WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Has a decade of school food reform resulted in healthier lunches? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/has-decade-school-food-reform-resulted-healthier-lunches-110018 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CPS spicy chicken patty (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than a decade ago, a few American reformers launched a major movement to improve the quality of school meals. In the ensuing years Congress has passed laws and schools have adopted their reforms. But what has really changed on the plate?</p><p>To get an idea we recently took a look at Chicago Public School menus and interviewed some of the leaders in school food reform.</p><p>This first look revealed that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cps.edu%2FAbout_CPS%2FDepartments%2FDocuments%2FElemBreakfast_English.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHF1wXNo9mZvL706VeQabtiZw-YIg">breakfast offerings in most CPS schools</a> last week featured strawberry flavored pancakes, French toast sticks and pancakes wrapped around a sausage on a stick. And for lunch? The district&rsquo;s top three entrees include processed chicken patties, processed chicken nuggets and processed chicken crumbles over nachos.&nbsp; Each of those chicken products alone contains dozens of ingredients.</p><p>After years of efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama and others to put real food on cafeteria tables, why are meals in one of the most obese districts in the nation still dominated by sugary and processed food?</p><p>&ldquo;The schools have really been hijacked by the companies who are benefitting when children are fed and digest the values of fast food,&rdquo; says Alice Waters, the mother of American cuisine and founder of the <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fedibleschoolyard.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHuO6fHFuSQZr5x9qwI9Ta0nqnfhA">Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley</a> where kids learn to grow and cook their food. &ldquo;They are headed out to be consumers and that&rsquo;s what we are doing in the schools and so it&rsquo;s not surprising to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Ann Cooper is a culinary school trained chef who was recruited by Waters to launch a fresh local meals program in the Berkeley schools 15 years ago. Today, Cooper has brought that mission to the Boulder Valley School District where she&rsquo;s working to transform the the entire meal program.&nbsp; But these kinds of programs are still few and far between.</p><p>&ldquo;Considering that the National School Lunch Program has been around for 65 years and a good half of those years it has been serving bad food I think, in the last 10 years, we&rsquo;ve made positive change in leaps and bounds,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s in small pockets and almost ethereal when it comes to what&rsquo;s on children&rsquo;s plates. It&rsquo;s really good, but maybe not so much in a lot of places.&rdquo;</p><p>We should note that WBEZ invited representatives from Michelle Obama&rsquo;s office, Chicago Public Schools, including their caterer Aramark, and the United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the lunch program, to speak for this story. They all either declined or did not respond.</p><p>According to both Waters and Cooper one big fundamental flaw in the system is that so many districts hire large for-profit companies to cater the meals. They say the program should be about maximizing quality rather than profits.</p><p>&ldquo;The school district is trying to pay the least amount of money possible because they have a tight budget,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;Then they hire an outside contractor who is trying to make the most money possible because that&rsquo;s their job as a multi-national corporation. So it&rsquo;s really at odds with teaching children about food and serving the best food. It&rsquo;s just a lose-lose situation for children.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>In 2010 Sarah Wu stepped into this lose-lose situation. She took the school food world by storm by simply buying daily lunch, photographing it and writing about it on her anonymous blog called &ldquo;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Ffedupwithlunch.com%2Fcategory%2Fmrs-q%2Fthe-book-about-me-2%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFRso58FxlMd-7f0wAQ7_D3mU4HtA">Fed Up With Lunch.</a>&rdquo; It gave many readers their first glimpse of what was really on the plate, and in 2011 it became a book by the same name.</p><p>It was then that Wu finally revealed herself as a Chicago area mom, CPS speech pathologist and, finally, an open lunch crusader.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think that I came to the conclusion that it&rsquo;s such a thorny thing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There are a lot of people who have stakes in the business of school lunch and I really stepped into a hornets nest when I stepped into that. And I think I was a bit naive about how much it could really change.&rdquo;</p><p>These realizations and the arrival of a second child prompted Wu, last December, to drop out of the school food reform movement. At least for the time being.</p><p>But for those still in the fight, like Cooper, there are at least five major challenges that remain:</p><p>&ldquo;Food, finance, facilities, human resources and marketing,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;We need to be able to find [food] and make sure that it&rsquo;s good. The USDA foods have to be healthy.</p><p>The idea that we can have highly processed foods in schools has to change, but if we are going to change that we need to have kitchens and we need to be able to cook. If you are going to go from chicken nuggets to roast chicken you need ovens.&rdquo;</p><p>Cooper notes that the USDA recently pledged $11 million for school kitchen upgrades, but she believes you&rsquo;d need about a 100 times that much to do what&rsquo;s really necessary.</p><p>This lack of funding frustrates many food advocates who say that an investment up front can lay an early, healthy food foundation for the nation&rsquo;s most vulnerable children. They lament that in the last round of school lunch funding, Congress allocated just 6 cents more per meal to the program.<br /><br />Waters worries this will have disastrous effects on many levels.</p><p>&ldquo;There is hardly a country on this planet that doesn&rsquo;t think of food as something important and people are willing to pay for it,&rdquo; Waters says. &ldquo;But in this country we are unwilling to pay for it. But when you have cheap food somebody pays for it. We pay for it with our health, but we really pay for it in the destruction of our environment and the wages of the people who grow that food.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Lack of money is a common complaint for school food caterers. They say that, when all is said and done, they&#39;re left with only about $1 to spend on food per meal. Many cite that as the main reason they turn to processed patties and nuggets. But Paul Boundas, whose <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-17/news/ct-met-healthy-school-lunch-man-20110317_1_school-kitchen-meals-national-school-lunch-program">Country House catering serves lunch to thousands of Chicago Catholic </a>school students each day (even in majority low income schools), says a caterer can actually save on food costs by cooking whole foods from scratch each day. Boundas adds, however, that the caterer must be ready to invest in local jobs and a skilled work force rather than processed foods.