WBEZ | M(apps) & Data http://www.wbez.org/tags/mapps-data Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emanuel counts surprising projects as neighborhood development http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-counts-surprising-projects-neighborhood-development-111685 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Marriott at McCormick Place.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Critics of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel contend he focuses too much on what is good for downtown and not enough on neighborhoods.</p><p>In campaign speeches the mayor vigorously rebutts that. One of his regular sounding points is the $4 billion spent on seven neighborhoods through a program called Neighborhoods Now.</p><p>The mayor reaches that $4 billion number by bundling together a hodgepodge of investments: federal dollars, city dollars, and lots of private cash spent on private ventures.</p><p>Some of the projects are exactly what one would expect from neighborhood development: a grocery store in Englewood, train line updates in Rogers Park, and a wellness center in Little Village.</p><p>But some of the projects WBEZ found in the full list might not be what an average Chicagoan expects when you hear Emanuel describe a program guided by the belief that Chicago&rsquo;s success is measured by &ldquo;whether our families can raise their children in our neighborhoods.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, the full Neighborhoods Now list counts the $44 million in private money SOHO House brought to the West Loop. Soho House is a hip membership club. It requires a headshot, application, and approval from a board to join.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A quarter of public dollars in one area</span></p><p>Not all the projects on Emanuel&rsquo;s Neighborhoods Now list are privately financed like the Soho house. Nearly a half-billion dollars, ($457,815,397 to be exact) came from the city budget.</p><p>Almost one quarter of those dollars went to an area right around the McCormick Place convention center in the South Loop. It includes two hotels and a new green line L stop. There is also a big stadium where DePaul athletes can play basketball games.</p><p>All that&rsquo;s included as Neighborhood Now, listed under the Bronzeville Neighborhood, just to the south.</p><p>Pat Dowell is the alderman there for the 3rd Ward. Her office said it expects the hotels to bring more people into the the Bronzeville neighborhood.</p><p>But Harold Lucas with the Black Metropolis Convention &amp; Tourism Council isn&rsquo;t so ready to praise the move. He&rsquo;s been a big advocate for bringing attention to Bronzeville. Does the development around McCormick Place sound like neighborhood investment to him?</p><p>&ldquo;It does not, &ldquo; Lucas said. &ldquo;And it tells us we need to be civically engaged ... In making sure that we benefit.&rdquo;</p><p>Lucas said real neighborhood development would have brought bigger investments in community-owned businesses and projects committed to preserving Bronzeville&#39;s rich African-American history.</p><p>There is a bit of a warning in what Lucas is saying. Chicagoans have to pay close attention to what is being touted as community development&mdash;maybe especially around election time.</p><p>They should scrutinize broad initiatives and big money numbers and find out, in concrete terms, what they mean block to block.</p><p>Cook County Commissioner Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia&rsquo;s office didn&rsquo;t respond to repeated requests to describe his specific plans for neighborhoods.</p><p>Emanuel has said if he is re-elected he would double Neighborhoods Now.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her</em><a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h"><em> @shannon_h</em></a></p></p> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 09:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-counts-surprising-projects-neighborhood-development-111685 Your favorite Chicago coffee shops http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2015-02-26/your-favorite-chicago-coffee-shops-111630 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/coffee.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="responsive-embed-coffeemap">Thirty years ago, most Chicagoans couldn&rsquo;t have imagined paying more than a buck for their cup of daily Joe. Oh, how the times have changed.<p>Call it the Starbucks effect. For better or worse, drinking habits have morphed and a whole gourmet coffee industry has blossomed. Illinois is home to more than 350 official Starbucks cafes and dozens of restaurants and institutions that serve the company&rsquo;s brew.</p>But competitors abound and continue to grow in our coffee-loving town. Last month, Berkeley-based Peet&rsquo;s Coffee &amp; Tea opened a flagship store in the historic Wrigley Building, less than a block away from the busiest Starbucks in the city. And the company has plans for more shops across the city.<p>Still, these national chains are by no means the hottest cup in town. Chicago has a proud and growing stable of local artisan roasters. And according to our very non-scientific survey, they top the list of favorite coffees among local public radio listeners.</p><p>WBEZ asked its Facebook followers to name their favorite cafes, and the comments came pouring in with Jackalope, Metropolis, Dark Matter, Cafe Jumping Bean and Wormhole topping the list. Below you can find the 11 Chicago cafes they like the most as well as an interactive map listing all the cafes our followers recommended. So if you&rsquo;re looking for someone to gab with about your favorite radio shows over coffee, these may be the best bets in town. Happy sipping!