|President Barack Obama left, talks with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel right, after arriving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011|
The Windy City is is undergoing a tumultuous historical moment, with the uprising of the Chicago Teachers Union
occurring alongside the ongoing restructuring and privatization of the Chicago Public Schools system.
“Statewide enrollment in charter schools has surged from 6,152 students in 2000 to 54,054 this school year — with most of them in Chicago — according to the Illinois State Board of Education,” an April Chicago Tribune editorial explained
. “The first charter school in Illinois opened in 1996. Now there are 132 campuses operating under 58 charters.”
A thus-far underreported story of the retooling of CPS concerns a foundation close the epicenter of it all: the Joyce Foundation.
A look at major organizations dedicated to restructuring U.S. education turns up a slew of current and former upper-level Joyce staff and board members.
Between 1995 and 2012, the Joyce Foundation spent $135.58 million on education reform.
“They’re really in bed now with conservative elements nationwide,” said Mike Klonsky
, a Chicago public schools activist and professor at DePaul University, in an interview with Mint Press News. “Anything that has to do with corporate-style school reform, you’ll probably see Joyce’s name in it.”
A Mint Press News investigation reveals the veracity of Klonsky’s statement — and then some.
In the sphere of school privatization, Joyce mirrors Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation, a key foundation of the Republican Party referred to by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as the “Bradley Empire
” in a November 2011 investigation.
“Such a view carries significant implications for a society theoretically dedicated to public, democratic ideals,” Saltman explains in the book’s introduction. “This is no small matter in terms of how the public and civil roles of public schooling have become nearly overtaken by the … perspective [of] public schooling as principally a matter of producing workers and consumers for the economy and for global economic competition.”
With assets of over $900 million
, Joyce has helped in applying “shock doctrine”-type “venture philanthropy” to CPS, with tight-knit ties to the highest levels of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.
Nuts and bolts: Mayoral takeover as launching pad for reform
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — derided as “Mayor 1 Percent
” by some activists and “One-Term Mayor
” by others — formerly served as White House chief of staff under Obama.
Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, is the former CEO of CPS. Duncan’s federal policy agenda — notably the Race to the Top program — is Emanuel’s agenda in Chicago.
Photo of a September 2012 protest against school closings and budget cuts in Chicago, Ill. (Photo/Shutter Stutter via Flickr)
”I think the reason for the crisis in American education is that no one was accountable,” Duncan, then CEO of CPS, said in a 2002 article
published in The New York Times. ”Mayors could throw rocks and criticize, but they couldn’t really do anything about it. If you have a mayor who says he’s in charge of the schools, he’s the one on the line, and he has to get results or he’ll be voted out.”
Mayoral control, though described by Duncan in terms of “accountability” because of the ability to quantify things like standardized test scores, is key for advocates of reconfiguring K-12 education systems.
“This is when the role of power philanthropy really began to play its role,” said Klonsky. “They were very much worried about this democratic movement. It was too broad, too difficult to control and there were too many radicals involved in it. Thus, they were afraid of how it would play out politically.”
Put most concisely, the mayoral takeover in Chicago served as a launching pad for the modern school reform movement in the Windy City.
The Chicago Public Education Fund and its Obama-run precursor
“[A] group of corporate and civic leaders in the Chicago area believed they could help their home city do a better job educating its students, so they put their minds, financial assets, and talents together, and the result was The Chicago Public Education Fund,” the right-wing organization Philanthropy Roundtable
wrote. “The Fund’s strategy is to serve as a catalyst and investment partner … to invest dollars and ideas into high-impact programs that will improve student achievement and school leadership system-wide.”
“Joyce… was one of the first foundations to commit significant dollars to The Fund,” Janet Knupp, former CEO of CPEF said in an interview with Philanthropy Roundtable
. “They played a critical role in helping us forge relationships with larger foundations across the nation. They saw the value of our work on a local level but had enough of a national reach to start connecting us.”
The fund’s connections to power centers are illustrative:
– CEO Heather Anichini
once worked in the CPS Office of Planning and Development under Duncan, leveraging that gig to become vice president of Teach for America.
– Jesse Rothstein
, former chief economist at Obama’s Labor Department, sits on the fund’s External Advisory Council.
– Alice Phillips, who lobbied on the fund’s behalf in 2006
, formerly worked alongside Loretta Durbin
— wife of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — as a lobbyist for Government Affairs Specialists Inc.
– Elizabeth Swanson
, now the deputy chief of staff for education to Emanuel, formerly served as executive director of the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, which is overseen by Pritzker’s family. Earlier, Swanson led the CPS Office of Management and Budget under Duncan.
Arne Duncan: ‘Tapping into’ CPS restructuring with teacher incentive fund
As CEO of CPS, Duncan “tapped into” President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy. He subsequently rebranded it as “Race to the Top” when
he took over the U.S. Department of Education.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors 81st winter meeting in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, “was launched in 1999 as a comprehensive school reform that restructures and revitalizes the teaching profession by providing teachers with powerful opportunities for career advancement, ongoing professional development, a fair evaluation system and performance-based compensation,” the program’s website
“When teachers are given powerful opportunities for career advancement, ongoing professional growth and recognition for outstanding achievement, we see increased student achievement in TAP schools,” Lowell Milken said in a December 2008 press release
. “Chicago TAP schools are off to a strong start in continuing efforts to achieve these goals.”
