Illinois Update 6-2-18: Education, Chicago-style

  • The mother-of-all-scandals at CPS revealed in a Tribune special report

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel is being forced to answer for yet another Chicago Public Schools (CPS) scandal: sexual abuse of students in schools, reported on in detail yesterday by the Chicago Tribune. Reports by students of abuse were concealed by administrators and those in charge of investigating complaints for years. This is a massive failure of oversight, with a hat-tip to weaknesses in Illinois law (which, for example, makes it legal for a teacher or staff member to have sex with a student if that student is 18 years old). Everybody seems to be complicit, even if by default, in covering it up, including the Illinois State Board of Education, which can take years to revoke a teacher’s license following dismissal (thus making it possible for those who have been fired to move to other states and continue teaching – it took six years to revoke the license of one teacher whose case the Tribune investigated, by which time he’d already taught in two schools in Florida). And the state of Illinois does not require ISBE to collect data on such cases. Nor does the district itself keep reliable, in-depth statistics on reports of sexual abuse of students. And sometimes, background checks on candidates for teaching/coaching positions went unheeded (a volunteer coach at Simeon Career Academy had a disqualifying criminal record, but was allowed to coach anyway; he raped a student he coached dozens of times).

  • Statement in response to the Tribune’s reporting from Illinois Raise Your Hand

“We at RYH were horrified, saddened and infuriated when we learned of the Chicago Tribune report that came out today about rampant cases of sexual abuse and assault of students at CPS over the past decade. … We have attended almost every Board of Education meeting for eight years, and we know of the CPS culture of not addressing systemic issues. But we had no idea that this was one such issue, and we are heartbroken.”

“Parents often get a notice in their backpack if a child has lice at a school, but CPS has no policy in place to notify parents even after a CPS employee has been arrested for sexual abuse or assault at a school. One parent commented that she learned of five instances at her school from the Trib report but never heard a whisper of it at her school. Lack of notification is unacceptable, and the district should be ashamed for sweeping all these hundreds of incidents under the rug and not creating policies that put our children’s safety first.”  

Raise Your Hand (RYH) is one of the most active and engaged – and vocal – public school advocacy groups in Illinois, if not the nation.  Its members had no idea this was going on.

  • Statement from Troy LaRaviere, former CPS principal and mayoral candidate

This is pretty much the substance: “The district failed to exercise adequate oversight, failed to track abuse, failed to look into underlying facts in the cases of potential employees with minor criminal records, and failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment. The CPS Law Department hid investigation results and even attempted to discredit a young victim whose family sued the district.”

CPS is chronically underfunded and understaffed: “Under Emanuel, CPS has become the most understaffed school district in Illinois. While the average 600-student Illinois school has almost 60 staff members, the same size school in Chicago has less than 40. When a district hires just four people for every six that it needs, a lot is going to fall through the cracks: class size, curriculum, security, teacher training, equipment, counseling, social work services, and resources for special education students to name a few.”

LaRaviere makes a good point, though: without proper staffing, even very sound and strict reporting – investigating – revoking of licenses policies won’t do much in the long run. The Mayor can be as apologetic as he likes (though showing empathy is not his strong suit), but when it comes down to it, if you don’t have the people on the ground to implement policies, they won’t be implemented. It’s really that simple.

And students will pay the price, again.

  • And then there’s this…

Also from May: a study conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research shows that test scores fell – yes, fell – and students, their families, and teachers suffered emotional harm in the wake of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s closure of 50 schools in 2013.

Interviews were conducted with students/staff from the schools which closed, and with the school where the students were “welcomed”; on average, each welcoming school received 150 new students. Welcoming school staff felt unprepared for the task, and the buildings where they worked were dirty as the school year began.

Leaving one school and entering another abruptly had a negative impact on math scores, an impact which continued for four years following closure.

Michael Klonsky quotes Greg Hinz (Crain’s): “Between 2010 and 2016, the city of Chicago gained more households in a key category—total income of more than $100,000 with the head of household under age 45—than any city in the country except for far larger New York, according to newly analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data.” [emphasis added]

But Cook County (the U.S.’s 2nd-largest) still lost 20,093 residents in 2017 (<1%), and this loss is nearly all attributable to outmigration of black Chicagoans from the city’s south side: “…there’s been a decline of nearly 300,000 black people from the Chicago area in the past three to four decades along with the disappearance of well-paying union jobs, school closings and disinvestment in black communities. Gradually replacing them are mainly members of high-end households, those with incomes of at least $200,000. That group grew even faster in Chicago than the over $100K/under 45 group, rising 65% to just over 75,000, according to the ACS data.”

Klonsky: “The fact that it is being done by plan, rather than by accident has been pointed out by many other urban sociologists and politicians. It’s implications for politics and for public education in the city are astounding.”

Our biggest cities are now the living spaces, workplaces, and play spots of the top 10%.

In late April, Sun-Times reporter Lauren FitzPatrick published an expose on CPS related to contracts issued by the Chicago School Board (which is under the direct and total control of the Mayor) for cleaning and maintenance of its schools.

Yesterday CPS Facilities chief Leslie Fowler resigned.

Here’s the background: “The blitz inspections, conducted jointly by Aramark and CPS, checked school cleanliness in the wake of a pest infestation at Mollison Elementary School in Bronzeville in November. Of 125 schools inspected from December to February, 91 got failing marks, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported, and the revelations of dirty conditions of the schools left Mayor Rahm Emanuel ‘beyond outraged.’” [emphasis added]

Note: “blitz inspections” = unannounced inspections of school buildings encompassing all areas for which the contract had been issued to Aramark – a company for which the CPS facilities inspector Leslie Fowler had previously worked for nine years – and SodexoMAGIC. The two companies, which will soon assume responsibility not only for cleaning and daily upkeep but for pest control (a serious problem) and landscaping, were contracted in 2014 as part of the Mayor’s privatization of public services initiative.

To sum up

The Mayor declared himself “beyond outraged” at the filth, rodent infestations, and lack of basic supplies like soap and toilet paper revealed in the blitz inspections and reported on by FitzPatrick.

On Friday, in the wake of the Tribune’s report on sexual abuse in the city’s schools, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said she was “sick to my stomach” upon reading the Tribune’s investigative report on sexual abuse of students (430 reports, according to CPS, were filed between 2011 and 2017; the Tribune reporters, working their way through CPD filings, found more than 500 in the past decade) in the system she leads.

The Tribune’s multi-part investigation will be published in the paper’s print edition beginning tomorrow.

It’s hard to imagine how the Mayor will choose to run for a third term in the wake of yet another CPS scandal like this one.



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