</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Top 11 Chicago cafes for public radio lovers</span></p><ul><li>Jackalope Coffee in Bridgeport (34 mentions)</li><li>Metropolis (33)</li><li>Dark Matter (27)&nbsp;</li><li>Cafe Jumping Bean (18)</li><li>Wormhole (14)</li><li>Gaslight Coffee Roasters (14)</li><li>Perkolator (13)</li><li>Bridgeport Coffee &amp; Tea (13)</li><li>Heritage General Store (13)</li><li>Ipsento (12)</li><li>Intelligentsia (11)</li><li>Big Shoulders (10)&nbsp;</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Top 12 most-served gourmet coffees in Chicago</span></p><p>When it comes to choosing coffee beans, Chicagoans have become much more discerning over the last 25 years. But whose beans &mdash; aside from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts &mdash; are served up in the most restaurants and cafes around Chicago? We recently called top local and national coffee roasters to find out. Here&rsquo;s what they reported.</p><ul><li>Metropolis: 350</li><li>Intelligentsia: 300</li><li>La Colombe: 150</li><li>Dark Matter: 75</li><li>Julius Meinl: 70-75</li><li>Bow Truss: 70</li><li>Big Shoulders: 40</li><li>Alterra/Collectivo: 30-40</li><li>Passion House: 30</li><li>Counter Culture: 17</li><li>Stumptown/Ipsento: 10</li><li>Gaslight: 6<br />&nbsp;</li></ul><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="620" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/coffeemap/" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="620"></iframe></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2015-02-26/your-favorite-chicago-coffee-shops-111630 Chicago campaign finance tracker http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-campaign-finance-tracker-111618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/money_flickr_401k 2012.PNG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/campaigncash">Explore the cash spent on Chicago&#39;s municipal campaigns.</a></p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-campaign-finance-tracker-111618 A safety net for dropouts catches others http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/safety-net-dropouts-catches-others-111598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_0001_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">In 2012 Chicagoans got some harsh news: there were 56,000 high school dropouts under 21 &ndash; </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/luring-chicago-dropouts-back-school-one-doorstep-time-91009">enough to fill Soldier Field</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;At the time, we had 5,300 seats to serve them,&rdquo; said Jennifer Vidis, the head of alternative schools for Chicago Public Schools. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Over the last two years, the district brought that number up to 12,000. It is the largest expansion</span> of alternative schools ever done here. Most of that expansion has been in schools run by for-profit companies, many that offer half-day programs, with mostly online instruction.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">There is a case to be made for letting older students who are running out of time earn their diplomas quickly. There are also a lot of young parents and teenagers working full-time jobs to support their families.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;We want to create opportunities for kids. Whenever they make that decision, &lsquo;I want to go back,&rsquo; we want to have a place for them to go,&rdquo; Vidis said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Humboldt Park is one of the district&rsquo;s 20 new alternative schools opened in the last two years. It&rsquo;s a joint venture between the NBA-star-turned-businessman, Earvin &ldquo;Magic&rdquo; Johnson, and </span>EdisonLearning, a for-profit education company. Students come for half the day and do most of their work online. Many can finish a full credit in a matter of weeks.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;I have a good number of kids who are 19 and 20 and 21,&rdquo; said Ursula Ricketts, the school&rsquo;s program director. &ldquo;I mean, do you really want to be 21 and walking into a traditional high school? Not so much.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Ricketts says not everything is done online. She has about a dozen teachers and counselors on staff to work with students. She also says a big part of her job is forging partnerships with local businesses to help students who don&#39;t have jobs, find work.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">It is not clear how many students enrolled in the new alternative schools are part of that target population of over-age, out-of-school youth. A CPS spokesperson sent WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago the highlights of an internal analysis from last school year. It says about half of the kids enrolled were aging out quickly and another 30 percent were labeled as &ldquo;out of reach.&rdquo; The rest appear to be on-track or </span>young enough to enroll in a traditional school or full-day program.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Students like Linae Mitchell, who never officially dropped out of high school before enrolling at Magic Johnson Bridgescape with 16 credits.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;Actually, I was going to be still attending my regular school, Chicago Talent (Development High School), but they closed down. So I went to the Marine (Military Academy) school, but it wasn&rsquo;t for me, so I had to find another place to go, so my dad sent me here,&rdquo; Mitchell said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">The former school she&#39;s talking about is Chicago Talent Development High School, a small charter school that operated inside of Crane High School, but was closed because of low enrollment last year. There are still students enrolled at Crane, but because CPS decided to phase out Crane, there is no junior class at the school this year for Mitchell to enroll in.