Milken, unmentioned in most accounts, has a vested financial interest in school reform efforts and “fixing failing schools.”
“If it were a school district, K12 Inc. would rank among the 30 largest of the nation’s 1,500 districts. The company, which began in two states a decade ago, now teaches about 95,000 students in virtual schools in 29 states and the District of Columbia,” The Washington Post reported in a November 2011 investigation.
Duncan now oversees the federal Teacher Incentive Fund
, which “supports efforts to develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools,” according to its website. It’s the funding arm for Race to the Top and served the same function for “No Child Left Behind.”
Yet another player is Deane Mariotti. According to her biographical sketch
, she “led [the] joint effort with the Chicago Public Schools to secure the … Teacher Incentive Fund” while working as manager of program investments for the Chicago Public Education Fund in 2007.
Revolving doors, interlocking directorates: Joyce’s K-12 restructuring machine
The executive director of Joyce, Ellen Alberding, serves as a case in point of how intricately the web is wound.
Advance Illinois took $1.37 million from Joyce from 2010-2012, according to Joyce’s annual reports. Its policy director, Benjamin Boer, worked as an interim project manager for Obama for America
during the 2008 election cycle.
“Over the course of nearly a year, Education First, together with … the Joyce Foundation … researched effective practices and staffed a steering committee and launch team of prominent Illinois leaders,” the Education First website says
. “Education First also prepared the organization’s first major report, a case-making analysis of why Illinois education performance must improve dramatically if Illinois and its residents are to prosper.”
Rudolph, wearing her Democrats for Education Reform hat, aided in spearheading a media blitz called “Put Students First
” in fall 2012 to fend off the nascent Chicago Teachers Union strike.
Despite a campaign clearly meant to discredit teachers and unions, Rudolph told Catalyst Chicago in a June 2012 article
, “What we have been most troubled by is this notion that we are anti-teacher or anti-union. We are a Democratic organization and one of the cornerstones of the Democratic Party is unions.”
Teach for America’s ‘scabs’ and principal (CEO) development
“They’re providing the non-union teachers for the charter schools and they’re almost like a scab organization,” he said. “What you do is you close public schools and fire hundreds of teachers like we’re doing here, then you open neighborhood charter schools and bring in Teach for America 5-week wonders who work cheap and last for about two or three years. Then they’re gone and another batch comes in.”
The Chicago Public Education Fund also has lended a modest amount of money to Teach for America. Between 2000 and 2005, the fund gave just under $400,000 to the organization, tax filings reveal.
Since 2001, the Chicago Board of Education has doled out close to $6.6 million in contracts and hired 1,931 teachers from Teach for America, Board of Education contract records show. During that same period, thousands of CPS teachers got pink slips.
The rubber meets the road in the relationship between the Chicago school restructuring movement’s goal of creating CEO-type school principals and Teach for America’s Principal Leadership Pipeline
, which was launched in September 2007. The Principal Leadership Pipeline was a collaboration between CPS and Teach for America, financed by the Chicago Public Education Fund and the Pritzker Family Foundation.
“CPS will recruit high-performing Teach For America alumni to attend a school leadership program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then enter into a one-year residency under the tutelage of a principal at a Chicago elementary or high school,” a press release announcing the program’s launch explains
. “After the residency, the new principals will then take the helm of some of Chicago’s most challenged schools…Over the next five years, Teach For America could have as many as 50 school leaders in the pipeline, a group that would reach some 15,000 Chicago children a year.”
“A consensus has developed over the last few years that a principal is the most important person in the school building,” Pritzker said
. “Just like a [CEO], the principal sets the tone, creates the culture, manages the team and ties it all together by articulating a shared vision for what the organization ought to be. So if we get the principal right, other things can fall into place.”
Battle for the ‘right to the city’
, an education policy studies professor at University of Illinois-Chicago and author of the book “The New Political Economy of Urban Education
,” says that what’s taking place in Chicago — the heart and soul of the Democratic Party — is fundamentally a battle over the “right to the city.”
The concept, she explains in her book, was coined by French sociologist and philosopher Henri Lefebvre.
“[T]he city’s vitality is its diversity of people, ways of living, and perspectives — and thus its potential as a creative space of vibrant democratic dialogue and debate,” she wrote in the book’s conclusion. “Education is integral to a movement to reclaim the city… It is also a cry for education that develops our human potential, that prepares us to be subjects of history — to read and write the world.”
It’s a battle for the “right to the city” in Chicago, then, pitting the moneyed interests of Joyce and Friends against the Chicago Teachers Union and grassroots activists. The weeks, months and years ahead will determine who comes out on top.
Thousands of public school teachers rally for the second consecutive day outside the Chicago Board of Education district headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in Chicago. (AP/Sitthixay Ditthavong)