Six Things To Note About Chicago Schools Clout Investigation

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There's lots of news about the clout investigations surrounding CPS and it's easy to get lost, but here are some key things to note about where things stand right now:

1.  Arne Duncan is probably off the hook in terms of the Federal investigation, because the subpoena only asks for information going back to January 2008.  (Unless they slam him for expanding principal discretion in February 2008 or for things that happened that first year.)

2.  Everyone else might be in deep doo-doo, however, since the Assistant US Attorney whose name is on the subpoena, Brandon Fox, appears to be on the criminal side of the USA's office, not the civil side.  That means they're looking for bribery, corruption, fraud types of things, not violations of civil rights or disparate impact types of issues.

3.  The federal probe (PDF here) focuses narrowly on the nine selective high schools, which only officially got the right to discretion in February 2008.  But the internal investigation is broader, encompassing all 52 magnet and selective schools, K through 12. (Why, a day after receiving the subpoena, did Huberman order an investigation that was broader than the US Attorney's request? We don't know.)

4.  The Tribune keeps describing principal discretion as only being allowed under "extenuating circumstances" (here) even though the 2008 language allows such a broad range of exceptions that it seems like pretty much any kid who's followed the application process (and scored above the minimum) could qualify. The looophole seems like it's written pretty broadly to me.

5.  Nobody seems to have noticed or cared that the current SE discretion language lacks the school integration language that's long been part of the discretion provision (requiring picks to "enhance or maintain" deseg goals). The 2002 language, and the revised language from February 2008, makes reference to deseg goals.  It's even in the Feb 2008 Policy Manual.  Is this simply a case of the Board trying to avoid affirmative action problems, or is it a case of the Board getting rid of a requirement that it knew it wasn't meeting? 

6.  Five percent of what?  Five percent of spots offered?  Five percent of actual enrollment?  No one seems to have the same interpretation for this.  But it makes a big difference.  Offer admission to 950 regular kids, and 50 principal's picks, and it looks like you're OK.  But if only half of the regular kids accept, and all of the picks say yes, then -- shazam! -- the discretionary picks make up 10 percent of your actual students.  

Filed under: Campaigns & Clout

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