AM News: More Shady Goings On At The CO

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CPS' gifts to charities under scrutiny Former school board Presidents Michael Scott, shown left, and his protege Rufus Williams gave freely from private taxpayer-funded accounts to dozens of handpicked charities and nonprofits, many with no apparent benefit to CPS... Rules let educators get pensions along with salaries Some of Illinois' highly paid schools chiefs retire here, then jump to a new job in another state, thus picking up more than one check.. CPS Prepares for Rare School Closure Chicago Public Schools, which rarely close because of weather, are prepared to cancel classes Wednesday... Principal Says Community is Key to Saving South Side SchoolTerrance Little envisions that Phillips will be "the South Side's school of choice" and is confident that, this time, the turnaround will be a successful one... Walking in MLK's footsteps:  That civics project of fall 2008 would lead to the first and only memorial to the ugly, transforming events that took place in Marquette Park on Aug. 5, 1966...

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  • Joel Hood's Tribune article on CPS gifts to not for profits that had associations with Mr. Williams and Mr. Scott when they were presidents of the CPS Board of Education was a serious piece of journalism that went beyond what was in the CPS OIG report. It is about time that these issues are being looked at in more depth.

    There are several issues in the article that merit commenting on.
    First, Mr. Rocks, the CPS general counsel, made some comments attributed to him in the article that I found disturbing. Mr. Rocks formally endorsed gift giving of CPS funds to not for profits, his only argument was that "they should be on the public agenda so that the world can see the item and then the board votes on it." Since the CPS is itself a not for profit entity there is no particular tax incentive for it give money to other not for profit entities. The CPS has no right to give the taxpayers money to not for profit entities, this is the public's money and it was collected in taxes to fund public education. It was not collected to fund not for profit entities no matter how worthy they may be, including the not for profit I work at. I would go further than that, CPS should not even pay for its employees or Board members tickets to benefits held by not for profits.

    Looking at this article by Mr. Hood which now takes the total of inappropriate gift giving up to $525,000 going back to just 2005, I am galled in particular by cuts made to special education programs and authorized by President Scott. On May 24. 2006, at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Access Living presented comments in opposition to proposed reductions for special education programs that would save the school district $26 million. Several Chicago Public School students with disabilities, both current and former, also presented comments in opposition to the proposed budget reductions. Parents of students with disabilities spoke in opposition to the cuts at following meetings.

    Mr. Rocks was General Counsel for CPS at that 2006 meeting and Mr. Scott was in the chair. At this meeting Mr. Scott informed the protesters that budget cuts were necessary and blamed rising health care and pension costs for the deficit. In August of 2006, CPS cut 200 teachers and 750 classroom aides who serve students with autism, deafness and other physical and serious emotional disorders.

    Now I learn that Mr. Scott while blaming the deficit basically on teachers whose apparent benefit packages were too generous was giving CPS money to not for profits, apparently Mr. Rocks had no problem with that, the only issue is the process by which it was done, not the fundamental ethical issues involved. Now, would have all the possible gift giving effectively balanced the budget back in 2006, the answer is most likely no. But one or two special education aides who kept their jobs and helped severely disabled students go to the bathroom certainly would not have hurt.

    Second, the Tribune needs to look carefully at CPS funded programs run by any of the not for profits associated with Mr. Scott, Williams, and any other board members. What the Tribune needs to determine is were actually services delivered for these payments, or were some of these funded programs in reality also gifts.

    Lastly, as I have said before, whoever becomes Mayor come May needs to replace this current board and given Mr. Rocks obsession with procedural process and apparent lack of concern over ethics it would be more than reasonable that he too leave CPS. Mr. Rocks at the November 17, 2010 Board meeting was given a salary increase going from $168,606 a year to $182,094.48 a year. But wait I thought all the Central office high salary employees were taking pay cuts to help balance the budget, well apparently the impact of unpaid furlough days became a little less for the CPS guardian of procedural process.

    Rod Estvan

  • I don't think a contest of educational credentials is really a fruitful exercise, but how do you figure an average CPS teacher has more education than a lawyer at a big firm? Most of them have non-education degrees from top-ranked colleges and have been through three years of law school, again at top-ranked programs.

  • Great follow-up story by Joel Hood. I always appreciate reading Mr. Estvan's analysis. The tax dollars are meant to support schools, not the President's favorite non-profits. I also would love to know what services were purchased, and if the CPS I.G. is making any attempt to recoup any of the money.

  • I believe that Mr. Wright worked for Oprah before becoming President of CPS. Has he reimbursed CPS?

  • I am pleased to read that many of those posting find Mr. Rocks to be the epitome of ethical behavior. I am not going to trash Mr. Rocks, because it is always easy to target a lawyer. But I think for those out there militantly defending his role during the corruption investigation by the OIG at least this much needs to be pointed out; he helped select Mr. Jones who was to be the lead investigator in Mr. Scott

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