WBEZ | Mayor Rahm Emanuel http://www.wbez.org/tags/mayor-rahm-emanuel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: The effect of homicide clearances on community http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-23/morning-shift-effect-homicide-clearances-community-111749 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mikecogh.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/mikecogh" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197296364&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Gov. Rauner&rsquo;s rhetoric raises questions on immigration</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">We discuss Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s stance on immigration in Illinois. Lawrence Benito, the CEO/Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights weighs in.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/llbenito">Lawrence Benito</a>&nbsp;is&nbsp;the CEO/Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197296361&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Filmmakers and public meet to discuss future of indie films on PBS</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Last November, New York public television station WNET announced they&rsquo;d be moving the program&#39;s Independent Lens and POV to their less-watched sister station on Long Island. Indie filmmakers and members of the public soon began voicing their concern that the diversity of both the stories and the filmmakers featured on these programs, and the important content they contained, were being pushed aside by both WNET and PBS. In response, execs from the station and the network, along with producers from both shows, created a national listening tour to allay fears and talk about the future of independent film on PBS. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pbs-listening-tour-chicago-registration-15979967513">final meeting</a> is Monday in Chicago. Kartemquin Films is playing a big role in the meeting, and Gordon Quinn joins us to talk about what he wants to say, and what he wants to hear.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="http://www.kartemquin.com/about/history">Gordon Quinn</a> is the Founder and Artistic Director of <a href="https://twitter.com/Kartemquin">Kartemquin Films.</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197296354&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Life on Mars</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">It takes Mars almost twice as long as Earth to travel around the sun, which means the Martian year is much longer. Days on the red planet are roughly forty minutes longer than a day here. If we eventually travel there, how will humans have to adapt to cope with the Martian calendar? How will life be different on Mars? Shane Larson, astronomer at the Adler Planetarium, joins us to discuss what life would actually be like on Mars.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/sciencejedi">Shane Larson</a> is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium.</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197296351&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">The effect of homicide clearances on community</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">As Mayor Rahm Emanuel runs for reelection, he&rsquo;s pointing to a slight decline in homicides during his term. He says he&rsquo;s promising to give parents in high-crime neighborhoods a greater sense of security. But a WBEZ investigation raises questions about how much the mayor&rsquo;s willing to do to put killers behind bars. We discuss how police clearing homicide cases can impact communities and what the Chicago might be able to learn from other departments around the country with Dr. David L. Carter, a former Kansas City Police Officer and now professor in the School of Criminal Justice and Director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em>&nbsp;<a href="http://cj.msu.edu/people/carter-david/">Dr. David L. Carter</a> is a professor and Director of the Intelligence Program at <a href="https://twitter.com/michiganstateu">Michigan State University.</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197296345&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Dance -&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">The Seldoms perform &lsquo;Power Goes&rsquo;</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Body language says a lot; an erect&nbsp; posture indicates confidence while hunched shoulders may give away one&rsquo;s lack of self esteem. One man who used his body language to display his power over others was President Lyndon Johnson. He is the inspiration for the latest dance piece called &ldquo;Power Goes&rdquo; by Chicago&rsquo;s The Seldoms to explore power and its effects on us. The Seldoms Artistic Director and the writer of the show join us on the Morning Shift to talk about the broader themes behind the story.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guests:&nbsp;</strong><em>&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/carriehanson">Carrie Hanson</a> is the Artistic Director for <a href="https://twitter.com/The_Seldoms">The Seldoms.</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><a href="http://www.chicagodramatists.org/Sys/PublicProfile/8101187/958233">Stuart Flack</a> is a a playwright and wrtier of <a href="http://www2.mcachicago.org/event/the-seldoms-power-goes/">&quot;Power Goes.&quot;</a></em></p></p> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 07:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-23/morning-shift-effect-homicide-clearances-community-111749 Same diploma, different school http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/grace%20d.PNG" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="Students work on courses at an Ombudsman school, one of the district's new, half-day, for-profit alternative schools. (Courtesy of Michelle Kanar)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Updated Friday, February 20</em></div><p>One of the biggest success stories out of Chicago Public Schools in the last decade is the skyrocketing graduation rate.</p><p>Facing re-election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising to take it even higher in the next four years&mdash;from 70 percent to 85 percent.</p><p>To get there, Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett are contracting with for-profit companies to give teenagers a new way to earn their high school diploma in a fraction of the time.</p><p>In 2011, the district commissioned an outside group to do an analysis and found Chicago had 56,000 out-of-school youth. Jennifer Vidis, CPS&rsquo;s chief of alternative schools, says at the time, the district had 5,000 spots for them.</p><p>&quot;We looked at this massive gap and we needed to do something to fill it,&quot; she says.</p><p>So, in the last two years, the district conducted the largest expansion of alternative schools in Chicago&rsquo;s history.Two years ago, Chicago had 30 small alternative schools, and today, there are 50.&nbsp;</p><p>A WBEZ and <em>Catalyst Chicago</em> analysis of that expansion has found that the district is on a troubling path toward its goal to re-enroll dropouts as it turns to new, largely unproven, mostly online alternative schools to educate more students.</p><p>A WBEZ and <em>Catalyst Chicago</em> investigation also found:</p><ul><li>At many of the new schools, students are able to complete courses in a matter of weeks. A 17-year-old boy told reporters he finished the equivalent of a semester&rsquo;s worth of work in three days.</li><li>Many of the for-profit alternative schools offer half-day sessions, with students fulfilling the state requirement that they receive 300 minutes of instruction by promising to do homework.</li><li>Most of the work is done online, with only a few hours of classroom discussion each week.