Minority Students in Chicago: Hostages of the Democratic Party

Editor’s note: The following is the fourth in a series of FrontPage articles that will unmask the racial injustice of Democrat-controlled education by examining some of the nation’s worst (and biggest spending) school districts. Read our previous reports on the public school systems of  Washington, D.C.Detroit and Philadelphia

In 2009, the Chicago Public School system (CPS) was rocked by a grade inflation scandal. A Chicago Sun-Times report revealed that one-fifth of the CPS teachers felt “pressured” to change grades. “There’s definitely a sense of, ‘We’ve gotta move these kids through.’ Even though they’re not even close to grade level,” said English teacher Caitlin Ring at the time. Apparently no one learned their lesson. In 2010, led by Hyde Park Academy High, a number of schools in Chicago changed the grades of thousands of students once again. NBC Chicago speculated the moves were made to avoid another round of controversial closures of failing schools similar to those that occurred in 2010. Such failure is endemic to the CPS — and once again, it is black and Hispanic students who overwhelmingly suffer the consequences of another failing Democrat-run, major metropolitan school system.

The statistics are distressingly aligned with those of other failing, big city public school systems. In July 2012, a self-congratulatory CPS release touting the “highest graduation rate on record” revealed that 60.6 percent of students were earning a diploma. That such a stat means almost two-in-five students don’t graduate or, more accurately, drop out, is apparently no reason to dampen the enthusiasm. “These results are impressive, but we have more work to do in ensuring that every child in our district graduates ready for college and career,” said former Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard in a news release.

What Brizard didn’t mention, nor was he asked to explain, is the reality that even the 60.6% “graduation” rate is a sham. CPS calculates five-year graduation rates to reach that figure, and has been doing so for fourteen years, despite a state requirement that four-year graduation rates must be used for official counts sent to parents. Essentially, this gimmick allows the school to include in the graduation rate students who require extra time to graduate. Furthermore, the uptick of 2.3 percent was lower than the five-year gains posted in 2006 or 2010. Brizard can no longer explain anything. After only 17 months on the job, his $250,000 contract was terminated by “mutual agreement” with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In a piece for the Chicago Tribune, Brizard highlighted some of the grim realities of the CPS, noting that “fewer than 24 percent of Chicago Public Schools graduates were prepared to attend a four-year college, and only 1 in 7 African-American students tested college-ready.” He also contended that “the public school district is an outdated model that is not flexible or responsive enough to serve the needs of all students.” Brizard then reveals the ultimate bankruptcy of that model. “Twenty-five years of reform have not produced a sufficient number of quality schools in Chicago,” he concludes.

When the latest graduation rates were revealed, CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler claimed that CPS students are better prepared entering high school, “due to investments we’ve made at the elementary level.” According to the U.S. Department of Education, such “investments” cannot be squared with reality. A full 79 percent of eighth graders are not grade-level proficient in reading, and 80 percent are not grade-proficient in math. Thus, a student body that is 41.6 percent black and 44.1 percent Hispanic is getting shafted, even as education officials are patting themselves on the back.

Yet it is black children who are faring the worst. During the same 25 years Brizard cites as a failure regarding reform efforts, the racial achievement gap has widened in the CPS system, surpassing national trends. Black students have lost ground to white, Hispanic and Asian students, and the dropout rate for blacks is ten points higher that the 40 percent rate that afflicts the system overall. A 2011 report by the CPS itself reveals other damning stats, including the reality that only 7.9 percent of eleventh graders are college ready, and that over the course of two decades, reading scores have remain flat, and math scores have made only marginal gains. Yet the most staggering statistic of all is the 44-point achievement gap — chasm is more like it — between black and white high school student performance.

Such epic failure no doubt explains another dubious statistic: a 2004 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute revealed that 39 percent of Chicago public school teachers send their own children to private schools. So does Windy City Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Such hypocrisy is amplified in a report compiled by researchers working for the teachers union that characterized the effort to close neighborhood public schools and replace them with privately-run charter schools as “educational apartheid.” Naturally, the union’s interest was self-serving: charter schools are non-union, and their existence, along with their expansion, threatens the status quo.