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">On this day Mitchell was wearing a Crane Tech High School warm-up jacket.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;After I finish here, I&rsquo;m on the drilling team and I actually go there for my service learning hours also,&rdquo; Mitchell said. CPS allows students enrolled in what they call Alternative Learning Opportunity Programs, or ALOP schools, to participate at their home school, if they choose.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Jack Elsey is CPS&rsquo;s chief of innovation and incubation. When asked if he&rsquo;s concerned about kids like Mitchell going to alternative schools when they&rsquo;re not off-track and haven&rsquo;t officially dropped out, Elsey responded in this way: &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s certainly something to think about and something we&rsquo;ll take a look at,&rdquo; Elsey said. &ldquo;We are a district of choice and these are part of our choice portfolio and who are we to tell that 16-year-old the school you&rsquo;ve chosen, especially if she&rsquo;s doing well, is not the right school for you.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Still, Mitchell&rsquo;s situation raises questions about how the choice system may be creating dropouts or &ldquo;push-outs,&rdquo; as a principal at one of these new schools called them. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Conrad Timbers-Ausur is the principal of a school like Magic Johnson Bridgescape, called Ombudsdman. He said alternative schools&mdash;whether they&rsquo;re full-day or half-day&mdash;are catching kids who have been victims of the system.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">He told WBEZ and Catalyst about one student who enrolled that, when he looked at his transcript, seemed like a pretty bright kid. Timbers-Ausur said the student passed all of his courses freshman year, but got one F in one semester of one class. Then, the student had to repeat the entire freshman year, and taking the exact same classes, his grades dropped, his absences increased and ultimately, he got &ldquo;kicked out.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;It just infuriated me and disgusted me, because here it is in black and white,&rdquo; Timbers-Ausur said. &ldquo;How are you allowed to (do) that in the name of education and actually you&rsquo;re setting up more kids for failure?&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Timbers-Ausur wouldn&rsquo;t say the name of the school&mdash;other than that it was a prominent charter school.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">CPS&rsquo;s Elsey said the district needs to do a better job of holding on to students as freshmen and sophomores and keeping them on track. The district&rsquo;s Jennifer Vidis said it&rsquo;s as much about prevention as it is about recovery.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;We want to fight the fire on both ends,&rdquo; Vidis said. &ldquo;We want to help kids graduate and if kids can move more quickly because they have the skills and ability to do that, great. But we need to make sure when they finish up with us that they&rsquo;re actually prepared.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Vidis touches on a debate that&rsquo;s happening around the country right now. There&rsquo;s a whole camp of people who believe if students can prove they know the material, they should be able to do so and move on.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Vijay Shah is in that camp. He is the assistant principal at another Ombudsman school on the West Side.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;This is a gifted school to me,&rdquo; Shah said. &ldquo;You get to come in here, independently work on your credits and we give you the autonomy, as long as you don&rsquo;t disrespect anybody. We&rsquo;re going to set you up and fight tooth and nail for you to graduate.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">But some warn that in the push to graduate more students, more quickly, Chicago may wind up unintentionally creating a lower-level of education for certain students.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;For students who really do need some way to recover credits or who have had some extreme life event where they just can&rsquo;t complete high school, you want to get them something,&rdquo; said Tim Kautz, a researcher at the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Center for the Economics of Human Development. &ldquo;But for students who might be able to complete high school, you don&rsquo;t want to sort of funnel them into a program that might not give them the same skills.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Kautz did not know about the new alternative schools in CPS, but he has studied the GED - the General Educational Development test many people take if they&rsquo;ve dropped out of high school as an alternative to their high school diploma. Much of his research focuses on the difference between GED recipients and traditional high school graduates and he&rsquo;s found GED recipients have many more gaps in their non-cognitive skills.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">The new alternative schools in Chicago are not GED programs. Students </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">get CPS diplomas</a>, with the name of their home school or the name of the last school they attended on them.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">Kautz said there may be benefits to running half-day programs that also include some kind of mentoring or workforce training.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">On a recent day at Magic Johnson Bridgescape, Ursula Ricketts gathered a small group of teenage girls in a classroom to do a research project about beauty, inside and out.