</li><li>Graduates are awarded diplomas from either the last school they attended or the neighborhood high school near where they live. They are also allowed to participate in sports and attend dances at traditional schools.</li><li>Budget documents, obtained through several Freedom of Information Requests, are contradictory and filled with questionable expenses. One operator budgeted more than $400,000 per 200 students for educational materials, then purchased the materials from themselves.</li></ul><p>Experts warn the well-intentioned push is lowering the bar for certain students and making a second chance more appealing than the first. CPS is also laying the groundwork for more students to receive what some contend is a lower-quality diploma.</p><p>It goes against yet another promise of the mayor: that a CPS diploma will mean something.</p><p>&quot;[Parents] will know that a degree from Clemente, South Shore, Back of the Yards, Taft, Westinghouse, Sarah Goode, Rickover means their children will have the education to succeed in college, career or life,&quot; Emanuel said in a January speech announcing his second-term education agenda.</p><p>Jack Wuest, executive director of the Alternative Schools Network and a longtime advocate for helping dropouts, shakes his head and says he is worried that these schools are the &ldquo;McDonalds&rdquo; of education. The principal of one such options school doesn&rsquo;t go quite that far, though he did compare the schools to &ldquo;instant oatmeal&rdquo; and called them &ldquo;a sign of the times.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Just because it is instant oatmeal doesn&rsquo;t necessarily make it worse,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>The schools were approved with so little public debate, few people-- experts on Chicago&rsquo;s education system to high school principals who may send students to them--do not know much about how the new schools function.</p><p>This is the first of three stories co-reported with Catalyst Chicago. Catalyst&rsquo;s <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2015/02/options-schools-raise-questions-of-quality/">initial story can be read here</a>. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>A diploma on Division Street</strong></span></p><p>Every weekday around 8 a.m., the #70 and #49 CTA buses carry hundreds of teenagers to the intersection of Division and Western on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side. &nbsp;</p><p>Clemente High School dominates two corners, a bridge over Division connects the school&rsquo;s buildings. In order to earn a diploma from this neighborhood school, CPS requires 24 credits total: 4 years of English, 3 years of math, 3 years of science, 3 years of history, 2 years of P.E., 2 years of a foreign language, a credit of career education, and 3 electives. Students also must complete 40 hours of service learning and sit for a state-mandated test.</p><p>If kids stays on track, it&rsquo;ll take four years. No more. No less.</p><p>Or, students can now walk a half block the other way on Division, and enroll at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in a non-descript building with a sign in front that still reads: <em>Coming soon, Magic Johnson Bridgescape</em>.</p><p>Ursula Ricketts, the school&#39;s program director, showed us around the storefront school this past October.</p><p>There&rsquo;s one computer lab, two classrooms, and a handful of offices in the back. It looks more like a tech startup than a high school, with hardwood floors, high ceilings and exposed brick throughout. Here, students work at their own pace on computers and can earn high school credits in a matter of weeks.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like four hours, I don&rsquo;t have to be here 8 hours, listening to teachers that don&rsquo;t even want to teach sometimes,&rdquo; says Estefany&nbsp;Herrera, a student at Magic Johnson Bridgescape. &ldquo;I like it better here. I have earned like 4 credits already.&rdquo;</p><p>A soft-spoken 19-year-old, Herrera says she dropped out of North-Grand High School after her friends turned on her and convinced others to tease her. They even tried to fight her.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to tell anybody because usually when you tell a teacher, everything gets worse,&rdquo; she says. One day she just stopped going to school. The days dragged on, and she spent her time helping to care for nieces and nephews. A year and a half went by. &ldquo;It was depressing,&rdquo; she recalls.</p><p>Herrera found her way to Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy after someone from CPS called her and encouraged her to re-enroll. She visited one of the district&rsquo;s Student Outreach and Re-enrollment centers and got back to school shortly thereafter.</p><p>Bridgescape Academy runs two sessions a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Herrera comes to the Humboldt Park campus for the morning, but she says it&rsquo;s flexible. &ldquo;Last week I didn&rsquo;t come. I just did the work at home.&rdquo;</p><p>Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy is a joint venture between NBA-star-turned-businessman Earvin &lsquo;Magic&rsquo; Johnson and EdisonLearning. They&rsquo;ve opened five of these fast-track schools in Chicago in the past two years. The three other new providers are Pathways, Ombudsman and Camelot.</p><p>Camelot is an outlier. They run full-day programs and students do little work online. They also run the district&rsquo;s Safe Schools, which are reserved for students who are transferred for disciplinary reasons, expelled or facing expulsion.</p><p>Like Bridgescape, Ombudsman and Pathways also offer two sessions of half-day programs in which students mostly work independently, either in workbooks or online, with some small group sessions.</p><p>Students move through the work in record time. Estefany&nbsp;Herrera said she&rsquo;s completed nine credits so far this year. Typically, students earn six credits in an entire traditional school year.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>A diploma from the school she left</strong></span></p><p>And when Herrera graduates in June, she&rsquo;ll not only count in the district&rsquo;s graduation rate, she&rsquo;ll count at her home school, North Grand. That&rsquo;s been happening since the 2007-2008 school year, when CPS started including alternative schools in the graduation rate.</p><p>But here&rsquo;s what makes the new for-profit schools different: Herrera&rsquo;s diploma will say North Grand High School. It won&rsquo;t say Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy of Humboldt Park. No one has to know she graduated from an alternative school.</p><p>Herrera had no idea. But her classmate, Kyle Johnson, did.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s way better,&rdquo; Johnson, who would have been a senior this year at Urban Prep&mdash;a high performing charter school. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s way better. Because at Urban Prep, the college acceptance rate is 100 percent, so that&rsquo;ll look good if I&rsquo;m trying to apply for college.&quot;</p><p>That&rsquo;s frustrating for Matthew Rodriguez, the principal of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School, a 40-year-old alternative school, down the street from Bridgescape.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, I mean, I feel like that&rsquo;s, what&rsquo;s the word, um, inaccurate,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Rodriguez says schools like his take a more holistic approach, with requirements such as an intensive senior project that gets students to reflect on what they&rsquo;ve learned. The school also has a number of social workers and counselors to make sure that students&rsquo; well-being is addressed.