TOPIC: Dept. of Education

Safety first, second, and third in Chicago

I wrote a piece a month ago that looked at how the city of Chicago’s focus on violent crime comes at the expense of other worthy issues. Here’s an example: Rebecca Vevea of the Chicago News Cooperative reports that Chicago Public Schools will continue to spend millions on “Safe Passage,” a program that helps students arrive and depart from school safely.

Obviously, there are worse uses of taxpayer money. But Safe Passage was a program launched by federal stimulus funds and those funds have run out. Does CPS really need to keep this additional safety program — for which $10 million has been set aside — when it faces a $612 million deficit?

Study doesn’t vouch for vouchers

School voucher programs — which assign taxpayer money for students to attend area schools of their choice, including some private schools — have “no clear academic benefit for their users.” This is according to a Center on Education Policy report that looked at 27 studies of voucher programs since 2000. Erin Richards writes up the study for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as Milwaukee was one of the first cities to implement vouchers. (more…)

More bad news for East St. Louis schools

A federal prosecutor will investigate the misuse of public funds in the East St. Louis, Illinois school district — one of the poorest and most mismanaged school districts in the country, reports Nicholas J.C. Pistor. The investigation comes three months after the East St. Louis District ceded control of its operations to the Illinois Board of Education.



Reforming the reforming in Chicago’s public schools

The U.S. Education Dept. will give the Chicago Public Schools $50 million that CPS will use to “turnaround” or “transform” eight troubled schools, reports Rebecca Vevea of the Chicago News Coop. A turnaround — one of the signature policies of Ed Sec. Arne Duncan — means replacing staff at schools that are judged to be failing. Vevea reports that these eight schools will probably undergo the less dramatic transformation, where the curriculum changes but teachers and administrators remain largely intact. (more…)

Panic City

In Chicago and across the U.S., crime is down.  Why don’t people want to admit it?

According to all available statistics, violent crime has significantly dropped in Chicago and across the country over the last 20 years.

FBI statistics say there were 931 homicides in the city of Chicago in 1993. By 2000, there were just 628 murders – and by 2010 that number was down to 435. In fact, the murder rate in Chicago last year was the lowest it has been since 1965.

This is a national trend. (more…)

The “grassroots rich” tackle education reform

Groups like Stand for Children and Teach Plus use money from Bill Gates and other extremely wealthy, influential sources to shape education policy at the state level — particularly “reform” laws that change the way teachers are hired and fired. These groups have made education reform a front-burner issue in Illinois and other states. (more…)

Illinois gears up for third race for ed grants

Illinois is one nine states eligible to compete for a third round of “Race to the Top” grants provided by the U.S. Education Department, reports Lisa Lambert of Reuters. Race to the Top was originally part of the stimulus bill but the 2011 federal budget called for a $200 million pool of money that will be distributed to winning state grant applicants.

Race to the Top is a signature program of the Obama administration as it has effectively provided incentives for states to adopt the education reform agenda of Education Sec. Arne Duncan. Duncan’s home state of Illinois is a model example of this: the state legislature recently passed a sweeping education reform bill that enables school districts to judge teachers on performance evaluations instead of seniority, and encourages charter schools.

In the race to the top, we are all reformers now

Arne Duncan

The Wisconsin state legislature is considering a bill to use teacher evaluations as a vehicle to fire teachers, reports Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The bill was considered four days after after the Illinois General Assembly passed a measure 112-1 that would allow school districts to dismiss tenured teachers who receive an “unsatisfactory” performance evaluation rating. Republicans control the Wisconsin state legislature, and Democrats run Illinois. Yet both states find appeal in teacher performance evaluations, a central tenet in Education Sec. Arne Duncan’s reform policies. (more…)

Wisconsin and the perilous funding of early childhood ed

State government funding for prekindergarten education programs are down across the country, according to a study by the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University. But Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports they are up in Wisconsin. Given the evidence available about early childhood education, this is a good step — and one that may be rewarded by Education Sec. Arne Duncan.

As it did with health care, Wisconsin expanded investments in education under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and a Democratic controlled legislature. (more…)

Emanuel: Hey, Arne Duncan was also sued and look what became of him!

Incoming Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel named Jean-Claude Brizard head of the Chicago Public Schools, even though there is a federal discrimination lawsuit filed against Brizard. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found probable cause Brizard fired a female deputy at Rochester Public Schools for her age, sex, and race. The Chicago Sun-Times Fran Spielman reports that Rahm Emanuel defends the lawsuit because Arne Duncan, the former head of CPS and current U.S. Education Secretary, also was sued by a former employee.

However, that case did not involve age, sex or race, meaning, it was not, in fact, a federal discrimination case. The federal discrimination suit further indicates Brizard’s poor track record as head of Rochester public schools. He takes over a Chicago school system with an $820 million deficit.