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-64cca275-a828-81a6-07cb-e3cee238a8a7">&ldquo;I try to find anything that can help the kids, just improve who they are,&rdquo; she said.</span></p><div><em>This story was co-reported with Sarah Karp of Catalyst Chicago.</em></div></p> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/safety-net-dropouts-catches-others-111598 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 Illinois' child welfare system leaves kids stuck in jail http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576 <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/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-17%20at%207.25.53%20PM.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Youth at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center at an event in 2014. A WBEZ investigation found that kids spend weeks, or even months, in the jail because DCFS can’t find a place for them to live. (Photo courtesy of Bill Healy)" /></div><p>There&rsquo;s a kid in the Cook County juvenile jail right now who isn&rsquo;t supposed to be there. A judge ordered his release on January 29.</p><p>Because he is a juvenile, WBEZ isn&rsquo;t using his name, but his problem is not unique. Even after a judge has ordered their release, lots of kids wait weeks, even months to be picked up.</p><p>Their deadbeat guardian is the State of Illinois, and these kids are stuck in juvenile jail because the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) can&rsquo;t find a place to put them.</p><p>A WBEZ analysis of data from Cook County found that in the three-year period between October 2011 and October 2014, there were 344 instances when kids waited a week or more in the jail for DCFS to come pick them up.</p><p>Last year the longest wait was 190 days&mdash;more than half the year.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just that there are a lot of young people waiting. They are waiting specifically because of the failures of DCFS.</p><p>Kids get sent to the juvenile jail for a number of reasons. Some are waiting for trial, others are serving a punishment. No matter who they are or why they&rsquo;re there, kids can&rsquo;t leave unless someone comes to take custody of them.</p><p>The data doesn&rsquo;t account for how many of the 344 times involved the same kid held more than once, so to check on daily counts, we asked jail staff to give us a snapshot of every kid who was waiting to be picked up. On the day we asked, Oct. 16, 2014, there were 19 kids in the jail who had been ordered released by a judge and were just waiting on a guardian to pick them up.</p><p>Thirteen were waiting for DCFS.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it sends a very disturbing message to a child to say there&rsquo;s no reason for you to be held in detention, but we&rsquo;re not working hard enough, or we&rsquo;re not making you enough of a priority to find a place for you to go,&rdquo; said Bruce Boyer, the director of the Civitas Childlaw Clinic at Loyola University Chicago.</p><p>&rdquo;We&rsquo;re talking about children that a judge has looked at their case and said, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s no risk here. This child should be at home or in a community based setting, whether it&rsquo;s a foster home or somewhere else.&rsquo; So, that&rsquo;s incredibly disruptive to the child,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Antoine Brown has lived through that disruption.</p><p>Brown is 25 now and lives in Marion, Illinois. But when he was 14, Brown spent about six months in Cook County&rsquo;s juvenile jail waiting for DCFS to find him a bed.</p><p>&ldquo;It kinda like crushes your spirit so you&rsquo;ll be like ... I don&rsquo;t care anymore so I&rsquo;m just gonna act out and do whatever I want to do,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hell. I mean, if you&rsquo;re not a cool person then you get picked on.&rdquo;</p><p>Jennifer Vollen Katz with prison watchdog John Howard Association says Brown&rsquo;s frustration is typical for kids stuck in jail.</p><p>&ldquo;You will see the behavior begin to deteriorate, because that&rsquo;s just an incredibly high level of frustration for a young person to grapple with,&rdquo; Vollen Katz said.</p><p>Vollen Katz says that&rsquo;s especially bad because this is a population at a crucial point. The choices they&mdash;and their caregivers&mdash;make will decide if these kids move on from a troubled childhood to become successful adults, or get stuck in the so-called prison pipeline.</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/Screen%20Shot%202015-02-17%20at%207.26.47%20PM.png" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="The outside of the Cook County juvenile jail at Roosevelt and Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of Bill Healy)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The system has failed them time and again, so for the system to tell them, if you do this then you&rsquo;re gonna get to go and for that not to actually happen, I think is just another indicator that trusting authority is probably not a safe bet for some of these kids,&quot; Vollen Katz said. &quot;And that&rsquo;s not a message we want to be giving them.&quot;</p><p>Boyer says many of the kids forced to wait have been in the child care system for most of their lives. Often they&rsquo;ve been abused or neglected, passed from foster home to foster home.</p><p>That means most of these young men and women truly have special needs.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the needs that really require treatment, whether it&rsquo;s counseling or other kinds of services. And these are the sorts of things that frankly are just not available in the detention center,&rdquo; Boyer said.</p><p>DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach says the department is aware of kids languishing in jail, but right now the department isn&rsquo;t planning any changes to fix it.