</p><p>Not far away on Division, Clemente Principal Marcey Sorenson is implementing a rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum. She, like Rodriguez, had no idea that students could earn a diploma that says Clemente, from a totally different school, until WBEZ and Catalyst told her.</p><p>&ldquo;No&hellip; I would be interested in learning more about that. I didn&rsquo;t know that,&rdquo; Sorenson responded. &quot;And that&rsquo;s not to say that their diploma doesn&rsquo;t mean anything. I don&rsquo;t want to make the assumption that because it&rsquo;s from Bridgescape, it means less. I just want to then, ensure that it means, what we think it means.&quot;</p><p>Other principals not only know about this perk, they&rsquo;re using it to help their graduation rates.</p><p>&ldquo;The way that I perceive it and why I think it&rsquo;s so important for me to know how they&rsquo;re doing at that school is that I know they&rsquo;re getting closer to graduation and that affects my graduation rate,&rdquo; said Sullivan High School Principal Chad Addams. &ldquo;They stay here, they dig in a hole, get themselves in more trouble and then drop out.&rdquo;</p><p>Addams and Sorenson say they both want to get to a point where they won&rsquo;t have any students off-track, when there&rsquo;s no need to refer students to alternative schools.</p><p>But until then, they can&rsquo;t just ignore the problem.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been around enough gang members and enough high poverty children to know that that diploma is a golden ticket,&rdquo; Addams said.</p><p>The price tag for doubling the number of for-profit, half-day, mostly online schools, like Magic Johnson Bridgescape is so far hovering around $50 million dollars.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Dropout factories to &lsquo;credit mills&rsquo;?</strong></span></p><p>Herrera walked us through a Spanish 2 lesson last Friday. The online classes, called <em>eCourses</em>, are developed and sold by <em>EdisonLearning</em>, which also operates the school.</p><p>The lesson took less than five minutes. Herrera flipped through the slides explaining the lesson on conjugating &ndash;er and &ndash;ir verbs and immediately took a five-question quiz on what she&rsquo;s just read. She gets 100 percent and moves on.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a range, but each class contains between 80 to 160 lessons. Once Herrera completes the lessons, she will take a final that includes a multiple-choice test and three short essays. Every student has to take the final exam repeatedly until earning a score of more than an 80 percent, thus ensuring that all students pass every class.</p><p>As a native speaker, Spanish is easy for her. Geometry, on the other hand, is not.</p><p>&ldquo;It took three weeks,&rdquo; Herrera said.</p><p>CPS and officials at the new schools emphasize that they do offer small-group instruction, and they all maintain that the curriculum is aligned with the state&rsquo;s Common Core standards. (The schools are accredited.)</p><p>When WBEZ and Catalyst started asking questions about the new schools, district officials&nbsp;did something strange. They stopped calling them schools and started calling them programs. They emphasized the programs are a complement to traditional schools, and are not meant to compete with them.</p><p>But several of the schools spend heavily on advertising. The selling point to students is speed and getting a diploma in record time. Pathways&rsquo; website reads: &ldquo;Graduate High School Faster, Free Programs &amp; Classes, Flexible Scheduling. Get Ahead!&rdquo; Its URL? <a href="http://www.makeupcredits.com/">www.makeupcredits.com</a>.</p><p>Sonja Santelises is head of policy for the Washington D.C.-based Education Trust and a former Chief Academic Officer for Baltimore Public Schools. She cautions that many an online curriculum is often not all it&rsquo;s cracked up to be.</p><p>&ldquo;I have been in classrooms that in the name of giving kids other options, kids are just getting electronic worksheets,&rdquo; Santelises says.</p><p>She says there&rsquo;s a reason a high school diploma is necessary today.</p><p>&ldquo;It takes work and it is not just about saying, &lsquo;Oh we have all these poor young people who aren&rsquo;t going to graduate so let&rsquo;s just get them something so they get the credit,&rsquo;&rdquo; Santelises says. &ldquo;That is not helping anyone. Because we have all these young people that graduate and come back and say I learned nothing.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The for-profit, half-day schools may be a new thing for Chicago, but other states have had similar programs for years. There&rsquo;s little research on how successful they are with students. CPS is one of the few districts to design a rating system for them, and the early results don&rsquo;t bode well for the new operators: 80 percent of the recently opened options schools had below-average ratings, compared to only 21 percent of long-standing alternative schools.</p><p>CPS&rsquo;s Vidis says the district is looking at the performance results of the new schools very carefully. Those that don&rsquo;t meet quality standards will not be allowed to expand and will be closed down.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to make sure that students who are working through the online courses are actually being challenged,&rdquo; Vidis says. &ldquo;That the courses are rigorous and that we aren&rsquo;t just running credit mills. That is not our interest.&rdquo;&#39;</p><p><em>This story was updated to reflect that Ursula Ricketts is the program director at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Humboldt Park.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581 From classroom to campaign trail: 5 teachers eye city council seats http://www.wbez.org/news/classroom-campaign-trail-5-teachers-eye-city-council-seats-111494 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_5457_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Susan Sadlowski Garza is the only counselor at Jane Addams Elementary, a school of about 850 students on the far South Side of Chicago.</p><p>But there, she says, she can only do so much. So she&rsquo;s moving beyond the walls of her school.</p><p>&ldquo;Hi! Good morning, how are you? My name is Sue Sadlowski Garza, I&rsquo;m running for alderman,&rdquo; Garza said to a potential voter, while door-knocking in the 10<sup>th</sup> Ward in early January.</p><p>Teachers are embedded in their communities and are often among the first people to see how policies made downtown play out on the ground.</p><p>&ldquo;Ward by ward and everywhere we go, people have had it,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Garza is one of five teachers running this time for Chicago&rsquo;s City Council, an unusually high number, propelled by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.</p><p>Lewis spent much of last fall building political momentum to see if she could challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but then was sidelined by a cancerous brain tumor last October. Rank-and-file teachers had started to line up behind her, challenging aldermen loyal to the mayor. Those still running include: Ed Hershey (25<sup>th</sup>), Tim Meegan (33<sup>rd</sup>), Tara Stamps (37<sup>th</sup>), and Dianne Daleiden (40<sup>th</sup>).&nbsp;</p><p>As harp-tongued as ever, Lewis <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-president-karen-lewis-speaks-111489">gave her first public address</a> on Monday at a City Club of Chicago luncheon. Afterward, Garza and Stamps stood next to Lewis as she answered questions from reporters.</p><p>&ldquo;This is not about one race or one year, one electoral cycle,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about building, changing the political landscape in Chicago because it&rsquo;s not going to change if we don&rsquo;t try.