New Campaign: Towards an Elected Representative School Board

January 7, 2010

After 15 years of privatization, school closings, high stakes tests, and control of teachers,  we have a critical opportunity to challenge mayoral control of education in Chicago.  Education activists, community organizations, and the CTU are taking the moment of the local elections to launch a campaign for an Elected Representative School Board (ERSB)-"representative" of the 92% students of color and 86% low-income CPS student body. Although the campaign is just beginning, it has been percolating for years. This message describes some of the current state of public education in Chicago: the attacks, the pushback, and some public forums around the mayoral election. Stay tuned for more information on the ERSB Campaign. 

 These next few months, through the February (April?) Mayor election will be an intense period, starting this coming week. We just received this from CTU:
Red alert: there is a legislative agenda to greatly damage teaching and learning in schools throughout the state. A corporate backed organization out of Oregon, Stand for Children, invested millions of dollars into last November's election cycle and is now working with Advance Illinois to cripple teacher unions This legislation will be discussed at 1pm on Thursday (Dec. 16) and 10 am on Friday (Dec. 17) in Aurora, Illinois. They need to hear that people won't stand for it. If you can attend, testify, and/or submit testimony, please let Jackson Potter (CTU Staff Coordinator) know at
This week there are three forums for mayor candidates, two specifically about education. If you can attend and want to hook up w/ other TSJ people and raise our issues, including ERSB, email Rachel or Stephanie at

The forums are:
Dec. 14:
        New Chicago 2011 Chicago Mayoral Town Hall & Candidates Forum
        5:30PM - 8:00PM
        UIC Forum
        725 W. Roosevelt Road.
Dec. 15:
        Chicago Mayoral Forum on Education
7:00 PM
1034 N. Wells
   Walter Payton High School
Dec. 16: [Sponsored by the CTU]
        2011 Mayoral Candidates Forum
6:00 PM
International Union of Operating Engineers Hall (2260 S. Grove St.)
        [register on-line at

To stand against yet more charter schools in Chicago, join community organizations and CTU to protest new charter approvals at the next Chicago Board of Education Monthly meeting (Dec. 15, 10:30AM, 125 S. Clark St-but if you plan on speaking, be on-line no later than 6:30 AM).
More from the CTU on the legislation:

Some of the pernicious legislation they are promoting includes:

1) Preventing teachers from ever working in Illinois again if they are
labeled unsatisfactory twice in a 5 year period: We think this could
greatly embolden principals to threaten, cajole and hold hostage good,
conscionable educators who will speak out against injustice. It also
attempts to make it easier to fire "ineffective teachers." Currently the
Illinois School Code gives unsatisfactory teachers 90 days to re-mediate
-- we think this is a reasonable amount of time and streamlining opens the
door to stripping all educational workers of due process rights on the

2) Tie student performance to teacher evaluation: A new teacher evaluation
system has already been mandated by the federal legislation Race to the
Top. Chicago is required to roll it out in the Fall of 2012 in half the
schools. We need time and careful analysis to develop the best system
possible that objectively measures the quality of education a classroom
teacher delivers. This cannot be limited to test-scores, which are an
inadequate and superficial measure of learning and teaching when taken in
isolation of other factors. Value added is also problematic, many
statisticians claim that the kinks have not been worked out. How can you figure out the value added of a high school psychology teacher when there is no test that specifically measures that knowledge? Too many variables, too little
understanding of unforeseen consequences.

3) Teacher Strikes: The committee seeks to strip teachers of the right to
strike: Believe it or not the right to strike has actually reduced the
number of strikes since it was permitted. Since there is a legal process
of mediation and negotiation, prior to striking, teachers and school
districts have found ways to work out there differences. By jettisoning
these basic rights, teachers will have little choice other than to
with-hold their labor in the midst of draconian budget cuts, policies that
are antithetical to learning and teacher and attacks upon our ability to
deliver high quality instruction to our students. In addition, one of the
first teacher union strikes in Chicago was based on unsanitary drinking
water in the schools. If we are turned into captive employees it will have
a chilling effect on our ability to be good student advocates.

4) Firing people according to performance not seniority. See # 2 on
performance. If we rely upon a faulty model of measuring student growth,
then all terminations will be suspect and subject to abuse and

Let's instead promote a positive, social justice based agenda for
improving our schools. Below are some preliminary ideas. Let's build it

1) Equitable per pupil funding throughout the state.
2) Quality collaborative, professional development and mentoring of
teachers to improve instruction.
3) Lower class sizes, peer mentoring, and more teacher assistants, mental
health professionals and wrap around services for our schools
4) Better teacher recruitment and training and higher education
opportunities for students in the Chicago Public Schools and communities
of student origin.
5) A representative / elected school board in Chicago.