&nbsp;</p><p>One last obstacle for change is the fact that districts lose federal money when kids don&rsquo;t take the meals. This presents a strong financial incentive to keep the nuggets and shun fresh food experimentation. For this reason, Cooper says it&rsquo;s essential to make healthy delicious, and then educate the kids about why they should eat them.<br /><br />&ldquo;In Boulder right now we are doing 200 to 300 events a year,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We go into the cafeteria and work with the kids. We do Rainbow Days, we do tastings, we do chef demos, we do Iron Chef competitions. We work with kids on a daily basis to try new things. And that&rsquo;s how we&rsquo;re going to make the change. We&rsquo;re not just going to give them high fat, high sugar, high salt unhealthy food because that&rsquo;s what they think they want. Because that would not be an educational situation.&rdquo;<br /><br />But the question remains: If Chicago Public Schools ditched their processed food for something healthier, would they meet weeping and wailing, or would the children get on board?</p><p>There&rsquo;s only way way to find out.</p><p><em>(Full disclosure: One of Monica Eng&rsquo;s nine siblings works for a food company subcontracted by CPS to cater pre-prepared meals to many CPS schools without full kitchens.)</em></p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-0f241261-60a9-d4d2-9ee7-48352a3b634d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</span><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/has-decade-school-food-reform-resulted-healthier-lunches-110018 WBEZ's Student Stories http://www.wbez.org/news/wbezs-student-stories-110014 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wbez education student stories.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>We hear a lot about providing a high-quality education to all children in Chicago, in Illinois, and across the country. But what does that mean? Turns out it means a lot of different things for different people.</p><p>WBEZ wants to hear what it means to the students themselves. That&rsquo;s why for the next month, we&#39;re asking for students to tell us their own stories about their education...in their own words. We&#39;re calling it Student Stories.</p><p>Any person under the age of 21 living in Greater Chicago--the city and its suburbs--is eligible to submit. We will accept everything from written essays, audio diaries, interviews with friends, spoken word, poetry, songs--use your imagination!</p><p>Submissions should address the following question:</p><blockquote><p><em>Imagine the best school in the world. Describe what it would be like. How does that compare with the school you go to or went to?</em></p></blockquote><p>Be creative with how you answer and think outside the box! Think about where you go to school and what you want out of your formal education.</p><p>We&rsquo;ll use the best of the best on air in May.</p><p><strong>How to submit</strong></p><p>Please keep written entries to less than 650 words and audio entries to 5 minutes or less. Submit your work to <a href="http://wbezstudentstories.tumblr.com">wbezstudentstories.tumblr.com</a> or e-mail it to WBEZ producer Becky Vevea at bvevea@wbez.org.</p><p>Have a thought, but too shy to submit a story? Call the WBEZ Student Stories hotline and leave a message at (888) 915-9945.</p><p>Still have questions? E-mail bvevea@wbez.org or call (312) 948-4731.</p></p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/wbezs-student-stories-110014 Teens take lead on free condoms http://www.wbez.org/news/teens-take-lead-free-condoms-110007 <p><p>Chicago school and health officials are wising up to the fact that most of what teens know about sex isn&rsquo;t coming from an adult. It&rsquo;s coming from their friends, and a lot of it isn&rsquo;t accurate.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just always tell children, &lsquo;Just don&rsquo;t have sex,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Tiffany Seay. She leads CPS&rsquo;s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of like telling a child don&rsquo;t touch the stove. You need to explain why they can&rsquo;t touch the stove. Because it&rsquo;s hot and if you touch it you might burn your hand.&rdquo;</p><p>With the help of a $19.7 million federal grant, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Department of Public Health are aiming to tackle that problem. They&rsquo;ve got a pilot free-condom project going at two high schools, where they&rsquo;re using teen peers to help get good information to other students, and to talk up the use of the condoms. The plan is to make free condoms available in 24 high schools next year. And to make them cool.</p><p>According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of Chicago teens report having sex, and of those, more than 30 percent aren&rsquo;t using condoms. The city&rsquo;s teen pregnancy rates have been falling, but are still 50 percent higher than the rest of the country.</p><p>Handing out free condoms in schools isn&rsquo;t new, but they usually come from adults. One of the two pilot schools giving out free condoms is Foreman High School. Every Tuesday, a group of trained &ldquo;peer health educators&rdquo; hands out the free condoms outside Room 103. These are Foreman students--familiar faces to other teens.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s only awkward if you make it awkward,&rdquo; said Victoria Torres, one of the peer health educators.</p><p>As part of the pilot, a group of college students from Columbia College recently designed condom dispensers for Foreman and the other pilot school on the west side, Collins Academy. The idea: if you want to get designers that will &ldquo;speak&rdquo; to teens, go to other young people.</p><p>&ldquo;They just came out of high school not long ago,&rdquo; said Tao Huang, the Columbia professor overseeing the project. &ldquo;They kind of understand the mentality. So they are students designing for students.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3228.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Condom dispensers at foreman (WBEZ/ Becky Vevea)" />Huang said the college students talked to the high school students to figure out how the kids wanted to get free condoms--what an effective delivery system would look like. But she said they also found that high school kids thought that the free condoms weren&rsquo;t as good as the ones you buy.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The whole goal is to get people to use it,&rdquo; Huang said. &ldquo;You have to somehow provide both and you have to make the free ones more attractive to use.&rdquo;</p><p>Late last month, two dispensers designed by Huang&rsquo;s students were delivered to Foreman. They are metal rectangular boxes, painted light blue with red stars--the colors of the Chicago flag.</p><p>Jesus Garcia, another one of the peer health educators at Foreman, said at first kids will probably make fun of the whole thing; they&rsquo;ll throw the free condoms around and make jokes. But eventually, he expects the dispensers will become part of the normal surroundings -- like another locker in the hall.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that two&rsquo;s not enough,&rdquo; Garcia said. &ldquo;I think that we&rsquo;re gonna need more.&rdquo;</p><p>The district plans to make condoms available at more high schools next year and in the future, despite potential pushback from people who think the whole idea encourages teens to have sex.</p><p>The research doesn&rsquo;t back up those claims, and Seay points out there are big consequences to ignoring the fact that Chicago teens are having sex. Data show half of teen parents don&rsquo;t get a high school diploma before age 22.</p><p>&ldquo;If we continue to turn a blind eye on the fact that our youth are becoming parents at young ages, then we&rsquo;ve failed them,&rdquo; Seay said.