&rdquo;</p><p>All of the teachers running have gotten endorsements and cash from the CTU -- anywhere from $5,000 to $32,000.</p><p>But those campaign contributions pale in comparison to those of incumbents, who are all close allies of Emanuel: John Pope (10<sup>th</sup>), Danny Solis (25<sup>th</sup>), Emma Mitts (37<sup>th</sup>), Deb Mell (33<sup>rd</sup>), and Pat O&rsquo;Connor (40<sup>th</sup>).</p><p>The CTU also doesn&rsquo;t have a deep-pocketed Super-PAC helping get their message out. Emanuel ally and former CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll is head of Chicago Forward, a Washington-style political action committee with millions to spend on ads, mailers, and other campaign efforts that support aldermen who side with the mayor.</p><p>Aldermen like Garza&rsquo;s opponent, John Pope. City council <a href="http://pols.uic.edu/docs/default-source/chicago_politics/city_council_voting_records/city-council-report-dec2014.pdf?sfvrsn=0">records show</a> Pope has voted with Emanuel 100 percent of the time since 2011.</p><p>But Pope scoffed at the thought that he is &ldquo;a rubber stamp&rdquo;.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not a rubber stamp for anyone but the 10th warders, my neighbors, my friends, my family members,&rdquo; Pope told WBEZ.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;s proud of his record bringing jobs to the ward, improving schools, and more recently working to control pet coke pollution.</p><p>Garza said he could still do more to involve local residents; &nbsp;that sentiment of &#39;more needs to be done&#39; was echoed by the other CTU-backed candidates. They want wards to be run more from the bottom up.</p><p>&ldquo;It should be residents driving decisions,&rdquo; said Tim Meegan, a candidate for 33<sup>rd</sup> Ward alderman and a teacher at Roosevelt High School. &ldquo;It shouldn&rsquo;t be the alderman saying this is what you&rsquo;re going to get.&rdquo;</p><p>Meegan noted that idea&mdash;getting more people on the ground involved&mdash;is the same one CTU leadership came to power with in 2010.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2010, when CORE took over the Chicago Teachers Union, we switched from a top-down, service-oriented union to a bottom-up, social justice like, grassroots movement.&rdquo;</p><p>When Lewis, and a group called CORE, took over the union in 2010, they vowed to include the voices of rank-and-file teachers. They saw previous CTU leaders as too narrowly focused on wages and benefits, and not fighting back on the broader policies of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, like the expansion of charter schools.</p><p>Meegan is running for 33<sup>rd</sup> Ward alderman on the North Side against incumbent Deb Mell. &nbsp;She was appointed by Emanuel after her father, Dick Mell, stepped down. The older Mell was one of the longest serving aldermen in City Council history. &nbsp;</p><p>Deb Mell said she&rsquo;s running the office differently than her dad did, including bringing the community into decision making.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s great that people get involved in the political process,&rdquo; she said of Meegan&rsquo;s candidacy. &ldquo;The voters now have a chance to comment on the job I&rsquo;ve done in the last year and a half.&rdquo;</p><p>Mell has raised more than $75,000 to Meegan&#39;s roughly $32,000. But, Mell pointed out,&nbsp;the largest single donation made in the 33rd race so far has been $15,000 given to Meegan by the CTU.&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s a different story for Garza. Pope has raised almost triple what she holds in her campaign coffers.</p><p>Garza&rsquo;s headquarters are in an old taco shop that closed a few years ago. The soda machine still sits next to the counter with a sign that reads: No Refills. &nbsp;Above a booth in the corner hangs a faded old campaign sign.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not her&#39;s. It&rsquo;s her dad&rsquo;s.</p><p>Garza grew up just down the road, in the shadow of the old steel mills, where her dad, Ed Sadlowski, served as president of the local chapter of the United Steelworkers of America. The 10th Ward looked a lot different then.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody was working,&rdquo; Garza said. &ldquo;It was a very prosperous neighborhood. There was a restaurant and bar on every corner. And when the mills went away, things really started to change.&rdquo;</p><p>Garza said her father&#39;s fight to keep the mills open wasn&rsquo;t just about saving jobs. It was also about the health of the communities surrounding the mills. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s not all that different, Garza argues, from what the CTU is trying to do now.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 05:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/classroom-campaign-trail-5-teachers-eye-city-council-seats-111494 Morning Shift: Organized religion sees decline in participation http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-15/morning-shift-organized-religion-sees-decline-participation-111403 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DaveLawler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Loyola University&#39;s Al Gini examines declining statistics among the faithful; we unpack Mayor Emanuel&#39;s campaign promises to spend more on low-income neighborhoods; and some live Brazilian-style jazz.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-religion/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-religion.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-religion" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Organized religion sees decline in participation" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-15/morning-shift-organized-religion-sees-decline-participation-111403 Emanuel promises 85 percent graduation rate if elected to second term http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahm-file.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising an 85 percent graduation rate by 2019, if he&#39;s elected to a second term.</p><p>In an invitation-only event, Emanuel said the future of the city depends on it.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no challenge the city&rsquo;s facing, and no opportunity we can&rsquo;t seize, that doesn&rsquo;t get answered on graduation day at high schools,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Not one.&rdquo;</p><p>Last school year, CPS hit an all-time high, with 69.8 percent of students making it through high school in at least five years.</p><p>To get the dramatic increase he wants, Emanuel said high schools will re-launch a program that his administration cut in 2012. &nbsp;It&#39;s called Freshman Connection. The month-long summer program introduced rising freshman to their high school, and made sure they were academically and socially prepared.</p><p>Jesse Sharkey, acting-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the gains in graduation numbers and the focus on freshman is a result of previous administrations&rsquo; efforts, not Emanuel&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;We were paying attention to that six years ago, when I was in a classroom,&rdquo; Sharkey said. Sharkey was a history teacher at Senn High School before being elected to CTU leadership.</p><p>He also noted that graduation rates are improving all across the country because &ldquo;there aren&rsquo;t very many good options for people who don&rsquo;t stay in school.&rdquo;</p><p>Freshman Connection isn&rsquo;t the only initiative in Emanuel&rsquo;s second term education agenda that was borrowed from the past.</p><p>He said, if elected, he will allow high-performing schools a free pass from most central office mandates, including around things like curriculum, standardized tests and budget. Ironically, his schools team cut a program that did just that. Some schools were designated as Autonomous Management Performance Schools&mdash;or AMPS&mdash;and were able to set their own curriculum and opt-out of many district mandates.