Footnote Credit: Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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May 4: Vote selling?

Parents from South Loop Elementary filed a complaint with the district’s legal department, charging that men from a local homeless shelter were paid to vote for two local school council candidates. The men were reportedly spotted with flyers for Jacques Eady and Enrique Perez, who won seats as community reps. The Chicago Tribune reports that one man asked the principal, “Where do we get our $5 for voting?” Eady says he did not pay anyone to vote for him or Perez.

May 24: Lottery sale

The lottery never provided the financial fix for schools that was touted when it was first introduced, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to rely on it again. He proposes selling or leasing the lottery to bring in $10 billion. But only $4 billion would go directly into schools, while $6 billion would be invested to bring in some $650 million per year until 2024. Critics accused the governor of side-stepping the issue of over-reliance on property taxes to pay for schools.

May 25: Salary freeze

To save $4.5 million, about 1,360 administrators who make more than $40,000 per year will have their salaries frozen next year. The freeze won’t affect principals or assistant principals. More central office reorganization and cuts are expected. The district received an extra $100 million from the state, but is still facing a likely property tax hike and is set to borrow $75 million in reserve funds. In January, CEO Arne Duncan announced that the district faces a $328 million deficit in 2007.

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Texas: Tax swap

Legislators agreed on a revamp of state funding for public schools that includes a “tax swap” of higher sales taxes for lower property taxes, according to the May 16 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Faced with a deadline set by the state’s Supreme Court, Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers back to the capital to craft the bill, which increases taxes on tobacco, businesses and the private sales of used cars, while decreasing school district property taxes. The bill also includes a $2,000 pay increase for teachers.

California: Exit exams

Thousands of seniors who failed the state’s controversial high school exit exam may end up graduating after a judge tossed out the test, according to the May 13 Los Angeles Times. Opponents of the exam had asked for an injunction against it, saying the test is an unfair burden on poor and minority students stuck in low-performing schools. Some 47,000 students, about one in 10 of all seniors across the state, failed the test. Students must answer slightly more than half the test questions correctly to pass, and may take the test more than once.

Iowa: Performance pay

Higher test scores may mean higher pay for teachers in Iowa, according to the May 4 Des Moines Register. The state Senate is debating the proposed merit pay program, which would pay teachers higher salaries if their students show academic gains. The program is part of a larger bill that would also increase teacher salaries by $2,500, costing the state an additional $35 million next year and up to $105 million by 2009. The merit pay program would pilot in 10 districts.

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“Until CPS stops using police and the criminal justice system for discipline, the problems are just going to get worse.”

David Collins, 17, Schurz High. Collins was part of a small group that protested at central office on May 25, demanding a full accounting of student arrests in schools.

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I am Moroccan and consider myself African. My wife is Swedish. Our daughter appears white. What does CPS consider a minority for magnet-school admissions?

An anonymous parent

Parents decide what race they want to consider their child in magnet school admissions, according to Jack Harnedy, chief officer of academic enhancement. The district does not require any documentation, he adds. “We take them at their word.”

CPS follows the racial and ethnic classifications set by the U.S. Department of Education: white, black (or African-American), Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic.

Some North Africans, including some Moroccans, are white. In your case, you could truthfully claim that your daughter is a minority only if your ancestry is from sub-Saharan Africa.

E-mail your question to

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, school districts are supposed to make sure that highly qualified teachers are distributed equally among low-income and wealthier schools. Yet the number of districts that report taking specific steps to meet the requirement has fallen dramatically since last year. In 2005, 53% of districts said they provided more professional development funds and 43% said they stepped up recruiting efforts to get better teachers in poorer schools, according to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, which surveyed 417 districts about their implementation of NCLB. In 2006, those numbers dropped to 26% and 19%, respectively.

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