</p><p>Flach says more money would help, but the state also needs more well-run residential treatment centers able to care for these children.</p><p>Flach believes leadership from new Director George Sheldon will eventually fix problems like kids waiting in jail.</p><p>Loyola&rsquo;s Bruce Boyer says the best way to address the problem is to keep kids out of jail in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;If we had resources for dealing with kids who get into conflict with the law, that would allow us to find placements in the community for them that would be a lot less expensive than maintaining kids in a very expensive detention facility,&rdquo; Boyer said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how we break out of this cycle, but we have to figure out a way &hellip; to be more farsighted.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County estimates that it costs more than $500 a day to house one person in the juvenile temporary detention center.</p><p>And those instances when kids waited a week or more&mdash;the time they spent waiting on DCFS adds up to more than 7,300 days in Cook County juvenile jail.</p><p>That&rsquo;s almost $4 million taxpayer dollars spent over three years.</p><p>And for all that money, the kids didn&rsquo;t get special counseling or intensive therapy. Instead, they got all the wrong lessons about the justice system, and a pretty direct message that they don&rsquo;t matter. At least not enough.</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">Patrick Smith</a> is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Angela Caputo also contributed reporting for this story.</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-child-welfare-system-leaves-kids-stuck-jail-111576 How will deaths by child abuse, neglect move Rauner's budget? http://www.wbez.org/news/how-will-deaths-child-abuse-neglect-move-rauners-budget-111569 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Amierah%20Roberson.jpg" style="float: right; height: 415px; width: 300px;" title="Amierah Roberson, 19 months, died March 2014 from abusive head trauma. Her body was found in the woods after being set on fire. Her mother's boyfriend was charged." />The number of Illinois children dying from abuse and neglect remains high even after the state&rsquo;s child welfare agency had been involved with the child&rsquo;s family, according to a new analysis from WBEZ and the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>.</p><p>It comes as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has vowed to &ldquo;transform&rdquo; the state&rsquo;s long-troubled Department of Children and Family Services.</p></div><p>Rauner made child deaths a major issue during his campaign for governor. His campaign put out a dramatic television commercial:</p><p>&ldquo;They were just children. Our most vulnerable with their whole lives ahead. Lives cut short tragically, senselessly from abuse, neglect while in the care of Pat Quinn&rsquo;s administration,&rdquo; the voiceover narrator intoned.</p><p>Rauner&rsquo;s campaign used numbers analyzed by WBEZ and the <em>Sun-Times</em> to attack his opponent, then-Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn.</p><p>Quinn called the ad &ldquo;despicable,&rdquo; and said it was a new low to say the governor is responsible for the deaths of children when the state intervenes with troubled families.</p><p>Rauner won election, and now the responsibility he laid on Quinn&mdash;falls to Rauner himself.</p><p><font color="#333333" face="Arial, sans-serif"><span style="font-size: 22px; line-height: 22px;">Children in state&#39;s system have complex lives</span></font></p><p>Child welfare is complicated and far-reaching.</p><p>The <em><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/rtc/" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune</a></em> has been documenting abuses at residential treatment centers for older youth. And there hasn&rsquo;t been consistent leadership at DCFS in more than a year. Rauner just recently named George Sheldon from Florida to lead the agency. Child welfare advocates like Ben Wolf say if Rauner wants to transform DCFS, he has to be mindful of these issues in addition to things like foster care, mental health and juvenile detention.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/372802/29-kids-among-illinois-child-welfare-agencys-faces-failure" target="_blank">29 more kids among Illinois child-welfare agency&rsquo;s faces of failure</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;We have to have the right priorities with money in order to get the right people,&rdquo; said Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who monitors DCFS through a court-ordered consent decree.</p><p>Rauner is scheduled to propose how much money should go toward DCFS and other state agencies Wednesday. He faces a big budget hole for all of state government. A spokeswoman for the governor&rsquo;s office said Rauner will propose a reasonable budget to turn around the agency, and that he&rsquo;s expanding the role of the national Casey Family Programs in Illinois&rsquo; child welfare.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: 22px; orphans: auto; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: auto; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; display: inline !important; float: none;">Child deaths by neglect and abuse</span></p><p>As Rauner finishes his budget, we wanted to give him an up-to-date picture of what he faces with DCFS. WBEZ worked with the <em>Sun-Times</em> once again to look at child deaths. The most current information available is from last July, well before Rauner won election.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="550" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/LGk76/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>We found 29 Illinois kids died from abuse or neglect after DCFS had investigated claims of problems at home or involving caretakers of those children.