</p><p>The new version would label schools that are high-performing three years in a row as &ldquo;Independent Schools.&rdquo; When asked about the criteria that would determine if a school is high-performing, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she is putting together a task force to determine that.</p><p>However, Byrd-Bennett bristled at the idea that it was the same as the old AMPS designation.</p><p>If elected to a second term, Emanuel also promised to:</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Increase the graduation rate at City Colleges to 21 percent by 2018.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Make computer science a high school graduation requirement.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Expand the number of full-day pre-school classrooms from 100 to 300.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Improve the city&rsquo;s high schools by giving them specialty programs, like International Baccalaureate, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and fine arts.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Double the bandwidth in every school so every classroom has a WiFi connection.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Double the number of parent engagement centers at schools from 31 to 62 by 2017.</p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 20:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366 Alderman says police overtime is main reason he voted against mayor's budget http://www.wbez.org/news/alderman-says-police-overtime-main-reason-he-voted-against-mayors-budget-111140 <p><div>Just four out of 50 aldermen voted not to approve Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s $7.3 billion budget for next year. 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack said the main reason he voted against it was unanswered questions about the Chicago Police Department&rsquo;s portion of the pie. More specifically, the department&rsquo;s growing overtime costs&mdash;and the lack of information on the expense.<p>Waguespack said over the last couple of years, he and other members of the self-titled Progressive Caucus repeatedly have asked both the budget office and the police department for more information on police overtime. And, during budget hearings last month, Waguespack directly asked Supt. Garry McCarthy for a month-by-month breakdown of overtime costs. The superintendent and budget committee chair agreed it was a request the police department could fulfill&mdash;but it didn&rsquo;t.</p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re just gonna vote yes, even though we don&rsquo;t know about $100 million worth of budgeting and specifics on it? That is unacceptable,&rdquo; Waguespack said. &ldquo;We actually have to vote on it, which really puts us in a horrible position.&rdquo;<p>Waguespack said he didn&rsquo;t receive anything from CPD or the city budget office on the issue before he cast his vote Wednesday. Waguespack also said he and others were mocked by fellow aldermen for asking about hiring more officers in lieu of spending millions on overtime. Other members of the council echoed the superintendent&rsquo;s stance that it would cost more to employ additional officers.</p>&ldquo;I found that pretty offensive,&rdquo; Waugespack said, &ldquo;especially when the police department superintendent himself could not provide details about how his budget worked from month to month.&rdquo;<p>Waguespack believes the lack of transparency on the subject shows that the police department is &ldquo;out of control&rdquo; in the way it&rsquo;s budgeting for overtime. In 2013, CPD budgeted $32 million for overtime but wound up spending over $100 million. This year&rsquo;s projected expense is $95 - $100 million, more than $20 million over what was budgeted.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;re providing evidence to the people of the city that shows they should be allowed to continue doing this,&rdquo; Waguespack said, adding that it&rsquo;s bad policy to carry on this way.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart.PNG" style="height: 172px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div></div><p>Waguespack was part of a group that last year supported an amendment to spend $25 million to hire 500 new cops to deal with violent crimes&mdash;but the plan was blocked in committee. Fellow Progressive Caucus member Ald. John Arena (45th) voted for that amendment too.&nbsp; He pointed out the trend to overspend on overtime during budget hearings last month&mdash;and asked Supt. Garry McCarthy if [the proposed] $71 million was going to be sufficient for next year?</p><p>&ldquo;You know what, alderman, I can&rsquo;t answer that...I really can&rsquo;t,&rdquo; McCarthy said. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t answer that next year we&rsquo;re going to do that much better. We&rsquo;re trying to knock it down. We&#39;re putting systems in place to do that, and slowly but surely I anticipate we&#39;re going to bring it under control.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ pressed the police department for an explanation as to why Waguespack&rsquo;s request was not fulfilled before the budget was called for a vote. CPD spokesman Martin Maloney wrote in a statement that the CPD receives numerous information request during the budget process. And that &ldquo;if any of these responses have not yet made it to the inquiring aldermen, they will be delivered soon.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><em>Katie O&#39;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/alderman-says-police-overtime-main-reason-he-voted-against-mayors-budget-111140 Quinn signs Chicago pension bill as Emanuel backs off property tax hike http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman-(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated at 5:15 p.m.</em></p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a controversial overhaul of two Chicago pension systems into law on Monday, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed he wouldn&#39;t raise property taxes for at least a year to pay for the pension changes.</p><p>Those changes, which were pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved by state lawmakers in April, would scale back retirement benefits and requite City Hall to pump more money into the troubled pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. The municipal fund is projected to have only 37 percent of the money it will need in the future, while fund for laborers will have just over half the money it will need.</p><p>To bolster the two ailing pension funds, Emanuel had been pushing to raise Chicago property taxes by $50 million a year, netting the city $750 million dollars in new revenue over a five-year phase-in period. Emanuel backed off that plan after Quinn signed the bill on Monday.</p><p>In a statement released after Monday&#39;s bill signing, Quinn reiterated his disdain for that approach.</p><p>&quot;I strongly urge the Mayor and City Council to follow our lead and identify a comprehensive, balanced solution to Chicago&#39;s pension crisis,&quot; Quinn wrote, referring to a recent overhaul of the state&#39;s pension systems. &quot;Chicago&#39;s finances can and should be set on the track to long-term stability in a way that does not hit homeowners the hardest.&quot;</p><p>In a phone interview with WBEZ minutes after the governor&#39;s office announced he&#39;d signed the bill, Emanuel suggested the city could raise its monthly telephone tax to free up more money for pensions.</p><p>&quot;It gives us the opportunity now to take property taxes off the table for the first year,&quot; Emanuel said.