Corporate Education Reform is a Losing Proposition

The mantra of self-styled education “reformers” is that in order to improve schools, they must  run “like a business.” It’s important to note that nine out of ten new businesses fail each year.

Chicago Public Schools is managed sort of like a business. There's a CEO and there's a Board of Directors. Meetings consist of seemingly endless PowerPoint presentations and jargon like "rightsizing" and "leveraging." However, it seems that it's a business that's set up to collapse. The mayor is the one stacking up this house of cards as he appoints the entire Board and CEO. I’m no MBA, but I would think that if I had the opportunity to appoint the entire Board of Directors of a corporation as well as the CEO, I would not appoint people who also sat on the board of another organization with a sole purpose of dissolving and selling off portions of my business. I would think that would be a fast track to putting my business into that 90% failure category.

These Chicagoans support public education, not privatization. 

New Schools for Chicago formerly known as the Renaissance Schools Fund is a non-profit corporation that seeks to advance “school choice” in Chicago, which is a nice way of saying “selling schools to private contractors.” The Board of Directors of New Schools for Chicago is largely comprised of captains of industry, with a few exceptions, namely Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale, and newly appointed member of the School Board Deborah Quazzo. Clare Munana, a past member of the Board of Education also sits on the New Schools Board as well as two people who have privatized charter schools named after them, John Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Exelon and Bruce Rauner, gubernatorial hopeful whose sole agenda is busting Unions, specifically teachers unions.

Again, I’m no MBA, but how is double duty on a public Board and a private one seeking to dissolve the public one not a conflict-of-interest?

If the school district is supposed to run like a business, shouldn’t it at least be run like a successful one? If its goal outsourcing to "choice" schemes like charters shouldn't they at least work with charters that run like successful businesses?

Apparently not.

One of the favored "clients" of the Board of Education is the embattled UNO Charter School organization. Its conflicts-of-interest have been well documented by the Chicago Sun-Times. These reports forced Governor Pat Quinn to freeze state funding on a new UNO School .

After UNO let go of one of its chiefs, the state money poured back in.

As a non-MBA, this may be above my pay grade, but I would think that a business should pay vendors for services rendered before organizing an elaborate grand opening.

This was not the case for UNO. A $143,000 celebration was organized by the charter school organization for the grand opening of a new school. Recently, 10 contractors on this particular project said that UNO stiffed them out of $1.3 million.

Chicago needs a School Board that is accountable to the public, not private interests. We need an elected School Board that represents Chicago's diverse communities and interests.

UNO CEO Juan Rangel voices his support for Chicago's 1% taking over CPS. 

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    Kenzo Shibata

    Kenzo Shibata taught high school English in the Chicago Public Schools for nearly a decade and was a founding member of CORE: The Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators. Shibata was a labor and public education activist who reported and blogged on education policy before taking a position with the Chicago Teachers Union. From 2010-2012 he was the chief publications editor before taking on the newly created position of social media coordinator in July of 2012. He manages social media, blogs, and edits video for CTU. His work can be seen in Gapers Block, Beachwood Reporter, AREA-Chicago, Alter-Net, In These Times, Substance News, Jacobin Magazine, Huffington Post, Labor Notes and Truth-Out. His social media work has been highlighted in NPR, The Daily Dot, and DNA-Info. He’s been a guest on Take Action News and the Matthew Filipowicz Show. Shibata recently completed his Masters in Public Policy at Northwestern University. Shibata was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Organizing 2.0 Conference. Follow him on Twitter: @kenzoshibata

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