</p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-a40d8fb4-4d2e-b07e-71b9-33be1e6cb3ca">Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her </span><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/teens-take-lead-free-condoms-110007 CPS 'accounting adjustment' will increase funding to schools slightly; watchdog warns it's 'financially irresponsible' http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-accounting-adjustment-will-increase-funding-schools-slightly-watchdog-warns-its <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3523_board of ed-scr_5.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Despite looming pension payments, and as the district still reels from budget cuts and layoffs, Chicago Public Schools says it has found a way to slightly increase the amount schools get for each student next year.</p><p>The move was immediately criticized as &ldquo;financially irresponsible&rdquo; and an &ldquo;accounting gimmick&rdquo; by the Civic Federation, a financial watchdog. And parents, while happy schools will get more money, say the increase is not enough to make up for cuts that reached into the millions of dollars at some schools this year.&nbsp;</p><p>The district says it&rsquo;s making an &quot;accounting adjustment.&quot; It plans to give itself a 14-month window to take in revenue next fiscal year, so state and county tax payments that come in during August will still be counted as if they came in before July 1, allowing the district to balance the books and avoid what it says would be &ldquo;draconian cuts.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s at least the third consecutive year CPS has used a one-time fix to come up with a balanced budget.</p><p>School officials say the change allows the school district to give schools about $250 dollars more per child. That adds up to around $135,000 dollars at an elementary school of 500 students.</p><p>The increase comes in the same fiscal year as Chicago&rsquo;s mayoral race.</p><p>School officials acknowledged the accounting shift does nothing to fix what everyone agrees is a structural deficit, with CPS taking in far less revenue than it spends. The situation has become more acute recently as pension contributions have ballooned, forcing layoffs and deep classroom cuts.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to do what we need to do to keep &hellip; our kids going,&rdquo; said board president David Vitale, who spoke to WBEZ and <em>Catalyst </em>Wednesday on a conference call. <em>Chicago Tribune</em> and <em>Sun-Times </em>education reporters were briefed on a separate call, earlier.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve done is essentially pull additional revenue in from a future year to continue roughly at the level that we&rsquo;ve been at,&rdquo; said Vitale. &ldquo;The structural deficit has not gone away with this effort. So we absolutely need pension relief to address the structural deficit.&rdquo;</p><p>Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, called the budget move &ldquo;expensive,&rdquo; &ldquo;financially irresponsible,&rdquo; and an &ldquo;accounting gimmick.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This is a short-term answer to a complicated long-term problem,&rdquo; said Msall. &ldquo;And it doesn&rsquo;t make the problem smaller and it doesn&rsquo;t make the problem go away, it just exacerbates the 2016 budget.&rdquo;</p><p>The district plans to spread to all schools a pot of $65 million that last year was used to help certain schools transition to the district&rsquo;s new per pupil funding system. And it&#39;s adding an additional $70 million to that for student-based budgeting.</p><p>Schools could still face cuts if they lose enrollment. A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558" target="_blank">dozen new schools</a> have permission to open this fall, which will drain students from existing schools. And enrollment districtwide has been declining.<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834"> Low enrollments are hitting high schools</a> particularly hard; WBEZ has reported that some are struggling to staff classes. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-enrollment-dip-doesnt-cost-principals-108781">Neighborhood high schools that got transition money</a> to help them through this year could be learning of cuts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars this week.</p><p>Wendy Katten, director of the citywide parent group Raise Your Hand, applauded the increase in per pupil funding, but says it will restore less than half of what her son&rsquo;s school lost. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll be able to purchase a teacher and maybe something else, but it&rsquo;s not going to restore the cuts.</p><p>&ldquo;I think people will still be pushing for a further increase,&rdquo; said Katten, who was one of nearly two dozen parents from different schools who appealed to board members this winter to raise the per pupil funding rate. &ldquo;There are new mandates for PE and art, which are great things. But they require money.&rdquo;</p><p>Katten says she&rsquo;s also concerned the per pupil increases may barely cover raises for teachers.</p><p>School officials say they are setting the following per pupil rates for the 2014-15 school year. The rates apply to both district schools and charters.</p><table border="1" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td style="width:213px;"><p><strong>Grade level</strong></p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p><strong>Per pupil amount for 2014-15</strong></p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p><strong>Increase over 2013-14 </strong></p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:213px;"><p>Kindergarten-3<sup>rd</sup> grade</p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p>$4,697</p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p>$267</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:213px;"><p>Grades 4-8</p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p>$4,390</p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p>$250</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:213px;"><p>High School</p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p>$5,444</p></td><td style="width:213px;"><p>$310</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her @WBEZeducation.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 09:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-accounting-adjustment-will-increase-funding-schools-slightly-watchdog-warns-its Hip-hop artist Common announces Chicago youth job program http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hip-hop-artist-common-announces-chicago-youth-job-program-110003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/common_140409_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Hip-hop artist Common and the Chicago Urban League are teaming up for a youth jobs initiative as a way to prevent violence and whittle down a high teen unemployment rate in the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I see what&rsquo;s going on in the city. We all see it. Anytime I hear about anybody getting shot, young people with guns, it hurts me,&rdquo; Common said Wednesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not proud to be like, yeah, we&rsquo;re &lsquo;<a href="http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/01/chiraq_war_in_chicago_prevents_solutions.html">Chiraq</a>.&rsquo; At certain points I feel like I have to do more.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative will focus on securing year-found jobs for people ages 16-24. The target is 15,000 youth over the next five years. The program is set to launch this fall with 1,000 young people.