WBEZ | Stand for Children http://www.wbez.org/tags/stand-children Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Education group seizes opportunity in CPS closings http://www.wbez.org/news/education-group-seizes-opportunity-cps-closings-106704 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/school%20closings_130418_nm.jpg" title="A parent volunteer with Stand for Children knocks on doors. The education nonprofit has been canvassing Chicago neighborhoods amid CPS closings. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88323683&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In the parking lot of the Burger King on 69th and Halsted, a small group of parents and activists is getting a primer on school closings on a recent Saturday morning.</p><p>This isn&rsquo;t a random crowd. They&rsquo;re all with a local chapter of the national education reform group Stand For Children. It&rsquo;s the well-funded, pro-charter organization that helped push through Illinois legislation for a longer school day and teacher evaluations.</p><p>For the past few weeks, they&rsquo;ve been canvassing Chicago neighborhoods most affected by schools closings.</p><p>Trainers explain packets the volunteers will be handing out in Englewood. They include a list of open enrollment school options and a CPS magnet school application. There&rsquo;s also Stand for Children literature.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; intention to close 53 elementary schools has rattled communities. Powerful groups like the local teachers union and vocal parents lambaste the closure plan. But there are others who see restructuring as an opportunity.</p><p>Juan Jose Gonzalez is Stand for Children&rsquo;s Chicago director. He says in the past few weeks, canvassers have knocked on more than 11,000 doors.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve actually been very surprised at the feedback,&rdquo;&nbsp; Gonzalez said. &ldquo;We know sometimes those that scream the loudest get the most attention. But what we&rsquo;ve been finding on the door is a lot of people either a. know about the school action or have come to grips with it. Some people when they find out about the new opportunities coming to them at the new school whether it be a new pre-K program, or air-conditioning or some of the capital improvements, they seem to get excited about that transition.&rdquo;</p><p>It sounds a lot like Stand for Children&rsquo;s own stance: Gonzalez says school closures are destabilizing, but that Stand for Children isn&rsquo;t fighting them.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s really nothing else we can do about it. We&rsquo;re trying to be proactive and getting people to the right better quality schools,&rdquo; Gonzalez said.</p><p>Mays and Banneker are two Englewood elementary schools impacted. Both have student populations that are mostly black and low income. CPS ranks both in the lowest level of academic performance. Banneker is slated to close; Mays will take over and move to Banneker&rsquo;s building.</p><p>***</p><p>Stand for Children volunteer Ophelia Svitak knocks on doors and reads from a script. Her job is to explain the Mays and Banneker school closures and changes. It&rsquo;s a windy day. On some blocks there are more abandoned and boarded-up homes than occupied households.</p><p>The few times people do answer their doors, Svitak finds they don&rsquo;t have children at either Mays or Banneker. But Stand for Children volunteers use the opportunity to ask people to sign a postcard petition, which asks if they want quality schools for all children in Chicago. Those people are now added to the group&rsquo;s mailing list and swell their ranks on paper.</p><p>Finally, one Banneker parent answers. Kenitha Currie also has preschool-aged children. When Mays becomes Banneker, there will be a new pre-K program. Currie isn&rsquo;t sure if she&rsquo;ll keep her older kids there but she likes the change for her younger children.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s some schools out here for preschool that go all day. That&rsquo;s something that I do want because half a day for preschoolers ain&rsquo;t gonna get it,&rdquo; Currie said.</p><p>Then Svitak has her sign a Stand for Children petition.</p><p>***</p><p>A couple of days later, I stopped by Banneker Elementary to hear from other parents.</p><p>Danielle Williams is skeptical.&nbsp; She said her first grader Terrence gets straight As at Banneker and he doesn&rsquo;t want to change.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to keep my teacher,&rdquo; Terrence said.</p><p>His mother says the school knows some of the behavior problems Terrence has.</p><p>&ldquo;And they know what&rsquo;s going on with him and they&rsquo;re okay with him. Mays come in, they should still keep Banneker teachers because they&rsquo;re good teachers and the principal because they&rsquo;re good people,&rdquo; Williams said.</p><p>Right now that seems unlikely. Williams says she&rsquo;ll&nbsp; see how the summer transition goes. Then she&rsquo;ll decide if her son will stay at Banneker-turned-Mays Elementary&nbsp; come fall.</p><p><br /><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/nataliemoore">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 19:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education-group-seizes-opportunity-cps-closings-106704 Lessons of a too-talkative operative http://www.wbez.org/story/lessons-too-talkative-operative-94544 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-02/AP060621046931.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Oregon-based education reform group, whose deep pockets and skillful maneuvering made it a surprising powerhouse player in Springfield earlier this year, is regrouping after an embarrassing diatribe by its founder forced a leadership shuffle.</p><p>The Illinois chapter of Stand for Children raised more money than every other major lobbying interest in the capital last fall, but it has not raised a penny in the current election cycle and spent only $2,500&nbsp;on two candidates so far, according to the most recent campaign disclosure reports filed with the state Board of Elections.