However, it is the teacher union itself that promotes apartheid. It is their unrelenting efforts to keep minority children in failing public schools rather than give them a chance to succeed in another setting that constitutes genuine segregation. While union leaders and the politicians they support send their kids to private schools, in 2010, the union blocked a pilot program set up by former state Sen. James Meeks aimed at getting more than 20,000 students out of substandard Chicago public schools. The bill was passed in the Senate, but died in the House. In the last three years, no other bill has come close to a floor vote, even as the same public schools continue to mortgage the futures of black children.

A new “solution” has been proposed by Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago). He wants to use lottery money to pay for $6000 scholarships for 1,000 students per year. Kids who live the ZIP codes with the highest lottery sales, mostly the poorest neighborhoods in the city, would be eligible. Who wouldn’t be eligible? The other 18,000 children who would still be on waiting lists for a charter school education.

Meanwhile, according to the CPS website, teachers earn an average of $74,839 per year, a number that does not include benefits. When the teachers union initiated a strike last September 10, CTU attorney Robert Bloch attempted to elicit sympathy for their plight. “When you’re looking at compensation, it’s not enough just to look at salary, because Chicago Public Schools teachers have to pay more for their insurance, and they get less of a contribution from the employer for their pension than in other cities,” he complained.

The key issues for the union during that strike, even as they voiced the oh-so-familiar “we care about the children” mantra? Maintaining salary increases, existing benefits, and job security, and changing a teacher evaluation system that relied “too much” on test scores to measure teacher performance. Regarding such performance, the all-too-typical union cop-out was employed. “This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control,” the union said in a news release.

In the end, the union prevailed. Teachers received a 17.6 percent pay hike over four years, and test scores will count less in teacher evaluations. The teachers also staved off paying more for their own health insurance. Seniority pay increases, as well as those for additional education, both of which the school system wanted to limit or eliminate, remained in place.

In short, twenty-five years of failure were rewarded.

And as night follows day, and Chicago follows the trend of other urban school systems, such rewards are fiscally unsustainable. In 2013, the CPS is facing a budget shortfall somewhere between $600 and $700 million. Those numbers don’t factor in a longer school day, one of the few concessions the unions granted during the strike negotiations. Yet that concession must be put in perspective as well. Prior to the increase, the CPS had one of the shortest school days in the nation.

In 2014, the budget shortfall may top $1 billion because the district will be forced to resume making full pension payments, from which they had taken a four year “holiday.” CPS projects pension costs to increase by almost $340 million in 2014. And despite pie-in-the-sky talk by CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, who thought the district’s projections were overstated, more budget reality intruded as recently as a month ago: Standard & Poor’s rating service downgraded the state of Illinois’ credit rating to the worst in the nation. A multi-billion dollar shortfall in the funding public employee pensions was the primary reason for it.

Furthermore, like virtually every other failing, big-city school district, Chicago is overwhelmingly a Democrat town, and has been since the 1930s. Such one-party dominance has its consequences. Former alderman-turned-University of Illinois at Chicago professor Dick Simpson, who cites data from the U.S. Department of Justice, reveals that Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation. In last four decades, 30 Chicago aldermen have been convicted for a number of crimes including bribery, extortion, embezzlement, tax fraud, and other forms of corruption. Simpson estimates such corruption has cost the city $500 million. “We have had machine politics since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871,” he said. “Machine politics breeds corruption inevitably.”

It is an inevitability that Chicago voters in general, and black Chicago voters in particular, continue to embrace. In 37 precincts largely dominated by black American populations, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t get a single vote during the 2012 election. Furthermore, Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. was reelected despite being under investigation for misuse of campaign funds, for which he has now taken a plea involving significant jail time. So was Democrat-backed judge Cynthia Brim, despite being suspended from the bench for battery charges for which she was found not guilty–because she was “legally insane.” Derrick Smith was also reelected, despite being charged with bribery, as well as being the first Illinois House member expelled in 107 years.