</p><p dir="ltr">Private money will be raised to subsidize salaries for some of the jobs. A key piece of the collaborative is engaging the private sector to identify jobs, from corporate to manufacturing to nonprofit. Organizers don&rsquo;t want jobs to end when the summer ends. Employing 1,000 youth would cost approximately $2.4 million, according to the Chicago Urban League.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just jobs, it&rsquo;s mentoring and support so they [young people] know that there&rsquo;s a group around them supporting their success so they know there&rsquo;s a future for them in this city,&rdquo; said Andrea Zopp, CEO of the Chicago Urban League.</p><p dir="ltr">Teen unemployment in Illinois is among the highest in the United States, and for low-income minorities the rates are even higher.</p><p dir="ltr">Researchers at Northeastern University released a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/stagnant-employment-picture-illinois-teens-105108">report </a>last year noting that teens&#39; lack work of experience adversely affects their future employability and wages. The conclusions mirror previous studies that suggest job experience can help deter teens from involvement in the criminal justice system.</p><p dir="ltr">The report&rsquo;s authors found only 8.7 percent of black teens in Chicago were employed in 2010-2011. The rate for Asians, though, was 15.5 percent. Twenty percent of the city&rsquo;s Hispanic teens were employed, and the rate for whites stood at 21 percent.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, across Illinois, the teen employment rate fell from just under 50 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2012 &mdash; the lowest rate in the 42 years for which such data exist. If Illinois teens had been able to maintain their 1999-2000 employment rates during the past year, there would have been another 151,000 teens at work in Illinois in 2011-2012, the report said.</p><p dir="ltr">Native son Common, whose mother Mahalia Hines is an educator and Chicago Public Schools board member, recalled meeting with young people in Englewood, a neighborhood with high crime and unemployment.</p><p dir="ltr">They told the rapper they needed money and jobs, underscoring the link between poverty and violence.</p><p>&ldquo;What do they want? They want opportunity and a chance,&rdquo; Common said.</p><p>This summer The AAHH! FEST, a two-day concert in September, will kick off. Common&rsquo;s foundation will partner with Kanye West&rsquo;s <a href="http://dondashouseinc.org/">Donda&rsquo;s House</a> in which emcee Rhymefest is the creative director. Part of the money will fund the year-round jobs initiatives.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hip-hop-artist-common-announces-chicago-youth-job-program-110003 Charter supporters rally against bills in Illinois legislature http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_3555.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of Chicago charter school parents, students and alums rallied in Springfield Tuesday to oppose legislation they say will hurt charter schools.</p><p>The group started its day with a rally outside U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, with more than 20 tour buses lined up to take them to the capitol. Supporters wore yellow scarves and carried printed signs that read &ldquo;I choose charter.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy addressed parents and others before they departed to join up with supporters from other Illinois communities.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a statewide movement,&rdquo; Broy told the group. &ldquo;We face threats in Springfield that we&rsquo;ve never faced before. There are no fewer than twelve different bills in Springfield designed to limit your right to choose the best school for your student. And we&rsquo;re not going to let that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Charter advocates planned to pack the capitol rotunda. They said they want state lawmakers to see the faces of charter parents and students, students they say would be hurt if those dozen pending bills are passed into law.</p><p>Some of the key bills being considered:</p><p>-SB2627/HB3754 would get rid of a charter school appeals commission that can approve charter schools even if&nbsp; the local school board denies them.</p><p>-SB3303 would prohibit charters from opening in the same zip code as a&nbsp; closed traditional school.</p><p>-HB4655/SB3004 would force charters to follow&nbsp; the same discipline policies that traditional schools follow.</p><p>-SB3030/HB6005 would forbid charter schools from marketing, prohibit charters from subcontracting with Educational Management Organizations and Charter Management Organizations to operate schools and create a compensation cap for school CEOs.</p><p>A number of the bills were introduced by suburban lawmakers. Their interest in charters was piqued last year when a for-profit company, K12, Inc., proposed opening virtual charter schools in more than a dozen suburban school districts. All the districts&nbsp; rejected the plan. As state law is currently written, the Illinois State Charter Commission could overrule those local districts.</p><p>That happened last year when the charter provider that operates Chicago Math and Science Academy tried to open up two new schools in the city. The school district denied the provider&rsquo;s request to expand, but when the organization appealed, the commission gave the go ahead.<br /><br />Charter advocates say a neutral committee needs to examine the merits of charter proposals, because school boards often have a disincentive&mdash;even if district schools are weak&mdash;to approve charters.<br /><br />Many students and parents at the morning Chicago rally said they were there to support individual schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Nahum Alcantar said he supports charter schools because he thinks his charter school has given him a better education than a public school could have. Alcantar, a senior at Chicago Math and Science Academy, went to Kilmer Elementary, a CPS neighborhood school, before enrolling at the charter.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to a charter school and I&rsquo;ve been to a public school and based on my experience &hellip; charter schools can ... provide the same amount of education that public schools can,&rdquo; Alcantar said. &ldquo;From the schools that I went (to) and compared to the charter school that I go (to)&nbsp; now I&rsquo;ve gotten a really better education.&rdquo;</p><p>Many also said they believe their charter schools are underfunded relative to traditional Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp; But the school district says charters and other schools get exactly equal funding.<br /><br />Although it has been a complaint from charter opponents, many rallying parents said they see no connection between charter schools opening and traditional schools closing</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not making that school worse, we&rsquo;re not making it a bad school. If they can&rsquo;t get the grades or what they need then they should close,&rdquo; said charter parent Amber Mandley. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not our (fault) it&rsquo;s happening, just because we want to keep our schools running doesn&rsquo;t mean we&rsquo;re trying to close CPS schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Ebony Edwards-Carr, who like Mandley has children at the Chicago International Charter School in Bucktown, said the day &ldquo;is about uniting&rdquo; parents, charter school or otherwise.<br />&nbsp;<br />The Chicago Teachers Union supports many of the bills on the table.