</p><p>On Friday, Quinn signed a law that will allow Chicago to increase its monthly telephone tax from the current $2.50 to $3.90, which some speculated could be used to pay for pensions. The new revenue must fund the city&#39;s 911 call system, but a hike would also make more money available for the higher city pension contributions required by the new law.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re gonna find a lot of efficiences and savings,&quot; Emanuel said. &quot;We now have a year to see alternatives, and we have the breathing room now to do that, which we secured.&quot;</p><p>The mayor would not say how he&#39;d pay for higher pension costs after next year, nor did he outline any fix for the ailing pension funds for police, firefighters and Chicago teachers. But the new tack relieves him of having to convince aldermen to raise property taxes, just months before the citywide elections in February 2015. It also gets Quinn out of a political pickle.</p><p>Easing the property tax burden on Illinoisans has been a pillar of the governor&rsquo;s 2015 state budget proposal. Signing the bill would have opened up the governor to more attacks from his Republican gubernatorial challenger, Bruce Rauner, who <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/robo-calls-raise-rauner-rahm-rift/tue-04222014-613pm">has already argued</a> that Quinn would be paving the way for a tax increase with his signature.</p><p>The mayor&#39;s administration says the pension bill signed Monday would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s roughly $20 billion public pension problem, largely by cutting back benefits for current and future retirees. But it could take decades for those penison funds to become healthy again.</p><p>More than 22,000 retirees would lose their 3 percent compounding annual benefit increase. Instead, retirees would see their pension checks increase at a flat 3 percent or half the rate of inflation, whichever is less. And all but the poorest workers would receive no increase at all in 2017, 2019 and 2025.</p><p>That means, under the bill&rsquo;s provisions, a retiree with a $35,500 annual pension would see their benefit grow to nearly $40,000 by 2025, according to a WBEZ analysis. But under the current system, their pension would be about $49,000 by that time.</p><p>More than 34,000 current city workers would have to pay more into the pension systems, but get less out of it once they retire. By 2019, workers would be paying 11 percent of each paycheck toward retirement, compared to the current 8.5 percent. That contribution rate would drop to 9.75 percent once the pension funds are healthy, which could take decades.</p><p>City Hall would also pay more. The bill would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329">anachronistic funding formula</a> Chicago has used for decades to calculate its annual pension contributions, which is a primary cause of the current underfunding crisis. And if future politicians try to skimp on payments, the pension funds will be empowered to take City Hall to court, while the state could begin intercepting the city&rsquo;s share of state money.</p><p>Meanwhile, a coalition of powerful city workers&#39; unions released a statement late Monday slamming the governor&#39;s action because they believe the bill violates a part of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con13.htm">Illinois Constitution</a>&nbsp;that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>&quot;Unfortunately, some elected officials have chosen to ignore the constitution...opting instead to slash the retirement life savings of our city&#39;s public health professionals, teachers&#39; aides, librarians, cafeteria workers, and other public employees and retirees,&quot; the statement reads. &quot;The Mayor&#39;s plan is unfair and unconstitutional, and our unions intend to seek justice and will be preparing to file suit.&quot;</p><p>Gov. Quinn has talked about the Chicago pension plan in the context of a tax system that he says allows municipalities and local governments to rely too much on property tax rates to pay their bills.</p><p>&ldquo;The property tax is not based on ability to pay,&rdquo; Quinn told an audience of civic and political leaders earlier this year. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re using a 19th century property tax system to fund the most important part of the 21st century: educating our students.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November gubernatorial election, Bruce Rauner, has said he would veto the bill because of the calls for higher property taxes on Chicago residents. Rauner even went so far as to release automated phone calls, urging residents to call their state representative or senator to vote against the bill while it was being debated in Springfield.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe"><em>Alex Keefe</em></a><em> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics"><em>Twitter</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028"><em>Google+</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306 Manager of troubled Illinois anti-violence program now running similar agency http://www.wbez.org/news/manager-troubled-illinois-anti-violence-program-now-running-similar-agency-110147 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/irving and rahm.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><em>UPDATED at 5:22 p.m.</em></p><p>The head of a troubled state-managed anti-violence agency is now running a similar public-private partnership in Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.getinchicago.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEm3NK0EJtz5koyM5O9a8ZBoPwdMA">Get In Chicago</a> is a $50 million initiative designed to award grants to community groups around Chicago working to reduce violence. On Wednesday, while at a news conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Get In Chicago announced 11 winners of grants totaling $1.9 million. Get In Chicago is a public-private partnership, funded by many of the area&rsquo;s largest corporations and run by Toni Irving, who has experience managing a similar program meant to combat violence.</p><p>In 2010, Irving worked for Gov. Pat Quinn and helped develop what became known as the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. That program is now the subject of multiple investigations by Illinois lawmakers, Cook County prosecutors and federal prosecutors.</p><p>An audit from February shows a long list of problems related to the management of the state money that funded the program. The audit found the state did not adequately monitor how the cash was being spent, and the money wasn&rsquo;t going to the most violent neighborhoods. Illinois Republicans have criticized the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as a slush fund designed to support groups that could&rsquo;ve helped Gov. Pat Quinn win election during his heated 2010 campaign. Quinn has been dogged by reporters&rsquo; questions about the program in recent weeks, and says he ended the program after he saw some problems with it. That came after legislators raised questions about the program. Quinn initially designated nearly $45 million for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative through a fund he controls. The program&rsquo;s total initial budget was $55 million.</p><p>Last year, a press release announcing Irving as the new head of Get In Chicago touts Irving&rsquo;s involvement with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as a reason why she&rsquo;s qualified to lead Get In Chicago. She also served on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame, conducting research on crime, race and social policy.</p><p>Irving wouldn&rsquo;t comment for this story Wednesday.