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a number that&rsquo;s held steady over the last couple of years.</p><p>We reviewed documents about children who died from neglect in situations like unsafe sleeping conditions.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s abuse.</p><p>We found 10 instances of child abuse that resulted in death &mdash; again, even though state child welfare workers had already been involved with the family or caregiver.</p><p>That&rsquo;s down a little bit from previous years, but the cases are no less shocking.</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/Jakariah%20Patterson.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Jakarriah Patterson, 2, died March 2014. Her father was charged with murder. The little girl was found with dozens of bruises on her body" />It&rsquo;s tragedies like that of 2-year-old Jakarriah Patterson that Gov. Rauner will have to consider as he thinks about where to prioritize DCFS in the budget.</div><p>Jakarriah&rsquo;s father, Jeremiah Thompson, called 911 on March 19, 2014, from his home in south suburban Lansing, to report his daughter was not responsive.</p><p>&ldquo;Wake up, baby. Wake up,&rdquo; Thompson is heard saying on the 911 call.</p><p>A year before Jakarriah&rsquo;s death, DCFS found Thompson to have caused bruising to Jakarriah&rsquo;s face and buttocks and scratches to her back.</p><p>Cook County prosecutors later charged Thompson in Jakarriah&rsquo;s death.</p><p>Police reports say after she died, Thompson was haunted by Jakarriah calling for him and he put toilet paper in his ears while in a holding cell.</p><p>Thompson told the police he would sometimes hit Jakarriah for things like going into a room she wasn&rsquo;t supposed to.</p><p>Jakarriah had been living with her mother, Karla Patterson, but when Patterson was put out of her mother&rsquo;s home in Wisconsin, she made the fateful decision to give Jakarriah to Thompson.</p><p>There are 28 other cases we found in which DCFS had contact with the family or caretakers before the child died from abuse or neglect.</p><p>Among them is that of 19-month-old Amierah Roberson. A daycare worker reported to DCFS that Amierah had bruises and scratches. DCFS was still investigating those claims a month later, when her mother&rsquo;s boyfriend allegedly beat Amierah to death and then burned her body.</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/Anterio%20K.%20Schlieper%20.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Anterio K. Schlieper, 4 months, died June 2014. His body was found after he had been co-sleeping with his parents. Both parents admitted to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol before going to sleep. Both parents pleaded guilty to endangering the health and life of a child, a misdemeanor, court records show." />There&rsquo;s also 4-month-old Anterio Schlieper.</div><p>The DCFS inspector general said the agency investigated his parents in Moline, Illinois, four times in two years and even requested an order of supervision for the kids in the house.</p><p>But the Rock Island State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office did not agree and the order wasn&rsquo;t granted. Anterio was found unresponsive in the morning after his parents had taken him into their bed at night.</p><p>They admitted to police they had drunk alcohol and smoked marijuana before going to sleep. Both pleaded guilty to charges related to Anterio&rsquo;s death.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this is the time when the new governor has to decide if his priority is compassion toward our most powerless citizens or is reducing spending,&rdquo; said Ben Wolf with the ACLU.</p><p>Wolf said former Gov. Rod Blagojevich politicized DCFS about 10 years ago, and it&rsquo;s been deteriorating ever since. Wolf said he&rsquo;ll be watching Gov. Rauner&rsquo;s budget recommendations for DCFS to see how Rauner intends to undo that history.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>. Chris Fusco and Becky Schlikerman are reporters for the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow them <a href="https://twitter.com/fuscochris" target="_blank">@fuscochris</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/schlikerman" target="_blank">@schlikerman</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 19:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-will-deaths-child-abuse-neglect-move-rauners-budget-111569 Super PAC brings 'DC-style politics' to local ward races, but to what effect? http://www.wbez.org/news/super-pac-brings-dc-style-politics-local-ward-races-what-effect-111551 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Super PAC thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A well-funded political action committee has sent a fresh round of negative mailers against two of Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s more vocal critics on City Council, but it remains unclear how much of an impact it&rsquo;s having on their local ward races.<br /><br />With city elections less than two weeks away, much has been made of the so-called &ldquo;super PAC&rdquo; created by a longtime aide and supporter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster his policy agenda.</p><p><a href="http://chicagoforward.org" target="_blank">Chicago Forward</a> is the first political action committee created expressly to funnel unlimited contributions into Chicago municipal races. So far, it has raised roughly $2.6 million from fewer than 50 donors, as it seeks to influence the mayoral election and roughly 20 aldermanic races.</p><p>But to some observers, the super PAC&rsquo;s involvement in often sleepy ward races is a little like bringing a gun to a knife fight.