Emanuel Removed From Ballot, Candidates’ Education Plans


The Illinois Appellate Court threw Chicago’s mayoral election into chaos Monday when it said that Rahm Emanuel, until recently President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, did not meet the requirement for residency in Chicago and therefore could not run in the February contest. Emanuel has vowed to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Emanuel was ahead of his rivals in terms of fund-raising and in some polls of the race, so his departure from the field would make the campaign difficult to predict.

Today’s development makes the plans of Emanuel’s rivals suddenly more important. Last month, several mayoral candidates – excluding Emanuel – outlined their plans for the Chicago Public Schools system during the Forum on Education at Walter Payton College Prep High School.

Chicago Mayoral candidate Miguel De Valle, talking about more recess time for kids as part of his education plans for the city, if elected mayor. Looking on are his rivals, Gery Chico and Carol Moseley Braun, during the Mayoral Forum on Education at Walter Payton High School on December 15, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Johns

The candidates talked about their plans for having longer school days for students, and how they would address students’ concerns. In addition, the candidates talked about the student performance gaps in many of the Chicago public schools, and they discussed having more evaluations done to weed out incompetent teachers from the public school system. They also discussed how teachers unions and the school board could better work together.

During the event moderated by Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association and hosted by the Raise Your Hand Coalition, Northside Democracy for America and the Illinois Policy Institute, a few students from Payton questioned the candidates about how they would address students’ concerns, including bullying, discretionary admissions, selective enrollment in magnet schools, and how they would make CPS environmentally conscious.

Gery Chico

Attorney Gery Chico, a former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, proposes to institute day-long kindergarten in all elementary schools as well as have longer school days from 6 to 8 hours, and even a longer school year, from 176 days to 200 days, if elected mayor.

“The reason for that is, all of the research shows that more time spent teaching, means more time children learning. And I think that is a very fundamental way to go about things,” he said.

To pay for that to happen, Chico, a graduate of Kelly High School, said, “We have to cut the central bureaucracy by a third.”

Chico also called for making prenatal, infant and early childhood programs available to all families by “expanding CPS tuition-based programs and developing innovative partnerships with nonprofits and private companies.”

He proposes to dismantle and restructure the central office bureaucracy by reducing staff by one-third, establishing parent academies and building more charter schools, magnet schools and prep schools as well as instituting a voucher initiative “to save students at chronically failing schools.”

Chico also pledged, “Every high school student would receive a laptop immediately to reduce reliance on textbooks and address the digital divide.”

All the candidates except Chico gave the City an ‘F’ failing grade for progress made on reforming the Chicago Public School system. A former chairman of the Chicago Board of Education, Chico gave CPS a ‘D.’

Carol Moseley-Braun

Former US Ambassador to New Zealand Carol Moseley-Braun, who was the first African American woman elected to the US Senate in 1992, wrote the Educational Infrastructure Act while she was in the US Congress. The Act was designed to help bring education to low-income communities, Moseley-Braun said. In addition, while a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Braun was the chief sponsor of the 1985 Urban School Improvement Act, which created parent councils at every school in Chicago.

In her opening statement, Braun said she wants every school in Chicago to be as “brilliant” as Payton, and said she would make sure that every neighborhood has a quality school and opportunity for a quality education.

“I think it starts with reforming the system that we have,” Moseley-Braun said. “To begin with, we ought to have a superintendent who is an educator who understands how children learn and understands education, not just the CEO or being counted.”

Moseley-Braun also plans to “simplify” the school system to focus on its core mission. “Right now, we have the latest in bureaucracy representing every education experiment in the last two decades. And what it’s done is confused everything and left us with a system that nobody can understand.”

Moseley-Braun said, “It is a shameful thing” that the federal government contributes less than 8 percent of the cost of elementary and secondary education in the State of Illinois. She plans to obtain more money from the federal government for public education in the city.

As far as keeping kids in school longer, Moseley-Braun said it shouldn’t be used as a panacea for raising school performance and improving test scores.

“The fact of the matter is that half the schools aren’t educating anyway,” she said. “So it’s like, why spend more time to mis-educate our children? I think it’s a good thing to talk about but I think we need to focus in on how do we raise the performance in all the schools in the neighborhoods? If every school in Chicago was like [Payton] we could talk about what else we wanted to do,” Moseley-Braun said.

Miguel Del Valle

Miguel Del Valle, the current Clerk of Chicago and the first Latino state senator in Illinois, said that as mayor he would work to improve educational opportunities for all by reducing the spending disparity between rich and poor districts, developing community learning centers for parents and students in neighborhoods of low-performing public schools, and advocating for state education funding reform to reduce public school reliance on property taxes.

Del Valle didn’t agree with the idea of increasing school time for students. He added that it was also “inhumane” for students to only have a half hour to eat, and said students need more recreational time in order to learn more effectively.

“Kids need time to play. It’s part of the learning process and when they took away recess and took away lunch hours, now kids have 20 minutes to eat. I think that is inhumane. That has to change,” he declared to a clapping audience.

“Talking about adding time to the day without talking about when needs to happen. During that time into the evening and on Saturdays is not going to translate into increased student performance,” he added.

Rahm Emanuel

Emanuel didn’t come to the forum on education, but three days prior, on Dec. 12, he introduced his education agenda to the public.

In an e-mail to Residents’ Journal, Emanuel stated, “There’s nothing wrong with the Chicago public schools that can’t be cured by what’s right with the Chicago public schools.”

Emanuel said his education plan is centered on involved parents, dedicated principals and quality teachers, and calls for “a parent-teacher contract – the first in the nation – where parents commit to their children’s education by limiting time spent on TV and reading together for a set amount of time each week.”

It includes new standards for principals, consisting of a performance contract for each school that holds principals accountable for their results, and incentives for principals to innovate by creating a city version of the federal program called Race to the Top.

Additionally, Emanuel promises to “personally help raise $30 million a year from the city’s business and philanthropic communities to challenge schools to compete for funds.”

In order to retain and reward teachers, Emanuel said, “I will push to create a new salary scale based on performance and provide bonuses for our most effective teachers if they transfer to a low-performing school. And I will double the number of slots in our urban residency program – putting more top-flight teachers in schools.”

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