</p><p>Its membership is threatened by charter school expansion; as charters expand and traditional schools close, Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s membership is dwindling. Charter teachers are not allowed to be represented by the CTU.<br /><br />Stacy Davis Gates, CTU&rsquo;s political director, said suburban districts are looking at Chicago as&nbsp; a &ldquo;cautionary tale&rdquo; where &ldquo;neighborhood schools have been chased out by charters.&rdquo; Gates said the state needs to &ldquo;close some of these loopholes&rdquo;&nbsp; in state charter law.</p><p>She said the bills being considered will bring more transparency and accountability to charter schools.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>. Linda Lutton is WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporter, follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 Local school council elections attract 4,384 parents and community members as candidates http://www.wbez.org/news/education/local-school-council-elections-attract-4384-parents-and-community-members-candidates <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG0273.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There&rsquo;s an election in the city of Chicago Monday and Tuesday that you may not even have heard about&mdash;and &nbsp;thousands of candidates are running.</p><p>Local school council elections happen every two years (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-thinks-he-voted-98362" target="_blank">Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks he voted in the last one</a>). Just about every Chicago public school has a council&mdash;something like a mini school board. (Charters don&#39;t have LSCs, but <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2014/04/02/65837/lawmakers-consider-lsc-requirement-charter-schools" target="_blank">there&#39;s a bill</a> afoot to change that.) Councils are made up of six parents, two community members, two teachers, and one &ldquo;non-teaching&rdquo; school staffer. The councils are unique in the nation because they have some real power. They hire and fire the principal, and along with the principal they determine parts of the budget and curriculum, and outline the school&rsquo;s strategy for improvement.</p><p>Under mayoral control of the schools, the councils&rsquo; power has been scaled back; schools on probation get less say over budgets and principal selection. Many of Chicago&rsquo;s new schools and privately managed public schools have only &ldquo;advisory&rdquo; LSCs.</p><p>Despite that, and despite many schools struggling to get enough candidates to fill their council, there are still 4,384 parents and community people running for local school councils this time around, along with 1,736 teachers and other school staffers.&nbsp; Elections at grammar schools are Monday, at high schools Tuesday. Polls are open 6a.m. to 7p.m.. Any Chicago resident can vote&mdash;no citizenship or voter card needed. Candidate statements must be posted in each school and made available for the public.</p><p>WBEZ filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the list of candidates from all schools (we&rsquo;re not sure why the school district doesn&rsquo;t post this list for the public, or why it takes a FOIA and 10 business days to produce it). We present it here, along with a few things we noticed about the candidates:</p><ul><li>Indicted state representative <strong>LaShawn Ford</strong>, who denies allegations of bank fraud, wants to become a community representative at George Rogers Clark Elementary. &nbsp;</li><li>Ninth Ward Alderman <strong>Anthony Beale</strong>, who most recently ran for U.S. Congress (he came in third in the special election to determine who would replace Jesse Jackson, Jr.) is on the ballot as an incumbent community representative at Brooks College Prep, which is in his ward.</li><li>Former Chicago Board of Education member <strong>Rodrigo Sierra</strong>, who was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/school-led-protests-some-interesting-candidates-local-school-council-109877" target="_blank">hand picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the school board, is running at two schools</a>&mdash;at Blaine as a community rep and at InterAmerican Magnet as a parent. It&rsquo;s believed to be the first time a former Chicago Board of Education member has run for LSC. Sierra is a former deputy press secretary under Mayor Richard M. Daley; he resigned from Emanuel&#39;s school board when he was asked by the mayor to join the Chicago Housing Authority Board, where he still serves.</li><li>The two schools where teachers announced publicly they would refuse to give the ISAT exam this spring&mdash;<strong>Saucedo Scholastic Academy</strong> and <strong>Drummond Montessori</strong>&mdash;both have contested parent races. At Saucedo, all races (parent, teacher, school staff and community) are contested.</li><li>Two high-performing elementary schools that have had no LSC until now have the most hotly contested parent LSC races in the city. Eighteen parents are running for six seats at <strong>Skinner North</strong>, a selective school, and 16 parents are running at <strong>STEM Magnet</strong>; both schools opened in the last five years.</li><li><strong>Earle Elementary</strong> in Englewood, which has had a rocky consolidation with <strong>Goodlow</strong>, one of Chicago&#39;s 50 closed schools, also has 16 parents running.</li><li>The two schools attracting most community member candidates are <strong>South Shore International</strong> and <strong>Roosevelt </strong>high schools, with 10 candidates each.</li><li><strong>Ames Middle School</strong>&mdash;which the Chicago Board of Education recently converted to a military high school despite noisy community opposition&mdash;will not hold elections. Current LSC members were given a letter saying that &ldquo;next fall, a non-binding advisory poll will be conducted at Ames on report card pick-up day to nominate candidates for appointment to the parent and teacher representative positions on the newly constituted Board of Governors for Ames.&rdquo;</li><li>The school with the greatest number of total candidates is <strong>Farragut </strong>High School in Little Village, where 38 candidates are running&mdash;12 parents, 7 community members, 5 teachers, 7 non teaching staff, and 5 students (high schools elect one advisory student representative).</li><li>Some very troubled schools have not attracted enough candidates to fill their councils. At <strong>Austin Business and Entrepreneurship High School</strong>, where <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-chicago-school-kids-go-without-teachers-109838" target="_blank">WBEZ reported</a> students went much of first semester without teachers in key subjects, only three parents are running for the six seats available on the council. At <strong>Hirsch High School</strong>, where low enrollment is also <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834" target="_blank">hurting educational offerings</a>, just one teacher, one parent and one non-teaching staffer have signed up for the 11-person council.</li><li>A few <strong>Chicago Teachers Union staffers </strong>pepper the list. Union researcher Sarah Hainds is running as a community rep at Amundsen High School. Joey McDermott (a union organizer <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3562626/" target="_blank">featured in <em>Chicagoland</em></a>) is running as a parent at Sayre. Active Chicago Public Schools employees are not allowed to run as parents in their children&rsquo;s schools, or as community reps.