Education Reform

Chicago: Public Schools Broke, But Board Will Open New Charters

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This is exactly why Chicago needs an elected school board.

Earlier last summer, Jesse Ruiz was also briefly the interim Chicago Schools CEO (not Superintendent… schools are a business in Chi-town) after the then-CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had to resign after prosecutors announced an investigation of her conflict-of-interests in spearheading a multi-million-dollar contract to a principals’ training organization that she had ties to… but that’s another story.

Anyway, back to Jesse Ruiz.

Years ago, Ruiz was also appointed to the Illinois’ State Board of Ed, where he served for several years. At Ruiz’ aforementioned appearance at a City Club of Chicago forum, Jesse started talking about how hundreds of school districts in Illinois had elected boards, and while serving on the Illinois State Board, he got along well with the members of those elected boards throughout Illinois—Ruiz calls them his “colleagues”.

However, then-CPS Vice-President Ruiz nevertheless argues that Chicago must not have an elected school board, and made the following justification:
(here’s the video.. go to about
06:59 – 07:35)

(06:59 – 07:35)
JESSE RUIZ, Chicago Board of Ed.: “But for our city, I honestly do believe that it would be best left as it is, as an appointed school board, because it (CPS) is an incredibly complicated and diverse district. There are very difficult decisions to be made, and sometimes they’re not very popular decisions, and I would have to—I WOULD HATE to have to worry about my next election when making a vote.

“I NEVER worry about that. I’ve NEVER HAD TO worry about that, or worry about WHO, WHO… uhhh… who I am pleasing, or who I am un-pleasing with my vote. All I worry about is what’s best for the students in the city of Chicago.

“And so therefore, that’s the system that I prefer.”
—————————

I don’t know about you, but Jesse’s really “un-pleasing” me with his justification for the 20-years-and-counting cancellation of popular democracy in the governance of Chicago’s public schools, and where the corporate reformers and profiteers that bankrolled Rahm Emanuel’s election now drive the policy… and not Chicago’s citizens.

How about you? Are you as “un-pleased” with Board Member Ruiz’s comments as I?

You can extrapolate this Chicago scenario to other situations… say… that of Hitler after he passed the 1933 “Enabling Act” that dissolved the Weimar Republic and its democracy in early 1930’s Germany. I can just see Adolph sitting around with Goering and Goebbels shooting the breeze.

——————
HITLER: “But for the Reich, I honestly do believe that it would be best left as it is, subject to my dictates as Fuehrer. There are very difficult decisions to be made, and sometimes they’re not very popular decisions, and I would have to—I WOULD HATE to have to worry about my next election when making a decision.

“I NEVER worry about that. I’ve NEVER HAD TO worry about that, or worry about WHO, WHO… uhhh… who I am pleasing, or who I am un-pleasing (!!!) with my vote. All I worry about is what’s best for the citizens of the Third Reich.

“And so that’s the system that I prefer.”
——————

Yeah, I BET you do, Adolph.

You could write the same parody for Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, or whatever undemocratic dictator you choose.

But seriously, isn’t that how democracy is supposed to work?

When some policy implementation in the works is found to be unpopular and “un-pleasing” with the citizen-taxpayers, might that not lead to its cancellation? No matter how much Board Member Ruiz—or any elected official, or any official’s backer—is desirous of such implementation, that fear of being removed from office in an upcoming election is a necessary check-and-balance that motivates the office holder in a democracy to change or cancel the implementation. Is it not?

Indeed, that fear of the electorate is supposed to rein in Ruiz and his fellow Board members from doing something that the voters—his ultimate “bosses” in a democracy—do not want to happen. The will of the people will usually prevail in this scenario… theoretically, at least.

This was particularly relevant when Ruiz and his un-elected Board closed 50 traditional public schools—with them replaced by privately-run charters—despite overwhelming polling saying that the tax-paying citizens of Chicago would be very “un-pleased” by this. (I know, I’m beating the “un-pleased” joke to death… that was the last one.)

At the very least, these schools being closed had elected Local Schoolsite Councils (LSC’s) made up of parents and community members, with albeit minimal decision-making power. The privately-managed charters that are currently in the process of replacing them, however, have no such LSC’s, and thus, the parents have ZERO input. Parents are barred from the meetings of that board, which are held in secret, and chaired by businessmen who have ZERO experience as teachers and/or administrators.

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