. His wife facilitates the SW Side NAC. This is a glaring conflict of interest.

Mr. Gonzalez even offered one of our NAC members a job at Stand for Children, which is wholly inappropriate.

Everything done on the NAC was paid for by New Schools for Chicago, a venture philanthropy organization dedicated to charter proliferation. Their board includes CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, Board of Education members Deborah Quazzo and President David Vitale, and Noble investor and gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

Why? Because charter schools become investment opportunities and tax shelters for the super wealthy. Intrinsic is funded by the Walton foundation, the Broad Foundation, New Schools for Chicago [which has received six-figure funding from the Rauner Family Foundation], and NextGen. Noble investors include Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Bruce Rauner.

New Schools for Chicago spared no expense. They catered all meals, paid for materials and meeting space. They also brought in pro charter “experts” from all over the country to guide us in the process. New Schools hired an organizer named Chris Butler to canvass for the community meetings. On December 7 I asked Mr. Butler how many people were canvassing and for how long, and what specifically they were doing, i.e. passing out flyers, door knocking, etc.

* More on how the process was “fixed”

The process was rigged from the start. The NW side [Neighborhood Advisory Council] examined two high school proposals for the Belmont-Cragin area, Intrinsic and Noble. Intrinsic currently does not have location in mind for its proposed charter; Noble wants to locate its charter across the street from Prosser Career Academy.

Immediately upon joining the NW Side NAC, we had to sign a confidentiality agreement. Conversations have been limited by a very narrow criteria, allowing for almost no qualitative analysis of the proposals. Many members were uncomfortable and voiced their concerns about being limited to the CPS rubric. For example, our decisions were limited to whether non- negotiables, such as Noble’s infamous disciplinary fines, were present in the proposal, not whether they were desirable for a school in our community.

Rules seem to be made up as they go along. Our NAC was overseen by CPS officials from the Office of New Schools and Intergovernmental Affairs. After the NAC decided by majority vote to hold a community meeting at Prosser and had made arrangements with Prosser’s principal, CPS’ John Scott and Emily Metz overruled our decision, claiming the need for a more “neutral” space.

Emphasis added. Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


13 Comments
  1. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    Just like with the prison privatization movement, for-profit charter schools have been shown to facilitate political pay-for-play while not improving outcomes for public services or taxpayer savings any more than the old model.

    The best public education model is still the neighborhood/community-based model, but lazy and corrupt politicians have given up trying to improve/fix broken neighborhoods/communities with investments in neighborhood/community schools and education and instead sold off their schools to the highest bidder making the neighborhoods/communities left behind even more broken than before.


  2. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    Not sure where he gets the investor thing (assuming that means there is a financial upside for the investors). There are Nobel charters that are also named after the guy who started Lands End as well as a Nobel Charter named after the Bulls


  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    There are lucrative federal tax credits for financing new charter schools. That’s one reason why the hedgies and private equity guys are hot for them.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/albany-charter-cash-big-banks-making-bundle-new-construction-schools-bear-cost-article-1.448008


  4. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    Stop the presses. Clout rules in Chicago.

    So what else is new?


  5. - Louis G Atsaves - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    I usually stay away from public school board issues and other related matters that go bump in the night, but this one raises as few questions. I agree with the author’s complaint of a lack of transparency. But the author is a CPS teacher. The CPS makes up all the rules and seems to promote the lack of transparency. That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.

    Tax rules that promote donations to improve the lives of kids in an educational setting are now evil and cynically used by cynical billionaires as a tax shelter?

    With skyrocketing unaffordable property taxes to support schools in this state, and the various disparities in funding school districts statewide, we should be enticing more cynical billionaires to donate to them, as public policy form of property taxpayer relief.

    Public schools good, charter schools evil vs. public schools evil, charter schools good arguments just give me a massive headache. The only solution is a couple of aspirins.


  6. - xian - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 1:25 pm:

    The New Markets Tax Credit is hardy an “tax rule that promotes donations to improve the lives of kids in an educational setting”. It’s more similar to the tax waiver for new baseball team owners.

    It gives incentives to do things that were already profitable and desirable. It’s basically a free handout.

    Some charters are better and some are worse than neighborhood schools, but it’s a bad gamble–overall, when accounting for their own selectivity (who can fill out an application), they perform worse.

    Furthermore, it’s profitable to invest in charter building bonds without the extra NMTC.

    It’s so sweet, it creates the opposite dynamic-strong incentive to lobby for and promote charters in areas where they are inferior or unnecessary to reap huge incentives out of the public coffers.

    I would remove charter construction from the NMTC, but if we keep it, there should be a provision that the credits are based on actual improvement, and they should be lessened greatly.


  7. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 1:52 pm:

    I don’t see this as a big deal; in the end we get additional well funded schools. Are we really wanting to roll back education funding? If the concern is access the. Encourage more of this in blighted areas with larger tax benefits. Better funded schools is never going to be bad to me


  8. - Rod - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    I think there are real problems in the CPS charter approval process, which is why CPS today tabled voting on a big pile of charter proposals. But that being said, and it also being said as blog readers know I don’t think highly of Mr. Rauner, his many gifts to charter schools are probably based on his belief in market mechanisms as the very best way to improve education for low income students in Chicago.

    Regardless whether the gift from Mr Rauner was to Payton, a traditional selective non-charter school, or to Noble Street charter school the tax issues are fundamentally the same. Mr. Rauner believes that charters offer choice to low income students and he has repeatedly stated that choice can set these poor students on the path to success. He currently has one charter school named after himself see http://raunercollegeprep.noblenetwork.org/

    I have seen no evidence that Mr. Rauner has any investments in the private for profit education sector, if he does and someone out there knows of it please post the information.

    I don’t agree with Mr. Rauner’s position on charter schools and competition being a major issue for improving the education of poor children in Chicago. But I don’t see his primary motivation being making a buck on charters either.


  9. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 3:02 pm:

    “hedgies and private equity guys”

    I saw a documentary on charter schools in New York or some other eastern city. It showed poor kids being helped by charter schools. I was just about to grab the kleenex to dab away a tear when the show mentioned the “greedy” teachers union and that it’s destroying education.


  10. - Downstater - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 3:06 pm:

    Charter schools seem to be a great alternative the many failed public schools in urban areas. If charter schools don’t make a difference, then why do people get on a waiting list to get in.
    Any competition to the public education sector has to be good for everyone.


  11. - Rod - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 4:25 pm:

    Downstater CPS has no audited wait lists for charter schools all the data is being self reported by charter schools in Chicago. I am not saying it falsified, but families apply to many different schools simultaneously here in Chicago there are hundreds of CPS schools and charter schools. So one family may appear of several wait lists, the data is highly unreliable.


  12. - Percival - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 6:06 pm:

    I think people here are being a bit too erudite in saying charter schools are great and that makes it all fine. Even beyond the ends and means counter to those conclusions, Joe Sixpack is going to hear “some sort of proceeding fixed by people who had a huge conflict of interest, financed by Bruce Rauner.” This may not have legs, but it is hardly a trifle. Time will tell.


  13. - BobInPeoria - Wednesday, Jan 15, 14 @ 10:08 pm:

    Stand for Children gave large contributions to one of Peoria’s state reps——Jehan Gordon-Booth(Dem).
    Found it…..$100K in 2010 cycle, per Rich Miller in Illinois Times, Oct 21 2010… SfC gave $650K, mostly to Dems…

    http://illinoistimes.com/article-7903-who’s-behind-stand-for-children-.html


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