</li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/school-led-protests-some-interesting-candidates-local-school-council-109877">Several charter school advocates are running</a>, which has prompted &ldquo;vote no&rdquo; Facebook campaigns by activists and parents who believe the charter advocates are trying to undermine the traditional public schools from within. Three <strong>employees of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools </strong>are running: Jodie Cantrell as a community rep at Blaine, Eric Johnson as a parent rep at Audubon, and Jelani McEwen as a community rep at Kenwood.</li><li>Some other names that caught our eye: <strong>Vicente &quot;Vince&quot; Sanchez, Jr.,</strong> &nbsp;chief of staff to 25<sup>th</sup> Ward Alderman Danny Solis, is trying to keep his seat as a community rep at two schools in the ward, Whittier Elementary and Juarez High School.&nbsp; <strong>Juliana Stratton</strong>, executive director of the Cook County Judicial Advisory Council under Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is running as a parent rep at Kenwood Academy High School. <strong>Lori S. Yokoyama</strong>, running as a parent rep at Payton College Prep, is the 4<sup>th</sup> Ward Republican Committeeman and has been a candidate for alderman and Cook County State&rsquo;s attorney. <strong>Charles R. Bowen</strong>, an Emanuel appointee to the Illinois International Port District and &ldquo;the link that connected the African American communities to the Daley Administration,&rdquo; will keep his seat as community representative at Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville. <strong>Marc Kaplan</strong>, unsuccessful 2010 aldermanic candidate in the 46<sup>th</sup> Ward and co-chair of Northside Action for Justice, which has organized &ldquo;to defend public schools from closure and privatization,&rdquo; is seeking another term as community representative at Uplift High School. Another unsuccessful 46th Ward aldermanic candidate, <strong>Scott Baskin</strong>, the former CEO of Mark Shale retail stores in Chicago, is running as a community rep at Northside College Prep, where he served seven years as a parent rep. <strong>Theresa Mah</strong>, senior policy advisor and liaison to the Asian-American community for Gov. Pat Quinn, is running for another term as community rep at Kelly High School. <strong>Ahmed Khan</strong>, the unsuccessful 2010 candidate for alderman of the 50<sup>th</sup> Ward (and chair of the West Rogers Park Community organization), is trying to hold onto his seat as community rep at Stone Academy. <strong>Wanda Hopkins</strong>, a vocal opponent of many CPS policies and an activist with PURE, a group that helped write the law that created LSCs, is running for seats on three councils&mdash;as a community rep at Prosser High School and Lewis Elementary (now privately managed by AUSL), and as a parent at Young.</li></ul><p>We invite you to use the comment section below to tell us what you know about the candidates. The list is in alphabetical order by school. There&rsquo;s also a downloadable version (scroll down for that).</p><p><em>Contributing: Tony Arnold, Kathy Chaney, Natalie Moore, Odette Yousef</em>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" src="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Atv9GAazkNEXdERJUjdic3RxSjQ4RjcyaEFaLXBkNkE&amp;single=true&amp;gid=0&amp;output=html&amp;widget=true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is an education reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.</em></p></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/local-school-council-elections-attract-4384-parents-and-community-members-candidates North Lawndale residents resist further school privatization http://www.wbez.org/news/north-lawndale-residents-resist-further-school-privatization-109964 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools has talked a lot about providing families high-quality school options in their neighborhoods, but for residents of one West Side community, it feels like one option is slowly being eliminated.</p><p>Parents, students and community activists crowded into the gym at Dvorak Elementary in Chicago&rsquo;s North Lawndale neighborhood to oppose <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Feducation%2Fall-staff-be-dismissed-three-low-performing-cps-schools-109906&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE773Pf5693_YPmfCtBO8LTB0ZaGQ">the district&rsquo;s plan to have the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership turn around the school</a>. One the parents&rsquo; complaints: AUSL already operates four schools in the neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;At least give us one school in the community where AUSL don&rsquo;t have to take over,&rdquo; Candace Stigler shouted in the school&rsquo;s gym.</p><p>In the first year of a school &ldquo;turnaround&rdquo; all staff--from principals to janitors--are fired and a new staff, curriculum and rules are put into place. AUSL has been doing school turnarounds for the district since 2006. The turnaround strategy was initially billed as a temporary strategy to change the trajectory of low-performing schools. But CPS has renewed all of AUSL&rsquo;s five-year contracts, effectively leaving them under private management.&nbsp;</p><p>AUSL <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fauslchicago.org%2Fschools&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEOai6KWyYaeOdWzr5zvXSmWrtRiQ">currently runs 29 schools</a> across Chicago; its four in North Lawndale include Herzl Elementary, two blocks north of Dvorak, Johnson Elementary, Collins Academy High School and Chalmers Elementary. All are located in and around Douglas Park.</p><p>Though AUSL schools are privately managed, they still have neighborhood boundaries and unionized teachers. But parent volunteer Rene Jackson said she sees a bigger effort to privatize all the schools in North Lawndale.</p><p>&ldquo;All these are privatized schools, these charter schools and all these,&rdquo; Jackson said, signaling down 16th street to the west, where a KIPP charter school is now located, then to the north, toward a LEARN charter school, and finally to the east, where Catalyst-Howland charter school operates.</p><p>&ldquo;[Dvorak] is a school that&rsquo;s going to accept anybody and everybody, whether you blue, purple, green, or black,&rdquo; Jackson said. According to the most recent available data, Dvorak&rsquo;s student population is 16 percent special education, 13 percent are homeless and 99 percent are low-income.</p><p>Jackson also noted that Dvorak took in students from the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fcps-board-votes-close-50-schools-107294&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHN5xfFFuualP20kbksCbYwLrMTnw">four nearby grammar schools that closed last year</a>, including, Bethune, which was, ironically, run by AUSL. <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fonly-60-percent-students-chicagos-closed-schools-turn-welcoming-schools-108907%2520&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHLDj-lBnJdMuD5mJz_3XuBcUIdpw">A WBEZ analysis</a> last fall showed 39 students from closed schools ended up at Dvorak, but the school did not get the same extra money that the district&rsquo;s designated &ldquo;welcoming schools&rdquo; did. In fact, two designated &ldquo;welcoming schools&rdquo; in North Lawndale enrolled the fewest students from their closing counterparts. Johnson School of Excellence, also run by AUSL, enrolled just 34 kids, or 23.4 percent, of the students from now-closed Pope Elementary, but still got millions of dollars in improvements, like air conditioning and iPads.</p><p>Still, CPS says Dvorak and the two other schools it wants AUSL to take over next year--McNair Elementary in Austin and Gresham Elementary in Auburn-Gresham--have been chronically underperforming.</p><p>Dvorak parents don&rsquo;t disagree.</p><p>&ldquo;I can not argue the fact that our scores are low,&rdquo; said Angela Gordon, president of Dvorak&rsquo;s Local School Council. