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The [Monday] Papers

"You might think, based on a rare, overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Illinois House on Thursday, that creating an elected Chicago Board of Education is a terrific idea. After all, what else would get a landslide 110-4 vote in the usually fractious House?" the Tribune opines today.

"But this proposal is fingernails-on-chalkboard terrible."

Why? Because the bill that passed the House - and has no chance to pass the Senate given president John Cullerton's alliance with Rahm Emanuel - would create a 21-member board. And that's just too much democracy for the Tribune.

Granted, a 21-member board sounds . . . large. But the more the Tribune inveighs against it, the more I like it. To wit:

That's 21 newbies who would wrestle over the helm of a near-bankrupt school district.

Chances are the "newbies" would come to the board with every bit of knowledge - if not more - about education as the appointed boards we've experienced, filled with mayoral hacks and opportunists.

And that's just as many new political fiefdoms for the Chicago Teachers Union to attempt to control with its robust war chest.

Not as robust a war chest as the mayor's of course, but the Trib is trying to scare you. Also, one giant fiefdom emanating from the 5th floor of City Hall hasn't exactly served the city well.

Does Chicago need a school board that is three times the current size? No. That sounds like a bloated governmental body that would be just as ineffective as another that we can think of . . . the one with 50 aldermen.

And yet, the Tribune keeps endorsing mayors who install rubber stamp city councils - and endorses most of the rubber stamps as well.

Yes, we recall that in last year's mayoral elections, voters in 37 wards said through advisory referendums that they wanted the school board to be elected.

But we don't care what the people want!

We understand the anger and frustration over the current board and its predecessors. Their oversight - or lack of it - drove the system to its current position, on the brink of insolvency. The school board over the years has had some of the brightest and most politically involved people in Chicago serve on it. But it has become clear that the who's who haven't always known what's what.

The most glaring example is the board approval of more than $23 million in no-bid contracts that led to a guilty plea by former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on a charge of wire fraud. That was a huge amount of money, going to a company that had business ties to Byrd-Bennett. Yet the board members didn't ask questions about the contract, and there wasn't a single vote against it.

How is this helping your case, Tribune? The brightest and most politically involved (is this really what we want?) people who have served on the board utterly failed to flag a $20 million no-bid contract and you're worried about newbies?

We suspect that an elected board, sensitive to voters' (teachers', parents') ire, would be less willing to cut expenses, close schools or reduce payroll than an appointed one.

Mayors who appoint board members (and the superintendent) and direct their agenda, on the other hand, don't think about elections at all!

It's also inherent in the Tribune's thinking that cutting payroll and closing schools is the right thing to do (but not where they send their kids), instead of funding the school system equitably.

An elected board could be stacked with CTU-friendly candidates whose instincts would be to spend and borrow - if that's even possible with the system's junk credit rating - to maintain the status quo.

So the Tribune is worried that an elected school board stacked with CTU-friendly members would be tempted to behave just as badly as our mayorally appointed school boards? Don't change the system, we'll only get the status quo!

The bill's chief sponsor, state Rep. Robert Martwick Jr., D-Chicago, tells us he is mindful of the CTU's clout in possibly controlling board seats. He says smaller districts - to be drawn by the legislature - will encourage grass-roots organizing, "limit the influence of outside money" and guarantee minority representation.

Well, that makes sense. At this point, the Tribune goes silent.

Gov. Bruce Rauner supports an elected seven-member school board but only as part of a GOP-introduced bill that would allow the state to take over CPS if it is deemed to be failing financially. That bill would also forbid board candidates from taking donations from teachers unions or district contractors. The just-passed House bill doesn't go that far.

Is the Tribune suggesting it should? How would a seven-member board be superior to a 21-member board? The Trib doesn't say. How would forbidding teachers unions from contributing to school board candidates be constitutional? The Trib doesn't say.

The vote, however, did give Democrats and Republicans a chance to express their outrage at CPS' fiscal mismanagement just before the March 15 primary . . . and a chance to throw a sharp political elbow at Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

How does that help Chicago Public Schools students and their parents, facing the abyss of a financial debacle and a threatened teachers strike? It doesn't.

Perhaps not immediately, but the vote does give the idea attention and momentum. And if it ever comes to pass, maybe an elected school board would be both more financially strict ($500,000 to a consultant to consider locations for a $30 million selective high school named after the president?) and more amenable to the CTU at the same time. No more credit interest swaps by geniuses like David Vitale and better-resourced classrooms for teachers and students alike. Why is the Tribune so opposed to that?

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Lovie's Back
Our very own Jim "Coach" Coffman weighs in.

GAO To Probe Fed's Lax Oversight Of Wall Street
It's about time someone did.

Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! On The Environment Beat
Hedgehogs and litter.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Ringo Deathstarr, UFO, E6, Helloween, The Söur Brothers, Jake Garratt, Le Butcherettes, Dale Watson, Sinead O'Connor, Accept, Logic, Dr. Unk, Mr. Constant, The Mizzerables, Less Than Jake, Vinyl Theatre, STS9, Gilberto Santa Rosa, The High Kings, Anders Osborn, and Raised On Zenith.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: We can be heroes.



Permalink

Posted on March 7, 2016


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Vizio Settles Spying Complaints.
POLITICS - WikiLeaks Reveals Staggering Breadth Of CIA Hacking.
SPORTS - Fantasy Fix Draft Guide Pt. 3: The Professor!

BOOKS - Bannon, The Best And The Brightest.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: Ray Rayner & Friends.


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