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The Weekend Desk Report

"Kirstin Roberts was on Craigslist recently when she saw a posting that caught her eye: 'Leftover furniture from the 49 public schools closed in 2013,'" Linda Lutton reports for WBEZ.

Go read/listen.

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Reminder: "Chicagoans have never gotten a clear accounting of where everything from the closed schools went."

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From that link, a 2016 BGA article by Sarah Karp:

"For more than six months, the Better Government Association pressed Chicago Public Schools to detail the location of the materials, presumably worth many millions of dollars.

"Only recently did CPS acknowledge that it simply doesn't know where much of the classroom equipment is - blaming the school system's disgraced former CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, for poor record keeping."

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Also from Karp's story:

"The school closings were supposed to save $43 million annually in operating expenses, and hundreds of millions of dollars more in future capital costs. But CPS has never fully itemized that projected savings, so the totals are questionable, especially with the lack of accounting of equipment that had been in those 50 schools.

"Former ComEd CEO and Chairman Frank Clark chaired a mayoral commission that in 2013 concluded CPS had the capacity to close as many as 80 schools. In 2015, Emanuel appointed Clark president of the Chicago Board of Education, and more school closings could be on the horizon as early as next year.

"Clark did not respond to repeated requests for comment."

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Related 2015 article from that BGA page: Emanuel's $1 Billion Savings Claim For CPS Is Suspect.

"The BGA asked many months ago for a breakdown of the cuts used to justify the $1 billion figure, but CPS refused to provide records or answer many questions.

"However, the BGA ended up obtaining a CPS summary report of the cuts from another source, and between those records and other research, CPS made incorrect or questionable claims. For instance, the district claimed $42 million in savings from special education cuts, $17 million in savings by firing janitors and privatizing cleaning with Aramark, and $13 million in savings by 'reducing Chicago Police Department expense.'"

Since then the state has taken over administering the district's special education services "after a WBEZ investigation found the state systematically delayed and denied services to needy students."

And the janitorial privatization has turned out to be an abject failure.

As was the mayor's mass school closings in the first place.

And those police savings? A shell game.

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By the way, this happened last night:

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And, of course, there's the sexual abuse scandal that towers over everything:

A Tribune analysis indicates that hundreds of students were harmed.

Drawing on police data, public and confidential records, and interviews with teens and young adults who spoke out, a Tribune investigation broke through the silence and secrecy surrounding these cases and found that:

When students summoned the courage to disclose abuse, teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state's mandated reporter law.

Even in cases where school employees acted swiftly, they subjected young victims to repeated interrogations, inflicting more psychological pain and defying basic principles intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation.

Ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. And CPS failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment.

Whether the sexual attacks were brutal rapes, frightening verbal come-ons or "creepy," groping touches, the students often felt betrayed by school officials and wounded for years.

There are good things going on at plenty of Chicago schools, those well-resourced and those desperately piecing it together bound by the passion of teachers and the will of the students.

But overall, CPS is a massive system fail. Overall, CPS has harmed too many children - while enriching too many adults. (And by that, I don't mean union teachers; I mean, mostly, contractors and administrators.)

In a city different than this one, a mayor, given control of the school system expressly to provide accountability, could not survive such a record. In a city different than this one:

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FYI regarding that tweet:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel has quietly agreed to build a new school and a school addition to ease severe overcrowding on the Southwest Side but the good-news announcement was cloaked in secrecy," the Sun-Times reported in May 2016.

The decision to build a 16-classroom annex at Byrne Elementary, 5329 S. Oak Park, and a new school at 65th and Nottingham to replace Dore Elementary, 6108 S. Natoma, was unveiled at invitation-only meetings at the respective schools last Saturday.

Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd), whose ward includes the two overcrowded schools, was among the VIPs in attendance.

Zalewski said the mayor gave no details about the cost of the school and school addition or the where the money would come from at a time when the nearly bankrupt Chicago Public School system is bracing for devastating classroom cuts . . .

Zalewski said the news that Southwest Side residents will welcome was made at a "very quiet announcement" at the two schools.

