When the charter lobby wants your turf

img_20180318_160930918_hdrWhat does it look like when the charter lobby wants your district?

Have you ever thought about that? Do you wonder how charter corporations choose a neighborhood to set up shop? Have you sort of always figured, well, charter schools move into neighborhoods where they're needed, or where schools are struggling, or the children need better options? Places where those other schools are failing? You think--you, average rather privileged Chicago white person whose children will surely go through CPS's selective or magnet schools--well, charters may not be all that but at least they're better than those terrible schools in those other neighborhoods. I mean, you might not send your kid to one, but hey, we should take what we can get. And charters seem to be ready and willing to go to work, set up a few schools in those neighborhoods, make the sacrifices, spend the cash. So why not?

Something like that.

Well the Illinois Network of Charter Schools--the lobbying arm of the charter industry--has come to my neighborhood and I want to tell you about it.

For 38 years we have had one state representative in the 25th district, Barbara Flynn Currie, who is finally retiring after an honorable career as a public servant. So we need a new one. A vexing question in a neighborhood that hardly remembers what it is to elect a state representative in a city that itself hardly knows how to do democracy. But 7 folks took up the challenge and its been an interesting informative race with these 7 decent candidates making many appearances at public forums and coffees and meet and greets. Some have greater financial assets, some have more endorsements, whatever, it's been an interestingly matched contest.

Until this week. I already wrote about the influx of charter money that has come to our neighborhood: $63K worth of daily mailers in the favor of one candidate, Curtis Tarver, who has repeatedly claimed he didn't know about it, didn't ask for it, and it didn't mean anything. They depicted him as a hard working family man dedicated to social justice. It was an awful lot of money --more than most of the candidates raised altogether, and a sum of about 70% of that candidate's total fundraising. He didn't like my last post, blocked me on twitter, and left a neighborhood public email forum because of questions about the mailers.

I thought voters needed to know who was paying for what on behalf of whom. I always think this. It is not a new interest of mine. And the charter lobby is also not a new interest. I have watched them muscle legislators, buy off young politicians, and release misleading data for years. We have a politician in their pocket in the next door district. Christian Mitchell has served them mostly by not ever saying no, or slow down, or why, or let's listen to our constituents first. He's not a big charter cheerleader, but he doesn't need to be. The charter lobby prevented an able public-school proponent challenger, Jay Travis, from winning in Mitchell's last contest by flooding the race with tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of Mitchell. It doesn't matter what a good candidate you are, or what a well run campaign you've put together. Not much can stand up in the face of 50K additional dollars.

Well, here in Hyde Park we are in the middle of this now. INCS knows it has never "had" this district entirely. And now it has a chance. It's like when an old home in a great location that has only ever had one owner goes on the market. It's very valuable property.

So yesterday INCS took things up a notch.

They sent out a $12K mailer against an opponent of Tarver's. They chose this particular person because she had the endorsement of the Chicago Teacher's Union. Never believe it when you hear that the charter industry supports public schools. All that positive public school talk is betrayed by mailers like the one they sent to the 25th district.

It is an astonishingly trashy, lowdown piece of absurd and vile garbage based on--at a long stretch--half truths. Predictably fire-alarm red and with bizarre text like "THEY SAY THE TRUTH HURTS" so we will likely need a few bandaids when we learn "THE TRUTH." (Bandaids? Really?) Bandaid x's serve as bullet points in a list taken straight off the front of the National Enquirer--EVICTIONS! CAR WRECKS! GUNS!

In an age where most public discourse operates in this vein--but never before for us, on a level this local--this mailer takes on even more weight.

I'm telling you, this thing is utter trash. But it doesn't just harm one person. It manages to take down two.

Although we weren't thinking of him, at all, the running text along the bottom assures us that Curtis Tarver had nothing to do with this. It's the same boilerplate disclaimer that's appeared on all of the mailers INCS Action Independent Committee has sent out on behalf of Tarver.

There's only one problem with this strategy. It won't fly in this district. We all know each other too well. We talk too much. We've had too many forums. We don't operate this way. We know this mailer is lying garbage.

My old dad used to make fun of Hyde Park, saying it was like Mayberry. We have bike parades that our elected officials march in for 4th of July. Kids go to the neighborhood schools their parents went to. We have garden fairs and community groups and parent clubs out the wazoo. We have our own community newspaper. We read, we talk, we research, we work things out. Together.

Oh I know the entirety of the 25th district isn't Hyde Park. But it turns out South Shore and South Chicago are also communities like this. The charter lobby has already made significant inroads into those neighborhoods. But now they can manage to control the whole thing--who knows? Maybe for another 38 years!

People, keep your eyes open. Do not let outsiders come in and trash your local political process. And if they do, please stand up to them. Show that you know, you see. INCS, we see you. Get out of our community--you are not welcome here.


Follow me on twitter @foolforcps.



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