Sunday, March 28, 2010

More on Duncan’s VIP list in Chicago


More on Duncan’s VIP list in Chicago

It was disclosed this week that when Arne Duncan was superintendent of Chicago schools, he kept a list of people--including some prominent ones--who asked for help in getting certain children into the city’s best public schools.

The Chicago Tribune obtained documents and reported on details of nearly 40 pages of logs, showing requests from, among others, politicians and influential business people.

In a follow-up story, the Tribune reported that it had verified six instances in which the staff of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, or Daley's nephew, made admissions requests. Daley denied any role in the list.

A spokesman for Duncan said that then superintendent did not do anything to help these people but simply passed on the requests.

There is an interesting discussion of the VIP list, as well as about Duncan’s tenure as Chicago schools chief here on the Democracy Now! website.

The guests on the show are: Azam Ahmed, the Tribune reporter who broke the story; Pauline Lipman, professor of education and policy studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago and director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the university; and Jitu Brown, community and educational organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. He teaches at St. Leonard Adult High School for the formerly incarcerated.

The guests discuss Duncan’s efforts to improve Chicago’s schools by pushing charter schools and private turnaround experts. This approach is what we now see in Duncan’s and President Obama’s blueprint for rewriting No Child Left Behind.

Lipman says that Ahmed’s story points to a larger problem with Chicago’s public schools, including those set up under the program called Renaissance 2010, which called for the creation of new schools, most of them charter schools.

"The larger scandal is that Chicago has basically a two-tiered education system, with a handful of these selective enrollment magnet schools, or boutique schools, that have been set up under Renaissance 2010 in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods, and then many disinvested neighborhood schools.

So parents across the city are scrambling to try to get their kids into a few of these schools. So instead of creating quality schools in every neighborhood, what CPS has done is created this two-tier system and actually is closing down, as you said, neighborhood schools under Renaissance 2010 and replacing them with charter schools and a privatized education system, firing or laying off, I should say, certified teachers, dismantling locally elected school councils, and creating a market of public education in Chicago, turning schools over to private turnaround operators. And this is, in the bigger, bigger scandal, this is now the national agenda under the Obama administration for education."

You can listen to the conversation and/or read the transcript here.

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