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a fact. However, I can say if we had the same resources that you&rsquo;re going to give AUSL&hellip;then I believe in my heart that, yes, we can move scores, but we can&rsquo;t move scores if we constantly have to cut positions. We can&rsquo;t work the literacy lab because we can&rsquo;t hire a teacher because there&rsquo;s no money.&rdquo;</p><p>Dvorak lost $128,791 and three positions over the summer, according to CPS budget documents.</p><p>LSC President Gordon said the community is not opposed to a turnaround at the school, but they want to be involved in deciding who manages it and they don&rsquo;t want to be shut out of the process. Local elected officials echoed that sentiment.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I am greatly disappointed with CPS and the Chicago Board of Education regarding this process and lack of community input in making these types of critical educational decisions,&rdquo; said Ald. Michael Chandler (24th), noting he found out from a CPS representative &ldquo;via only a phone call&rdquo; less than a day before it was announced to the public.</p><p>State Rep. Arthur Turner (D-9th District), and a representative from Congressman Danny Davis&rsquo;s office also attended the meeting to oppose the turnaround.</p><p>But community members and parents seeking an alternative to an AUSL turnaround may be out of luck. Right now, AUSL is the only group doing turnarounds for CPS. The district&rsquo;s now-defunct Office of School Improvement handled some school turnarounds, but in 2011, then-CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the district would stop managing its own turnarounds and bring in more outside operators, but that has not happened.</p><p>The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on the three turnaround proposals later this month.<br /><br /><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZeducation&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEFIgcfyBX-pHmWynjYE4CAx2nRlw">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/north-lawndale-residents-resist-further-school-privatization-109964 CPS reveals that the only ingredients in its chicken nuggets are...chicken nuggets! http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963 <p><p>April 11, 2014 UPDATE: CPS finally produces the ingredient lists for the Top 5 entrees. Each chicken product contains dozens of ingredients.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>April 10, 2014, UPDATE: Thursday WBEZ heard from Illinois&#39; Assistant Attorney General for Public Access Tim O&#39;Brien. He&#39;s been assigned to review the legality of CPS&#39;s response to WBEZ&#39;s Freedom of Information Act request for school food data. &nbsp;</p><p>Wednesday WBEZ was contacted by a company that creates online<a href="http://spps.nutrislice.com/menu/battle-creek-environmental-elementary/lunch/"> school menus for the St Paul </a>school district. In these schools, parents and reporters don&#39;t need to file FOIA&#39;s to find out what&#39;s in the food, nor do they need to enlist the help of the Attorney General&#39;s office. They simply put their cursor on the item and the ingredients and nutritional information emerge in a pop-up window.&nbsp;</p><p>April 8, 2014, UPDATE: Last week, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman told WBEZ that the district simply didn&#39;t &quot;know the ingredients&quot; of the processed chicken products that it serves Chicago children. Yesterday, that same spokesman still would not share the information, saying that the district is &quot;still in the process of completing this request.&quot; &nbsp;Today Aramark headquarters says that it gave the information to CPS &quot;last week&quot; but it could not share the ingredient information with WBEZ because &quot;the District would need to release it to the media, not us.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>---------------</p><p>Almost all the meals served in the Chicago Public Schools are paid for with your tax dollars. But if you want to know what&rsquo;s actually in those meals, good luck.</p><p>Early last month WBEZ filed a Freedom of Information Act request for data on what CPS students were eating. On Tuesday, WBEZ finally received an answer, if you can call it that.</p><p>What follows is the district&rsquo;s verbatim response to our FOIA&nbsp; request for the &ldquo;ingredient lists for the top five entrees in the CPS food service program.&quot;&nbsp;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p align="center"><strong>Entrée Item</strong></p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p align="center"><strong>Ingredient List</strong></p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Patty Sandwich</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Patty, Bun</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken &amp; Bean Nachos</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Crumbles, Tortilla Chips, Cheese Sauce, Beans</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Nuggets</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Nuggets</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Cheeseburger</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Bun, Beef Patty, American Cheese</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Penne with Marinara Meat Sauce</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Penne, Marinara, Beef Crumbles</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Yes, you read it correctly: The complete ingredient list for CPS chicken nuggets is two words: &ldquo;chicken nuggets.&rdquo; And it took more than a month for CPS Nutrition Support Services to figure this out.</p><p>When I last did a story on popular CPS lunch items for the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Farticles.chicagotribune.com%2F2011-02-20%2Fhealth%2Fct-met-new-school-lunches-20110220_1_cps-students-chartwells-thompson-healthy-food&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNG2I3jbVb45SdZO7ve-7pVkO5ePRg">Chicago Tribune in 2011</a>, the district&rsquo;s spicy chicken patty contained dozens of ingredients, many too hard to pronounce. But, miraculously, CPS and its new caterer Aramark have pared the district&rsquo;s number one food item down to just two ingredients: a chicken patty and a bun, according to the district&rsquo;s response.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS%20spicy%20chicken%20patty.jpg" style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="A chicken patty sandwich is the most eaten entree in Chicago Public Schools. But what’s in it? After a month, CPS will only disclose that it contains a chicken patty and a bun. Thanks CPS. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />A few years ago, the advocacy group Real Food For Kids criticized the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fblogs%2Fthesalt%2F2012%2F04%2F02%2F149717358%2Fwhats-inside-the-26-ingredient-school-lunch-burger&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGprtGWU49odQw1FT4Nn-B2pMTMsw">26-ingredient burger</a> served in American schools and called on districts to phase out such heavily processed foods in lunch programs. According to the ingredient lists WBEZ received from the district, CPS has bested the 26-ingredient burger by 23 ingredients, by listing only three in its burger: a bun, a patty and (if it&rsquo;s a cheeseburger) American cheese.</p><p>Is this an accurate picture of CPS entree ingredients? We can&rsquo;t tell. Because, although WBEZ responded almost immediately with emails and phone calls seeking an explanation for these limited ingredient lists, the district has, as of yet, offered none. Yesterday, one district representative said he would try to contact the head of school food, Leslie Fowler, to determine what happened. But we&rsquo;ve heard nothing back since then.