</p><p>At this time last year, the group had collected checks totaling more than $3.4 million and had shoveled $610,000 to favored candidates, making it one of the most generous—and clandestine—political action committees in Springfield. Chicago’s elite, including the Crown and Pritzker families, along with Citadel Group founder Kenneth Griffin, supported the organization, and Stand for Children was able to help negotiate a bill this spring that weakened Chicago teachers’ ability to strike and changed tenure rules across the state.</p><p>Arne Duncan, the United States secretary of education, called the bill a national model. It removes teacher seniority as the top consideration during layoffs and streamlines the dismissal process for poor-performing teachers. The law also allows Chicago Public Schools to lengthen the school year and the school day, major goals of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>But Stand for Children’s clout capsized in an Aspen, Colo., conference room in June when a video camera recorded founder Jonah Edelman describing how the group used money and prowess to insert itself into the legislative process. In doing so, Edelman, the son of prominent Washington, D.C., &nbsp;social activists, committed one of Springfield’s greatest sins: He told.</p><p>Not only did he paint an unflattering portrait of Illinois politics, he twisted facts and disparaged political leaders, according to his own apology and those who worked on the schools bill.</p><p>The video, taken as Edelman spoke at a sparsely attended panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival, was uploaded to the Internet. Edelman later apologized for his remarks, and Stand for Children went into damage-control.</p><p>“For him to come to Illinois, and not understanding the politics, to suggest these things and expose private conversations was very immature of him,” said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Democrat of Maywood and a champion of the education bill. “He showed his ethics, his morals. I knew at some point he would expose himself, and he did it right away.”</p><p>Edelman declined an interview request, saying his apology was "well documented."</p><p>Stand for Children recently hired as its Illinois executive director Mary Anderson, a&nbsp;former senior adviser to state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, which could help politically if Stand for Children hopes to regain the trust of her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan. In recent months, Anderson’s name has replaced Mr. Edelman’s on announcements from Stand for Children offices here.&nbsp; Edelman remains the head of the national organization, but Anderson has become the face of group in Illinois.</p><p>But the organization’s agenda, and its ability to navigate Capitol corridors as smoothly as before, remains to be seen. The group’s political action committee still has an impressive $3 million left over from earlier fund-raising efforts.</p><p>Stand for Children was active in a number of other states before it came to Illinois. Elsewhere, the group started working on local issues before moving to state policy. In Illinois, the reverse happened.</p><p>Since Anderson took over, the group has hired a few community organizers in Chicago to work on local education-reform issues, such as Emanuel’s push for a longer school day. Last week, the organization moved to new Chicago offices.</p><p>Lightford, vice chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said she met with Anderson recently to discuss how they could work together to implement the new education legislation. By next fall, the first group of school principals must be trained in the new teacher evaluations mandated by the law.</p><p>“I’ve been involved in state government long enough to know that getting a law passed is only the first step,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to make sure it gets implemented. It’s not as sexy, but that’s where the rubber meets the road.”</p><p>She said Edelman “made a mistake and he apologized for it, but we’re focused on the work.”</p><p>During his presentation in Aspen, Edelman described how his group caught the attention of top Democrats by raising millions of dollars&nbsp;and shifting it toward House candidates, in turn gaining him a seat at the table in closed-door negotiations over the education bill. He described how the group hired Springfield’s most well-connected lobbyists, and he suggested teachers unions were duped into giving up certain rights.</p><p>His comments offended union leaders who, along with Stand for Children’s policy director, Jessica Handy, spent weeks negotiating the bill and building trust among the often-opposing interests of those seated around the table. Edelman attended only two meetings, and he left one of them early, Lightford said. Some union leaders have told her they want to avoid further interaction with Edelman and Stand for Children, she said.</p><p>After Edelman’s comments hit the Internet, he penned a letter.</p><p>“Having watched the video, reflected on it a lot in the past couple of days, and discussed it with my wife and colleagues, that was not only presumptuous but, in this particular case, wrong and ungenerous,” he wrote.</p><p>On his current role within the Illinois chapter, Anderson said: “I’m executive director. I’m the only who makes the calls.” She said the organization will continue to raise money for the group’s political arm and support candidates who are committed to education reform.</p><p>“We are going to be engaged in races and making key endorsements,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure that all kids, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin or how much money their parents make, have a quality education by the time they graduate.”</p><p>Rebecca Vevea of the Chicago News Cooperative contributed reporting.</p></p> Fri, 02 Dec 2011 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/lessons-too-talkative-operative-94544