</p><p>Thomas Wilson, the chairman of Northbrook-based Allstate Corporation, which is funding the anti-violence program, defends Irving. Wilson said there are many checks and balances in place to make sure the money from Get In Chicago is being well-spent.</p><p>&ldquo;This is really a state of the art process in terms of awarding money to help at-risk youth and Toni designed that process, she&rsquo;s run that process,&rdquo; Wilson said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m completely confident that will work well. And we&rsquo;re a large donor, so I should be focused on it.&rdquo;</p><p>Wilson said the money is going toward mentoring young people, engaging parents and therapy. He said the grant recipients have been thoroughly vetted and will have to commit to certain progress markers evaluated by the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Crime Lab.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to do measurement-based social philanthropy as opposed to just funding good activity programs,&rdquo; Wilson said.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at a separate news conference Wednesday, was asked about the timing of Get In Chicago&rsquo;s grant distribution - but not about scrutiny surrounding Irving. Emanuel said Get In Chicago is planning on raising $10 million for each of the next four years, which would go beyond his re-election campaign next year.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re doing it only one year and around the campaign season, I understand why people would get cynical,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;But given that it&rsquo;s also in the years that there is no campaign, but it&rsquo;s about safety, I would say then look at the consistency over the four year time.&rdquo;</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-a512e35e-d848-da9f-7574-9961e3258063"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </span><span style="text-decoration: underline; font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" style="text-decoration:none;">@tonyjarnold</a></span></span></p><p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; white-space: pre-wrap;">Clarification: Get In Chicago is a non-profit public-private partnership, not an agency of the City of Chicago. </span></p></p> Wed, 07 May 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/manager-troubled-illinois-anti-violence-program-now-running-similar-agency-110147 Chicago teachers become students in Illinois politics http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-become-students-illinois-politics-110082 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CTPF.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago teachers have been getting lessons in Illinois politics in recent weeks.</p><p>While state lawmakers have been away from Springfield for a short break, teachers in the city have been turning the tables. They&rsquo;ve been getting a lesson in history, civics and, separate from civics, politics.</p><p>A group of current and retired teachers sat for a three-hour tutorial on how their pension is funded, why it&#39;s now so underfunded and what they can do about it.</p><p>Lesson number one: start calling state lawmakers. After they figured out who the leaders in Springfield even are, Bukola Bello, the lobbyist in Springfield for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, told the teachers which politicians they should be calling.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an election year. Everyone gets that,&rdquo; Bello said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an election year and because you have certain pressures from the mayor, certain individuals need more education than others. Wink wink.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund is separate from the Chicago Teachers Union, although most union members get their retirement through it. And the pension fund is separate from the government, even though the public officials are the ones cutting the checks. That means the pension fund is stuck in the middle between the two sides that have been battling with each other about cutting retirement benefits.</p><p>During the training session, Bello kept reminding her students, the teachers, of this lesson in politics.</p><p>&ldquo;Legislators are our friends. Why are legislators our friends? Because ultimately we need something from them. We need their support. We need a vote. We need them to protect your pensions,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said Chicago teachers pensions are coming up on his lesson plan so the city&rsquo;s finances can be stabilized.</p><p>But Kevin Huber, who heads the pension fund, says something else should happen first. He&rsquo;s advocating for setting aside a tax levy so taxes go straight toward teacher&rsquo;s pensions and not to the board of education, which distributes the cash. He also said the Chicago Board of Education should contribute to the pension fund monthly, not annually.</p><p>Huber said he&rsquo;s training teachers how to talk to their lawmakers because they mean more to representatives than he does.<br />&ldquo;When we get the actual voters, they&rsquo;re more receptive,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Again, I can get meetings with all these people and I do, but they care about the vote.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, the governor and state lawmakers approved changes to state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits to save the government money, including suburban and downstate teachers. Unions representing those workers have sued over the plan, saying it hurts employees so much, it&rsquo;s unconstitutional. The lawsuit is still in court.</p><p>Dick Ingram, who runs the Teachers Retirement System for those teachers, said while those bills were being negotiated, he had to stay out of the back-and-forth between the unions and the lawmakers and just make sure money was still coming into the system.</p><p>&ldquo;We were gonna go broke unless there were changes made,&rdquo; Ingram said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not in the business of suggesting what those changes might be, but we can certainly help explain what the impact of proposed legislation would be.&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, Debra McGhee, who sat through the three-hour training program at the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund and is retired from Bouchet International Academy in Chicago&rsquo;s South Shore neighborhood, was ready to tell her story to her representative.</p><p>&ldquo;We worked for this. This is ours and now you&rsquo;re talking about taking it away. We contributed (to) this. We didn&rsquo;t miss a payment,&rdquo; McGhee said. &ldquo;But you guys skipped out on where you&rsquo;re supposed to be. So now we&rsquo;re worried and we have to do something to try to put this back intact.&rdquo;</p><p>McGhee said she&rsquo;s nervous she&rsquo;ll be retiring at the poverty line because of benefit cuts. Her training session came as pension funds representing Chicago teachers, firefighters and police officers wait and see whether Gov. Pat Quinn signs the pension bills sitting on his desk affecting other groups of Chicago city workers. Quinn has not said whether he will sign that legislation into law, but he&rsquo;s been critical of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel saying he&rsquo;d have to raise property taxes in the city to help pay for pensions.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-become-students-illinois-politics-110082 Chicago to add new Barack Obama College Prep High School http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-add-new-barack-obama-college-prep-high-school-110073 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2549.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago is getting another selective enrollment high school.