</p><p>I have covered CPS food for at least five years now, and have met with my share of district resistance to sharing information. But this latest development shocked even me.</p><p>At least previous administrations were willing to share details on what our tax dollars were buying for school lunch. This one, however, seems bent on keeping the public in the dark. But why?</p><p>It should be noted that CPS&rsquo;s response arrived on April 1st. One can only hope this mockery of the Freedom of Information Act was all just some kind of joke.</p><p>We will keep you updated on CPS&rsquo;s response here.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>UPDATE: A CPS representative said Friday he would try to obtain the missing information, but would not say when. On Monday the district had still not produced the missing data, and WBEZ filed a request with the Illinois Attorney General&#39;s office to review the situation and assist in releasing the ingredient information.&nbsp;</p><p><em>(Full disclosure: One of Monica Eng&rsquo;s eight siblings works for a food company subcontracted by CPS to cater pre-prepared meals to many CPS schools without full kitchens.)</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmonicaeng&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoYzy7NkmnMSoIdG75anzNVCJ90A">@monicaeng or</a> write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963 As Gary charter wins basketball titles, public schools fall farther behind http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Bowman 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hoosier Hysteria will hit a fever pitch this weekend in Indianapolis.<br /><br />Not only is the city hosting the Midwest Regional for the NCAA men&rsquo;s basketball tournament, but the boys state high school basketball title games as well.<br /><br />Northwest Indiana will be well represented in the tournament with three region teams heading downstate looking for a crown in their respective classes. They include traditional programs like Lake Central in St. John and Michigan City Marquette, as well as relative newcomer Bowman Academy in Gary.<br /><br />Bowman is a charter school trying to repeat as state champions and win its third title in four years.&ndash; unheard of even in this basketball-crazed corner of Indiana. This from a school that started competing only six years ago.</p><p>But neither success nor acceptance has come easy for Bowman, a non-religious school named for African-American Roman Catholic nun Thea Bowman.</p><p>&ldquo;A couple of years, didn&rsquo;t nobody know who Bowman was. We couldn&rsquo;t play a good team for nothing,&rdquo; says Bowman&rsquo;s star guard, 6&rsquo;5 Davon Dillard, a junior who is already being pursued by the likes of Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State.</p><p>Dillard and his teammates chowed down on pizza and chicken wings before boarding two white vans early Thursday afternoon to make the two-hour trek south to practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse &ndash; home of the NBA&rsquo;s Indianapolis Pacers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gained a lot of respect by proving it on the court, you know. Coming to Bowman, I&rsquo;ve been playing in some of the biggest championship games I&rsquo;ve ever played in,&rdquo; Dillard said. &ldquo;Being able to go down to state every year, that&rsquo;s a good feeling.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Bowman&rsquo;s quick rise also reveals just how far some of the other Gary schools have fallen &ndash; and not just in basketball.<br /><br />&ldquo;We get a lot of criticism but we just stay humble you know. We focus; we play hard, you know, we&rsquo;ve got a good coach in Marvin Rae. He gets the job done,&rdquo; Dillard said.<br /><br />Head coach Marvin Rae agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, when we first started, there was some animosity, actually we didn&rsquo;t play the Gary schools, they opted not to play us,&rdquo; Rae told WBEZ. &ldquo;When we first started, we had to travel to Rushville, Illinois to get games. We had to travel around. Our first year, we literally only had eight games.&rdquo;<br /><br />Suburban schools in Northwest Indiana didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman because of its small size. And &ndash; rightly or wrongly &ndash; because of Gary&rsquo;s reputation as an unsafe place to visit.<br /><br />But the city schools didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman either.<br /><br />&ldquo;I was not going to play Bowman because I knew right away what charter schools were built for: They are built to destroy public school systems,&rdquo; said John Boyd, a former teacher and coach at Gary&rsquo;s West Side High School, a basketball powerhouse and state champion in 2003.</p><p>Despite being a much larger school than Bowman, Boyd agreed to play one game against them in 2009.</p><p>&ldquo;I had gotten sick of people telling me I was afraid to play Bowman when I had some of the best talent in the state of Indiana,&rdquo; Body said. &ldquo;So, we ended up playing them and there was a situation that occurred.&rdquo;<br /><br />What occurred, according to Boyd, was a fight that ended any further games between Bowman and Gary schools.</p><p>But now, because of dwindling finances and declining enrollment &ndash; Gary public education struggling to keep its public high schools open. Of its five public high schools, only two still have basketball teams.<br /><br />Bowman&rsquo;s success &ndash; in the classroom and on the court &ndash; is now luring most of Gary&rsquo;s top talent in basketball and academics.<br /><br />And with other charter schools having varying success in Gary, Boyd says it&rsquo;s only going to get tougher for the Steel City.<br /><br />&ldquo;These charter schools are taking away students from the Gary public schools. Gary is actually a case study in how charter schools can come in and absolutely take over a school corporation which means that yes, Gary will have to close schools until they only have one high school,&rdquo; Boyd said.<br /><br />Gary&rsquo;s charter schools are often criticized for shifting resources away from public schools. Bowman&rsquo;s Rae says while he understands that criticism, &ldquo;we just kind of keep to ourselves and do what we do best and focus on each other,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bowman&rsquo;s success now attracts top teams from all over the region that flock to Gary to play them, with most games attracting the attention of college recruiters. Because of their packed scheduled, Marvin Rae says there&rsquo;s no room to play Gary schools now even if they wanted to.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a matter of do we want to play, at this point our schedule is full,&rdquo; Rae said.<br /><br />Rae insists he&rsquo;s not gloating. As someone who used to play at Gary Roosevelt High School &ndash; a one time powerhouse &ndash; he knows Gary&rsquo;s public schools are stressed.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;If we can sit down and help the Gary community schools and anyone else, we&rsquo;re always open to help anyone with suggestions and ideas,&rdquo; Rae said.</p><p>Even rival coach John Boyd has come to terms with Bowman&rsquo;s unmatched success and called Rae recently to wish him luck in Indy this weekend.<br /><br />&ldquo;They are probably the premier basketball program in Northwest Indiana right now. When you are winning championships you have to be revered,&rdquo; Boyd said. &ldquo;The Bowmans of the world bring attention to Gary, Indiana. We need to want Bowman to be successful.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937