Read those political mailers verrry closely, folks

Friends, we're now down to the last days before the 2018 Illinois primary election. If you're like me, you're staggering under an avalanche of mailers from candidates in every race. After awhile (that is to say: not very long) they all start to look the same and my eyes glaze over and these mailers go straight to recycling.

But one grabbed my eye this week and it was saved from the recycling bin for the moment. Actually, what grabbed me was the tiny print at the bottom of the mailer for a 25th district candidate.

"Paid for by INCS Action Independent Committee."

All you faithful readers of Chicago Public Fools surely know what INCS is--the Illinois Network of Charter Schools; their Action Independent Committee is their political action arm and does not have a web presence.

It turns out that that mailer was the first of 5 in a row, one every day until the election.

Don't you wonder why INCS would pick one candidate in the 25th district to pay for a week of daily promotional mailings to the tune of $63,360?

If you look up INCS Action Independent Committee on Illinois Sunshine or at the Illinois State Board of Elections website, you will read that they support candidates who "share the goals of our organization."

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools says it advocates for "charter public schools," but we in Chicago know better--charter schools aren't public schools. Instead they drain cash from public schools by draining students out of them, as students are each a bundle of cash because of an ugly little funding mechanism called student-based budgeting. Charters transfer education out of the hands of educators and into the hands of entrepreneurial disruptors--folks who can make huge piles of cash by means of corporate charter chains.

INCS says all it wants is excellence for all children "no matter their zip code" and exceptional opportunity by means of school choice, but school choice in actuality has so far been an engine of resegregation and increased demographic stratification. School choice--a spin phrase that I can't stand--seems to work against overall excellence and is inherently anti-democratic. Charters have no accountability, oversight, or community input, even lacking Local School Councils.

Charters have been particularly aggressive in CPS, targeting disinvested neighborhood schools and proliferating in a district that is hemorrhaging children, particularly children of color. And though the effort failed in Chicago, one of the main goals of charter proliferation nationwide has been to weaken teacher's unions; here, of course, charter teachers unionized and joined together with CTU

I can't even believe that I still even need to have this conversation. How long have I and so many others been ranting about this? But folks, the charter school movement is chipping away at the institution of public education. It's easier to see this now with Betsy DeVos at the helm--openly antagonistic to the concept of public school, she makes no secret of her goal of privatization and the tools to get her there: vouchers, religious private schools, and charter schools.

This is not a new attack. It was carried out under Arne Duncan too, just in a milder, politer, less transparently awful way. But we see this now. We know better now. We know we want to keep our public schools public. We want to invest in them. We know what's at stake.

We know we have to read the fine print.

In the 25th district Illinois House race, it's a crowded field of Democrats, all 7 claiming to be progressives. One has been chosen and singled out by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools Action Independent Committee for special favor, and that candidate is Curtis Tarver II. INCS knows and loves something about him that I haven't found out yet, but because of their support, Tarver cannot be considered truly independent, progressive, or a public school champion.

Before you throw those mailers straight into the recycle bin, check out the fine print. Learn what the fine print means. And vote accordingly.


Others, whose flyers have not come to my mailbox, that INCS Action Independent Committee is supporting throughout the state in this election cycle include: Blaine Wilhour (R, House district 107), Iris Martinez (D, Senate district 20), Thaddeus Jones (D, House district 20), Iris Millan (D, House district 4), Dan Burke (D, House district 1), Elizabeth "Lisa" Hernandez (D, House district 24), and Andrew Chesney (R, House district 89). Of note is that INCS Action Independent Committee has spent over $38K--a huge amount for them on an individual candidate--opposing Mickey Straub, Burr Ridge mayor who dared to run against Republican House minority leader and Rauner ally Jim Durkin of the 82nd district. This amount of money catapults Straub into rarefied territory and has to qualify him for some kind of prize.  I found this information at the Illinois State Board of Elections website, and so can you. 

3/15/2018 - This post has been updated to reflect the correct current amount of the INCS donation to the Tarver campaign.

3/15/18, 12:40 p.m. - This post has been updated to reflect a further $38K in contributions from INCS to the Tarver campaign.

Follow me on twitter @foolforcps.

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