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course Rahm is using this to attack the Progressive Caucus of alderman,&rdquo; said Steve Jensen, an IT consultant and president of the Bucktown Community Organization.</p><p>Jensen&rsquo;s own alderman, Scott Waguespack (32nd), is among the most vocal of the eight Progressive Caucus members in City Council. As a bloc, they often dissent from Emanuel.</p><p>Jensen said he doesn&rsquo;t think it makes sense for a multimillion dollar, outside organization to try its hand in local ward races.</p><p>&ldquo;We can reach constituents more effectively with town hall meetings at the neighborhood level, social media, and a few mailers,&rdquo; Jensen said. &ldquo;And that right there is less than $100 thousand.&rdquo;</p><p>With a highly-coordinated field campaign of volunteers door knocking, phone banking and spreading the word about a candidate, Jensen said a relatively low-budget grassroots campaign could certainly prevail, even when a better-funded super PAC deploys glossy attack mailers.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the main reason Waguespack said he wasn&rsquo;t too concerned with Chicago Forward&rsquo;s negative pieces against him. In fact, at a recent campaign fundraiser at WhirlyBall, he tried to turn the point to his advantage.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how many of you got the mailer the other day,&rdquo; he said to a seated crowd of supporters. &ldquo;I was the recipient of the first mail piece from the superPAC.&rdquo;</p><p>The mailer blamed Waguespack for keeping potholes in his ward unfilled, because he voted against Emanuel&rsquo;s budget last year (which still passed). Waguespack said the message backfired, because voters know that Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation is responsible for potholes &mdash; not aldermen. CDOT falls under the purview of the mayor.</p><p>&ldquo;I need your support over the next few weeks, phone banking, calling your friends, telling them (to) get out there and vote. This is not going to be an easy election,&rdquo; Waguespack continued. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re throwing millions of dollars at my fellow members.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, Chicago Forward has spent much more money trying to get Emanuel&rsquo;s city council allies re-elected. John Arena (45th) is the only incumbent who&rsquo;s found himself, like Waguespack, at the receiving end of an attack.</p><p>This week, Chicago Forward blanketed his ward with a negative mailer that claimed Arena would raise taxes. Arena, also a member of the city council&rsquo;s Progressive Caucus, has a record of voting the least with the mayor.</p><p>The injection of an outside player with access to limitless funds worries Waguespack. He accuses Emanuel of using Chicago Forward to bring &ldquo;DC-style politics&rdquo; to Chicago. &ldquo;[He&rsquo;s] using money to stifle any kind of discussion,&rdquo; Waguespack said. &ldquo;Divisive, mean-spirited, bullying-type attitude that he brought with him.&rdquo;</p><p>Rebecca Carroll, the CEO and Chairman of Chicago Forward, says the super PAC&rsquo;s objective is the opposite of that: she claims the group is trying to create consensus around how to deal with city challenges.</p><p>In an email to WBEZ, Carroll wrote, &ldquo;We need strong leaders at city hall who will roll up their sleeves and work as partners with this administration to address these challenges, even if they have differences in opinion or don&rsquo;t always agree with it.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, in Chicago, very few aldermen ever disagree with the mayor &mdash; city council votes with him <a href="http://pols.uic.edu/docs/default-source/chicago_politics/city_council_voting_records/city-council-report-7-january-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=2" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of the time. So what&rsquo;s the point?</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s aldermen that are being rubber stamps that don&rsquo;t want to be rubber stamps,&rdquo; said Cook County Clerk David Orr. &ldquo;It has a very chilling effect, which is what it is designed to do.&rdquo;</p><p>Orr, a former Chicago alderman, said the purpose of Chicago Forward may not just be to weaken Emanuel&rsquo;s critics in the Progressive Caucus. Instead, it may be a tool to keep Emanuel&rsquo;s allies in check.</p><p>&ldquo;I already have got a lot of alderman that I know darn well tell me one thing in terms of who they&rsquo;re publicly supporting [versus] who they want to support,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So yes, it doesn&rsquo;t always have to be to defeat someone. It can make you worry about being free to speak your mind.&rdquo;</p><p>But if Chicago Forward serves to muzzle some voices, it may also amplify others.</p><p>&ldquo;It distorts things by making the views and opinions basically of the wealthy donors &mdash; gives them an unfairly loud voice in the candidates&rsquo; ears about what policies and positions the candidates should pursue,&rdquo; said David Melton, Executive Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.</p><p>Indeed, Chicago Forward&rsquo;s money is overwhelmingly from super-wealthy power players in the finance industry, with each contributing an average of $53,000.</p><p>&ldquo;And that is not a good thing for our democracy,&rdquo; Melton said.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 12:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/super-pac-brings-dc-style-politics-local-ward-races-what-effect-111551 Illinois officials not enforcing rules on school vaccinations http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP233664971953.