Thus, the big city school system location changes, but the game remains the same. It is a game in which the union- and Democrat-maintained status quo churns out decades of failing students suffering from large achievement gaps, while massive budget shortfalls driven by intransigent and greedy unions continue to balloon. Meanwhile the corrupt politicians and labor bosses who run the system are rarely held accountable. To the contrary, their bottom lines only improve.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Yes, the kiddies are indeed hostages, both to radical left unions (appendages of the Dem Party) and to their Islamic helpmates.

    If this was not the case, how is it possible to explain the following outrages – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/02/01/alert-america

    While some students are able to escape into private schools, the rest are held hostage to a radical axis. To be sure, the private schools are not free from radical influences, as evidenced within – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/10/25/first-they-ca

    In a nutshell, the way to ensure a compliant America is to indoctrinate generations of children. Evil by design.

    Adina kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • UCSPanther

    The more I read of Chicago, the more I see the next Detroit…

    • Mary Sue

      I thought Chicago was worse?

  • Anthony

    Black run Chicago, black teachers, black parents, black entertainment, equals black thugs with back packs commonly referred to as ” students”.

    • bluffcreek1967

      Good point! And, of course, it only demonstrates that anything run by blacks is destined to fail. It may not be a popular thing to point out, but the facts and actual conditions of black-run cities are open for all to see. One can blame it on 'racism,' 'disenfranchisement,' 'white privilege' or whatever the latest liberal excuse might be. But very few will admit that all of this is but a reflection of who these people are inherently. Whites, especially, refuse to acknowledge that blacks, on average, possess neither the intellectual acumen, the moral character, the self-discipline, the practical wisdom nor the educational levels to effectively manage any city, let alone a large city like Chicago – as Detroit and other black-run cities can attest to. The same is true in other countries in the world (Haiti, South Africa), so this is not something unique to the U.S.

  • Anthony

    Another thing, good schools once they become minority majority invariably become dangerous and lose any pretense of being a place of education. The focus always becomes how to deal with the school’s “student” population, crime, drugs, and violence.

    Ditto that with neighborhoods that become black majority. Ditto that with companies that are forced to hire the products of the liberal mindset, or police departments, or he federal, state, and local governments. The rest is all around s, the lowest common denominator is called “diversity”, failure of these appointed ones is called ” racism”, and the silence of the intellectuals to define the destruction of America as a direct result of their never ending quest to worship at he alter of blacks is criminal.

  • Robin

    There is nothing accidental about the dysfunction of the urban schools. Last week I linked that Chicago was where sociocultural theory was turned into the Standards for Teaching and Learning that is now going national as what the real Common Core implementation looks like in the classroom. The dysfunction created is a tremendous breeding ground for community organizing and critical race theory and insisting that capitalism itself is to be blamed for all inequities.
    http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/keep-urban-sc… lays out hot only how the community organizing works but how Saul Alinsky's IAF is operating in these urban districts as the Alliance Network. The assault on the suburban schools is being asserted in part as "zip code" discrimination which parents with resources supposedly do not have to endure. Kevin Chavous and Gloria Romero among others were parties to a letter to Arne Duncan and his Civil Rights Division on this within the last week.

    Finally these urban districts are being used to experiment social and emotional learning programs as a substitute for academic learning. CASEL is located in Chicago. And I just read a report yesterday on how Cleveland is using PATHS–Practicing Alternative Thinking Strategies for Prekindergarten (little minds) to 12th as a means of fostering a Positive School Culture. PATHS research for years was taking place in urban school districts.

    Intentionally break the school learning model and then use Equity as the argument to break all other schools. And I am not speculating here. I am watching the assault on the suburbs through Harvard's Strategic Data Project in particular. And unappreciated language in District Charters as well which parents assume must be academic without recognizing that Life Skills and Soft Skills as the emphasis are anything but.