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday the city will build the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School on the Near North Side. It will enroll 1,200 students and is slated to be ready for the first 300 freshmen in the fall of 2017. The first students who will be eligible to enroll in the school are currently fifth graders.</p><p>Emanuel made clear in announcing the school he&rsquo;s responding to heavy demand for the city&rsquo;s top high schools&mdash;where many students need near perfect scores to be admitted. Emanuel said he recognizes the angst many parents face once their kids hit upper elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;&rsquo;Where am I gonna send my child?&rsquo; It is the biggest anxious question that exists across the city of Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel said at a press conference at Skinner North Elementary, a classical school that will see part of the park behind it gobbled up for the new high school.</p><p>&ldquo;Twenty-four hundred kids every year <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-best-high-schools-who-gets-who-doesnt-97110" target="_blank">get turned away</a> who are prepared for our high schools; and we are not prepared for them. Well, we&rsquo;re gonna be prepared for them,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Obama College Prep will be built on park district land near the corner of North Halsted and West Division streets, where the towers of Cabrini Green once stood. School officials said 70 percent of students will be admitted based on grades and test scores.</p><p>This will be the city&rsquo;s eleventh selective enrollment school and one of four elite public high schools clustered in a roughly one-and-a-half mile radius. Walter Payton College Prep, ranked one of the best schools in Illinois, is less than a mile away.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Location is &quot;a slap&quot;</strong></span></p><p>The location of the new school drew immediate criticism.</p><p>Teacher Ray Salazar said he was &ldquo;shocked&rdquo; to hear the city was locating another selective school on the North Side. Salazar said it showed &ldquo;city politics again are influencing decisions that benefit white, affluent families.&rdquo; He said any new selective school should be located on the Southwest Side.</p><p>&ldquo;We do not have a selective enrollment high school in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, and it is unfair that our high-achieving students have to travel over an hour to get to the nearest high-achieving school,&quot; said Salazar, who teaches writing at Hancock High, near 56th Street and Pulaski Road.</p><p>Salazar also said the system has become so competitive, disadvantaged students have trouble getting in at all. All selective schools have lower percentages of poor students than the district as a whole. At Payton, just 31 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, compared to 85 percent citywide.</p><p>West Side activist Dwayne Truss called an Obama High near Halsted and Division &ldquo;a slap to both black families and children.&rdquo; Truss said the money planned for the school should be used &ldquo;to provide adequate funding for all of Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhood schools rather than cater to wealthy middle-class families the school is targeting.&rdquo;</p><p>Others wondered why Obama&rsquo;s name was going on a North Side school when the president lived and worked on the South Side. &ldquo;He knows about it and he&rsquo;s excited about it,&rdquo; said Emanuel. It would be the first CPS school to be named after a living person.<br /><br />Emanuel said the location for the new school was chosen because the land was available, it&rsquo;s on various transportation routes, and&mdash;perhaps most importantly&mdash;it&rsquo;s in a TIF district with $60 million available.</p><p>Thirty percent of the seats at Obama High will be set aside for students nearby.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a provision 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett said he pushed for &ldquo;because we should not spend money in a neighborhood and people from the neighborhood cannot go to the school,&rdquo; said Burnett. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s asinine. This is the TIF money that&rsquo;s supposed to go back in the neighborhood that comes from the people in the neighborhood. I did the same thing with Westinghouse. When Westinghouse was built, they used my TIF money, (and) I told them they have to have a neighborhood component.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://newwestinghouse.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=56511&amp;type=d&amp;termREC_ID=&amp;pREC_ID=81978&amp;hideMenu=1">Westinghouse College Prep </a>has selective admissions and a less competitive &ldquo;career&rdquo; track, but admission to that program still requires minimum test scores and an extensive student essay. No students are automatically admitted to the school by virtue of their address.</p><p>Emanuel has come under fire for miraculously coming up with money for big-ticket capital projects at vaunted North Side schools with well-connected parents&mdash; current additions are underway at <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20131111/lincoln-park/overcrowded-lincoln-elementary-get-three-story-19-classroom-annex" target="_blank">Lincoln</a>, Coonley and <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/22644102-418/payton-college-prep-to-get-17-million-annex-room-for-up-to-400-more-kids.html" target="_blank">Payton</a>&mdash;while students on the Southwest and Northwest Sides <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651">hold class in trailers and stairwells due to overcrowding</a>.</p><p>A new Near North Side high school was <a href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Policies_and_guidelines/Documents/CPSEducationalFacilitiesMasterPlan.pdf">not called for in the Facilities Master Plan</a> the district adopted less than a year ago; that plan actually predicts a drop in the population of 15-to-19-year-olds living in the area. And the district admits it has an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834" target="_blank">oversupply of high school seats</a>.</p><p>Asked how another North Side selective school fits into what many view as a two-tiered educational system, Emanuel said he rejects that view. But analyses show that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/greater-segregation-regions-black-latino-students-100452">racial segregation in the system is increasing</a>, with the middle class disproportionately concentrated in CPS&#39;s magnet and gifted schools, and many charter and neighborhood schools enrolling disproportionate numbers of low-income and minority kids.</p><p>Emanuel said strong schools exist in minority communities and pointed to his efforts to strengthen neighborhood high schools with new International Baccalaureate and STEM programs.</p><p>Lakeview parent Patricia O&rsquo;Keefe, who has three grammar-school-aged children in three different selective schools, praised the decision to expand the number of selective high school seats.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s heartbreaking to see kids turned down who are completely qualified. So from my lens, it is a fantastic thing,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Keefe said.</p><p>And O&rsquo;Keefe believes it may help parents buy into the system rather than fleeing to the suburbs or private schools.</p><p>&ldquo;If you get more confidence in the city about high school, I think you reach a tipping point where everything will start to get better.... Something like this will not only help the selective enrollment, but it helps the whole momentum of high schools in general.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-add-new-barack-obama-college-prep-high-school-110073