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>According to state records, at least 130 Illinois schools report measles vaccination levels of under 90 percent. That is the minimum percentage <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512">health officials believe communities must achieve for &ldquo;herd immunity&rdquo;&mdash;</a>an environment that can prevent a disease from spreading. &nbsp;</p><p>Schools are supposed to lose 10 percent of their state funding when they fall below the 90 percent level of vaccinations. But no school has ever been sanctioned for this violation, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09300SB0805&amp;GA=93&amp;SessionId=3&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=3675&amp;DocNum=805&amp;GAID=3&amp;Session=">Illinois code</a> states that funding &ldquo;shall be withheld by the regional superintendent until the number of students in compliance&rdquo;... reaches the &ldquo;specified percentage or higher.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/officials-predict-more-illinois-measles-cases-111509">But even as measles cases arrive in Illinois</a>, the state&rsquo;s Board of Education says it has no plans to start enforcing the rules through funding sanctions any time soon.</p><p>&quot;We are not looking to penalize a district or remove money from a district,&quot; said ISBE spokesman Matt Vanover. &quot;What we&#39;re looking for is compliance. It&#39;s difficult for educators to remove or exclude a child from education, especially when the child is from a poor or struggling family. Local districts will follow through with initaitves and reminders of their own.&quot;</p><p>Still, some doctors believe the state&#39;s purported 90 percent vaccination standard is too low.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for a community to have herd immunity you really need to maintain vaccination rates around 95 percent,&rdquo; said Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago. &ldquo;Otherwise, what happens is that when the rates below drop below 95 percent, you can have the reemergence or reappearance of these preventable diseases occurring in individuals that are either not vaccinated or are too young to be vaccinated.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened this week in Illinois when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/five-children-palatine-day-care-diagnosed-measles-111503">infants at a day care center</a> in northwest suburban Illinois were diagnosed with measles.</p><p>All those children were too young to be eligible for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR), which is traditionally administered after a child turns 1-year-old. But Cook County health officials say they expect the disease to spread.</p><p>&ldquo;The cat is out of the bag,&rdquo; Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health said yesterday at a press conference in Oak Forest.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> one in 20 children who contract measles will also get pneumonia; one in 1,000 may develop encephalitis that could lead to deafness and mental retardation; and for one or two in 1,000, the disease could be fatal.</p><p>Thursday, WBEZ contacted schools who, according to the ISBE vaccination site, self-reported measles vaccination rates as low as 27 percent. The schools claimed that the site was showing inaccurate information.</p><p>Vanover acknowledges that the self-reported data may be flawed, but says it can&#39;t be fixed.&nbsp; After the yearly November 17 deadline, &quot;the data becomes locked in for reporting purposes and we don&rsquo;t have any opportunity to go back and correct it,&quot; he said.</p><p>For more updated information, Vanover suggests calling individual districts.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org.</em></p><p><em>WBEZ web producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 City of Chicago falls below safe levels for measles vaccination http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP903599864933.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the City of Chicago, only 88.8 percent of adolescents are covered by the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to data from <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6329a4.htm" target="_blank">Center for Disease Control and Prevention.</a> That level could threaten herd immunity<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/about/terms/glossary.htm" target="_blank">, the point at which &ldquo;a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease&hellip; to make its spread from person to person unlikely.&rdquo;</a></p><p>Dr. Tina Tan, an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago, says to be safe, vaccination rates should be at 95 percent. That sentiment is echoed by the <a href="http://www.who.int/immunization/newsroom/Measles_Rubella_StrategicPlan_2012_2020.pdf">World Health Organization</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Here in Illinois unfortunately we still have medical as well as philosophical exemptions from vaccines,&rdquo; Tan said. &ldquo;So there are some parents who decide they don&#39;t want to vaccinate their children and take advantage of these exemptions.&quot;</p><p>The state&rsquo;s overall adolescent measles vaccination rate is at 93.5 percent.</p><p>State law requires children in school to be vaccinated, but allows for two categories of exemption: medical and religious. Illinois law has a fairly low bar for showing the need for religious exemption.</p><p>The state requires &ldquo;a written and signed statement from the parent or legal guardian detailing the objection&rdquo; and the law states <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/077/077006950000300R.html">&ldquo;the religious objection may be personal and need not be directed by the tenets of an established religious organization.&rdquo;</a></p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has yet to comment.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h.</a></em><em> WBEZ digital producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512