Questions About the Chicago Public Schools $20 Million Scandal

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By Hermene D. Hartman

How did it happen?

How did Chicago Public Schools let a no-bid $20.5 million contract go to the SUPES Training Program in the first place? What’s not being said here? What was SUPES teaching to the principals, who mostly already have postgraduate degrees? Why aren’t management courses in the graduate educational curriculum in the first place? Chicago’s richest elite supports the Chicago Public Education Fund. In fact they could probably be called the “B Club” – B for Billionaire. Their good deeds have been an interest in public education. Such nobility. The roster reads like a Chicago Blue Book of Blue Bloods – Ken Griffin, Bruce Rauner, Scott Smith, Mellody Hobson, Sam Zell and Penny Pritizer.
Well now, those are deep pockets and that crowd could probably do whatever they put their mind and money to, from electing politicians to changing the course of education.
But, why? Why are the rich ones so interested in public education, when probably all of their children attend(ed) private schools?

Is Barbara Byrd-Bennett being used? She’s the school superintendent who recently went on a leave of absence while the feds are investigating, and she will probably be out until the end of June, which just so happens to be when her contract is up.

Should the entire school board take a leave of absence until the end of their terms and we bring in a new board entirely? Is Bennett the sacrificial lamb here or is she the actual culprit? The looming question is how she got a $20.5 million no-bid contract through the board to her former employer. Quite a task, don’t you think?
If Bennett steps down, should the board members step down, too? Were the board rules followed? By that I mean most school boards have a limit on the contracts and what passes. A $20.5 million contract with no bid is glaring.

There are many universities in the Chicago area that could have fulfilled the contract, had they known about it. Was it a hush-hush contract that no one was supposed to know about?

How Could City Hall Not Know?

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

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How Could City Hall Not Know?

Did Mayor Rahm Emanuel know about this contract? It is amazing how this got past City Hall. The scrutiny that minority businesses go through to get city contracts at just a fraction of this $20.5 million is unbelievable.

Minorities are required to damn near present DNA samples for the simplest of work, for contracts over the amount of just $50,000. You are just about asked for certifications to include everything from a birth certificate to fingerprints. How was this company able get a no-bid contract for that amount?
How and when did the FBI begin its investigation? Usually in school systems, particularly when professional development courses are mandatory, the training takes place on Fridays so that educators use work time rather than time off. They are usually paid for the educational professional development time.
Why did the FBI investigation come to light a week after the April 7 mayoral election? What a difference a week makes. Had this information come to light a week prior to the election, we would probably have a new face in City Hall.

Chuy’s point about the city being run by one percenters would have been headline news and crystal clear thanks to this scandal.

It is truly time for public education to get a grip. Taxpayer dollars should be wisely spent and not toyed with by the politicos and the wealthy families of the city. Our children deserve better.

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She did not sign a $20 million contract with just her signature.

Outside educators don’t work well in Chicago. Their life span at the helm is about two to three years. So, here we go again, another superintendent bites the dust. But is Bennett being used, because she couldn’t have issued the contract with the strike of her signature alone. Is there a rich man’s conspiracy here? Just asking.

Would an elected school board work better than one appointed by the mayor? Maybe so. Governor Rauner has suggested that CPS file for bankruptcy so that it can restructure. That is probably the correct stance, as hard as it would be to do. But you shudder to think what happens if the system keeps moving in its current direction.
Real educators need to step up. Kill the politics. Let’s educate the children for a brand new world so they can prosper. We need a superintendent who is one of our very own, from the ranks within, with business executive support to do the right thing. This sounds like a great job for Karen Lewis.

One of the elements I love about the new media environment is that you don’t have to be a daily to dig for the real news. It was Catalyst Chicago, a small publication dedicated to educational news, which brought this story to the forefront. But this story is deep and has only just begun. Who knows where it will lead?

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