    • davarino

      The idiots rule in these places. The only way out is home school or private school, but you have to have the money for that, and being in poor neighborhoods like these makes it a prison. I feel sorry for the children because they dont know what is going on or how they are being manipulated and what is in store for their future. Will Rahm Emanuel hire these affirmative action cases in his government? Oh hell no. He just wants a bunch of working trolls to fund his kingdom without question.


    • http://www.clarespark.com clarespark

      Right you are, Robin. I had already written about Common Core and its evil content here: http://clarespark.com/2013/01/05/american-fascism…. "American [Fascism?] and the Future of English and American Literature." It has a bibliography of materials summarizing the Common Core program and my various responses to it.

  • Questions

    Our friend Arnold Ahlert confuses cause and effect. It isn't minority students who are hostages of the Democratic Party; it's the Democratic Party who are hostages of minority students and their irate, blacker-than-thou parents. Try being a white politician facing screaming blacks at a public meeting. It's an experience you'll never forget.

  • Anthony


    I had you wrong Questions. You are not a total liberal maniac. You are mostly correct in what you say, though let’s not forget that theirs is a symbiotic relationship.

    • Questions

      Had you paid attention to what I'd been posting many times over, you would have realized that the maniac was you. Thanks for the back-handed compliment. For the record, I consider myself a conservative elitist — a right-wing snob, if you will. I have standards. And if the Right doesn't meet them, I'll go just as hard on them as I do on the nonthinking Left. Sorry if I'm not a fan of the mad mean girl, Sarah Palin.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    What is seen in Chicago is the result of a corrupt society, the school system is a window to
    the rest of Chicago life and the criminal behavior of all of it's leaders. Reform in Chicago will
    take a miracle. To think people blame the new little leader in North Korea for maintaining
    slave colonies of hundreds of thousands with lives tied to desperation and suffering.
    I do not know the name of the giant prison City in North Korea but it would make a perfect
    sister City for Chicago…………………………William

  • bryce armstrong

    How about instead of blaming Democrats for ruining BLACK education, we blame BLACKS for ruining education? Just saying.

    • davarino

      You know, I didnt think of it that way, but they do keep voting for the same people and policies. Hmmmmmmm

    • Parenthetical Phrase

      I agree. Many, many years ago there were horror stories coming out of public schools in New York where white teachers were physically threatened by students and their parents if they did not give the students passing grades even if the students' work was at failling levels. So the teachers attitudes changed and understandably so. Not too long ago, I saw a video on Youtube where a white teacher was punched out and fell to the ground for the "crime" of passing a group of black teens on the street. Does anyone expect that teachers would care if such students receive a good education?

  • Anthony


    He “Right” is getting ready to be what it has been for many years tonight, a fake, phony disgrace to conservative ideology by prancing out Marco Rubio and his Spanish language skills tonight in a shameful act of getting in on the circle jerk that is minority politics.

  • http://twitter.com/Rebeledward1 @Rebeledward1

    up to I looked at the bank draft that said 8292, I have faith that…my… mother in law woz like actually receiving money in there spare time from there new laptop.. there mums best friend had bean doing this for only 23 months and resantly repaid the debts on their condo and got a top of the range Toyota. I went here, fb26.ℂOM

  • Parenthetical Phrase

    I certainly agree that the public school systems in this country are run by corrupt unions and school boards. However, I would appreciate it if someone would explain to me why it is that Asian and white students can do fairly well in public schools but blacks and Latinos cannot. Is it always the fault of a) the Democrats; b) the teachers; c) the unions; or d) the school boards? Is it EVER the responsibility of the STUDENTS or the students' parents? I'm always struck by the touting of the "black church" as being the cornerstone of the black community. Why then is the black church silent in promoting a positive attitude towards education in the community? If the attitude towards studying and doing your best in school is that it is for white people or that it's not a "black" thing to do, it really doesn't matter if the school is good or bad or that the teachers don't care. It is that the students don't care.

    • Questions

      Take a good look at whose running the black churches: Revs. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Herbert Daughtrey, Calvin Butts, Floyd Flake, Franklyn Richardson, etc. Would you expect anything more with such people leading congregations?