Bob has been named a “Defender of Public Education” by teachers and is steadfast in his belief that strong neighborhood schools form the backbone of our community. As mayor, much like on City Council, Bob will advocate for our kids so that they can get the best education possible.
Elected School Board
Chicago is the only municipality in Illinois that doesn’t elect its school board. Our current model of a Mayoral-appointed board is not responsive to the needs of the majority of public school parents. It favors those with clout or financial interest and gives them undue influence. Chicagoans should have a real say in the direction of our schools, which is why Bob will go to Springfield and fight to pass an elected representative school board for Chicago. He has been a consistent and vocal leader on an elected school board on the City Council, introducing numerous resolutions over the years, and has advanced legislation in the City Council to make an elected school board a reality. He will continue this fight as mayor.
Bob knows that great neighborhood schools are the backbone of our communities. The current administration has cut hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of essential positions from our neighborhood schools, making many of them the school of last resort. To make our public schools the first choice for parents, Bob will end wasteful spending on excessive standardized tests and unneeded central office departments and prioritize these funds to restore needed resources to the schools that have suffered. Key investments will include school nurses, clinicians, librarians, and vocational educators in as many schools as possible, to provide necessary wraparound services to our children.
Ending Toxic Swaps
From 2003 – 2007, CPS issued $1 billion worth of auction-rate securities paired with interest rate swaps. No other district in the country relies so heavily on these toxic swaps. According to reports, the district could pay an estimated $100 million more than it would have had it issued traditional fixed rate debt. Meanwhile, bankers on Wall Street profit at the expense of our children.
Bank of America officials pushed CPS into some of these deals, even though they knew the auction rate securities market was headed for a meltdown. This violates the federal “fair dealing” rule, which prohibits financial institutions from omitting or misrepresenting facts about these bonds. Bob will first file an arbitration claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for violating this rule. If necessary, Bob will sue the banks under state law for breaching their contract.
A proposal exists to build another selective enrollment high school in a Near North park, within a few blocks of an already existing selective enrollment high school, Walter Payton. This proposal ignored the lack of selective enrollment CPS high schools on the South and West Sides, where new selective enrollment high schools are a must. It would take park land in a CHA redevelopment area that needs additional parks and open space. An expansion of Payton has just been approved, with no special access for neighborhood students. Bob insisted that CPS include a neighborhood preference boundary for students at Jones, another selective enrollment high school. The approach used at Jones should be a model for every selective enrollment high school in CPS, to help students to attend schools closer to their neighborhoods.
Safety and Security
CPS needs to reevaluate the safety plans for each school, and implement area wide safety task forceslike the one organized by Bob and other aldermen along the 35th Street/Martin Luther King corridor. These task forces require the coordination of school administrators, CPS safety staff, police officers and the CTA. There have also been smaller task forces coordinated between CHA, CPS and area institutions like the one started around the ABLA and Brooks Homes. This coordination is crucial, and should include parents and Safe Passage workers, so that events can be addressed immediately.
Every child needs a strong start, and Bob will lead the charge to expand universal pre-K in Chicago Public School buildings that have space available. This must be a priority so that working families can have access to high quality programs staffed with certified educators. To facilitate this and eliminate expensive bureaucracy, Bob will explore merging sections of Chicagos Department of Children and Family Services under the CPS umbrella. This transition will also help expand the community schools model and make our neighborhood anchors a viable hub of youth education, family development, adult education, and essential health services.
Moratorium on Charters and Closings
After the unprecedented Chicago Public Schools closings in the south and west sides and disingenuous rapid expansion of privately-held charter schools, we should reevaluate CPS’ new school priorities. Well-resourced public schools have to be accessible to all of Chicago’s children and must be a way to give opportunity to all. Bob will extend the moratorium on school closings indefinitely until a long-term CPS facilities plan is designed with parent and community input. Bob also believes that an indefinite moratorium on further charter school expansion is also in order until a long term facilities plan is enacted, as well as to determine the long term sustainability of this school reform policy. Too many of our charter schools are subject to state and federal investigation for unethical business practices. We need to ensure that all of them are operating ethically before any decision is made on them.
After the unprecedented Chicago Public Schools closings, the overwhelming majority of which affected children of color, we should reevaluate CPS’ priorities. Public schools have to be accessible to all of Chicago’s children and must be a way to give opportunity to all. With the help and input of business leaders and employers, Bob will overhaul the vocational program at CPS with the help of input from the business community to determine what will adequately prepare students for the future. Bob will coordinate with leaders in industries to maximize opportunities for internships and other clear pathways to jobs, and work to update and modernize current facilities and curricula.