Duncan Kept Clout List [updated]

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The Tribune's Azam Ahmed has the goods on what everyone assumed went on during the Duncan era but could never prove:  a clout list at CPS:  "For several years when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was Chicago Public Schools chief, his office maintained a list of politicians and others seeking help for applicants to selective schools, former top aide David Pickens told the Tribune today." 

UPDATE:  Sun Times' Roz Rossi adds a few more details but nothing (yet) to suggest that the Duncan team actually clouted kids into schools.  Principal picks were a mess, though, no doubt about it.  And clearly the Duncan team knew about it and doesn't seem to have done much to end it. 


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  • the tribune names names --"25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun." -- and notes that VIPs didn't always get their wishes, but still won't say how it "obtained" the two-year compilation. i'm guessing it's from pickens. anyway...

  • roz rossi's sun times story has some more details -- i guess pickens is talking to everyone -- and some confusion within the duncan team about who knew about the list and who didn't


  • good point, anony-mouse -- except that (a) it's a sign that duncan et al were participating in system that they knew was broken and didn't do anything about it, and (b) it puts duncan et al in the position of possibly clouting kids into these schools, as happened at the UofI, instead of cleaning up the process. if it was a problem, why didn't they tighten it down?

  • To momof4 -- You're incorrect. ALL SE high schools had and have principal discretion selections -- up to 5% of each class, in fact. This year, the Northside principal is projected to have 13 such picks for next year's class. These are kids who, by definition, didn't make it in "based on test scores." So what are you talking about?

    As for the bigger issue, this truly is much ado about nothing. The article itself says that most of the kids on whose behalf the big shots called DIDN'T get in. So principals were inundated with calls, some from folks with clout. For the most part, those principals rebuffed those calls and directed the callers downtown to appeal. And, downtown, Pickens logged the calls he received. There is nothing at all improper or corrupt about this. Why is this news? I personally think that principal selections should be eliminated altogether. (Yes, momof4, even for Northside.) But this article certainly doesn't demonstrate that anything improper went on. It may have, but this article is all smoke and no fire.

  • momof4 -- Despite your attacks, you're still wrong. I know at least two kids currently at Northside who were principal discretion admissions. As for the 13 spots set aside for this year's principal discretions at that school, just what do you think will happen to them? They will go unused? Moreover, where has Northside, CPS, or OAE publicly proclaimed that that school won't use those spots? The principal discretion program exists there and it is currently underway for next year.

  • Over the years I have had many parents of academically higher functioning students with disabilities ask me to call someone at CPS to help get their kid into an SE school, aruging that the admissions process for students with learning disabilities was unfair. There is truth in this complaint due to the fact that it is very difficult for these students to make the cut into SE schools, and I have always believed that this is a policy issue that CPS needs to address. But I never would agree to try to push some student in using conections or placing calls to central office, nor would I call an SE principal to do this for a parent.

    The reason I have not done this is that if a CPS offical granted me this favor what is the reciprocal favor could I be faced with? Maybe backing off of a complaint for a student, accepting not the best deal I could get for another student? I simply do not want to go there, so I would never make such a request. Once you begin to ask the CPS for favors you owe CPS favors, the same rule applies to the City of Chicago, and various state agencies. My response always was and will be here is the phone number good luck with your call and don't say I referred you, I just gave you a phone number to get through.

    Rod Estvan

  • Andrew Jackson Language Academy! Andrew Jackson Language Academy! It is full of clout families!
    So many of these kids are hand picked. Alderman make phone calls!!!

  • john kass describes how chicago's two tiered school system binds both elite parents and those who want jobs to him, even as only a small minority of schools thrive


  • a slew of new stories about the lists from the new york times and others --



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