"There was NO press there . . . No concrete information. No $ amounts given," he wrote.

The mayor's office had no immediate comment on the expansion plans or source of funding.

Byrne was overcrowded, by all accounts, and needed relief. But so do a lot of schools. The process by which Byrne won a golden ticket is known only to the mayor. Which brings us back to Sarah Karp, now at WBEZ, who reported this on Monday:

Hundreds of Chicago public schools collectively need more than $3 billion in repairs - including leaky roofs, unreliable boilers, and decaying windows that are made worse year after year as critical needs are deferred.

And yet, school staff, parents, and students have no way of knowing when - or if - their buildings will ever get attention from the cash-starved school district.

At the same time, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who oversees the school district, is actually spending money on facilities. But relatively little of it goes to building upkeep and repair. About 60 percent of the $3.4 billion budgeted for Chicago Public Schools facilities since his election in 2011 has gone for new building, for additions, to improve technology, or to renovate schools to bring in new programs, according to CPS data.

Most of the $3.4 billion comes from issuing bond - debt that CPS will be using taxpayer money to pay off for decades.

Advocates have long pushed for more transparency in how these decisions are made. They say it is frustrating when Emanuel announces a new project out of the blue when so many basic repair needs go unmet, especially when it crops up during re-election season.

The mayor didn't want attention drawn to Byrne in 2016, but for some reason wants it now!

And that, my friends, is the problem.

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I favored bringing CPS under the auspices of the mayor's office. But it's clear that such a structure needs to be paired in some way with an elected school board. Otherwise, the system is at the whim of a single person, unfettered. (We should also be able to count on the city council to provide robust oversight, but that seems so far beyond reality it hasn't really crossed anyone's imagination.)

Sadly, in the psycho-ecosystem of Chicago politics, the same person who controls CPS is the same (and only) person who would have to decide to give up such power. Parents, if referendums are any measure, overwhelmingly want an elected school board. Both houses of the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed an elected school board bill. And yet, remarkably, that bill has not been sent to the governor for signing. Because one person - the one currently in charge of CPS and its board - doesn't want to cede control. If he did, things could get messy. He wouldn't always get his way. He wouldn't always get to manipulate the doings at CPS for his own political benefit. Fewer photo ops, more democracy.

Then again, we can hardly get elected aldermen around here.

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Meanwhile:

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New on the Beachwood . . .

The Week In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Meg Myers, JoJo, Francis and the Lights, Chance The Rapper, Exegesis, Panic Priest, Trashcan Sinatras, Chon, Eric Nam, Ralph Foreign, The Monkees, Lewis Capaldi, GBH, Steve Miller Band, ZZ Top, John Fogerty, Anity Baker, Emily Tate, Geoff Tate, Bishop Briggs, Diana Ross, Cheap Trick, and Poison.

megmyers1.jpg

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The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #205: Did The Cubs Keep The Right Guys?
Not sayin', just sayin'! Plus: International House of Soccer; The White Sox Are Still Playing - And Not Totally Badly; And With The 7th Pick, The Bulls Select . . . ; and Schweinsteiger!

BRPodcastLogo.jpg

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Weekend ChicagoGram

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Weekend ChicagoTube

Mission Impossible Challenge, SafeHouse Chicago.

I don't feel so well. I'm also kind of disgusted.

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Weekend BeachBook

Sarah Huckabee Sanders On Family Separation At The Border.

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Weekend TweetWood
A sampling.

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Note: The IG report basically concluded that James Comey screwed Hillary Clinton.

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Includes $5,000 from a person in Los Angeles named Sean Penn. Assignment Desk, activate!

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The Weekend Desk Tronc Line: Do you remember?



Permalink

Posted on June 16, 2018


MUSIC - Spring Awakening Wake-Up Call!
TV - Exclusive! Rahm's New TV Gig.
POLITICS - The Political Odds UPDATED.
SPORTS - NHL: CTE Not Our Fault.

BOOKS - Stan Lee, Flawed Hero.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: I Am Iron Man.


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