Then – 1995
Twenty years ago, the state legislature paved the way for Mayor Richard M. Daley to seize control of CPS. His first moves? Appointing a school board without the bother of a nominating committee and naming his city budget director, Paul Vallas, as schools CEO. Their marching orders were to balance the budget and improve academic outcomes. With the help of a relatively strong economy, layoffs and $62.2 million in pension funds, Vallas etal balanced the budget while handing the teachers union its first four-year contract. He turned to accountability measures such school probation to raise achievement.
Did Vallas and his successors fulfill their mandate? Yes and no. The budget remains a mess as the use of pension funds to plug operating deficits has come home to roost. Academic performance has improved, with rising graduation rates and higher test scores, though most students, especially African American students, lag far behind national averages. Click here for a 2011 report on achievement trends during the various eras of school reform by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Will the Chicago Teachers Union and parents disgruntled with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s closure of 50 schools, the 7-day teacher strike in 2012, and on-going budget woes, wrestle control back from the mayor with an elected school board. Mayor Emanuel’s two main challengers are all for it, with Chuy Garcia calling an elected board a constitutional right. On Feb. 24, voters in 38 wards will have the opportunity to weigh in on advisory referenda. Ultimately, the legislature will decide.