Who's Behind Parent Power (& ILRYH)?

Who's Behind Parent Power (& ILRYH)?

Today’s education news:  Locally, Gordon Tech is now DePaul College Prep. Byrd-Bennett gets a shout out for her appearance at a Kanye West performance. They’re fighting over school funding proposals. Raise Your Hand got the Sun-Times to bite on a conspiracy story about who’s behind a new parent group hosting a citywide middle school conference (especially ironic given nagging questions about who’s behind ILRYH and why their positions match up so completely with CTU’s views). Nationally, student homelessness is still on the rise, and two districts shared the annual Broad Prize for district improvement. 


Nybo Fights Bill That Devastates Local School Funding Chicago Tribune: State Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) has vowed to fight passage of Senate Bill 16 (SB 16) that would strip suburban schools of most of their state support while channeling that money to Chicago schools.

Yeezus Made His Homecoming at Chicago’s AAH! Fest Noisey: Shout out to top bun-wearing Bulls center Joakim Noah who looked like a high giant and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett who was having an awfully good time.

Parents who want to attend school fair asked to provide names, emails Chicago Sun-Times: Parent Power was founded by Tom Hurvis, a Northbrook-based businessman who has served on the board of New Schools for Chicago, and led by Chris Butler, a former New Schools director of advocacy and outreach.

Gordon Tech Renamed DePaul College Prep, Debuts Large Innovation Lab DNA Info: School officials unveiled a 15,000-square-foot “maker space” and held a ceremony for the renaming.

Girl with disability wrongfully denied calculator for MAP test Voices: A mother suing Chicago Public Schools is alleging that her daughter, who has a severe learning disability, is wrongfully being denied the right to use a calculator for a district-wide assessment on Oct. 4.

Mckenzie Phlipot’s Family, Friends Criticize CPS Probe of Her Suicide DNA Info: Travis Phlipot, Mckenzie’s father, clarified his remarks to say that Chicago Public Schools had contacted him and the girl’s mother in its investigation of Mckenzie’s suicide, but they declined to participate.

Education Guru Diane Ravitch on Bruce Rauner: ‘A Terrible Idea’ Chicago Magazine: The professor, an ally of Karen Lewis, describes an awkward argument with the blunt candidate over charter schools.

Ray LSC selects principal Hyde Park Herald: Megan Thole has been one of two assistant principals at Ray since July. She has a total of seven years experience in education. Before coming to Ray, Thole served as a resident principal at Skinner North Elementary School.

WiFi In Schools: How Safe? Progress IL: Sheri Calarco, a parent in Wilmette, says her youngest son started getting headaches and rapid heart rates, only when he was in school. After a lengthy process of elimination, Wi-Fi remained the likely culprit.


Record number of public school students nationwide are homeless Washington Post: Elementary and secondary schools reported that 1.3 million students were homeless during the 2012-2013 year, an 8 percent jump from the prior year.See also AP.

The politics of Common Core don’t matter nearly as much as what happens in classrooms Vox:  While the political debate is far from settled, it now appears likely that the Common Core standards will hang on in the vast majority of states. Second, the Common Core will be the basis for end-of-year standardized tests in many more states, making the stakes for students and teachers much higher.

Common Core can help English learners in California, new EdTrust study says Hechinger Report: The rigorous new Common Core standards represent both a daunting challenge and a promising pathway that could help close the achievement gap for the growing number of American students who enter school knowing little or no English. See also EdSource Today.

‘The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace’ NPR: Robert Peace, a 30-year-old African-American, was a Yale University graduate and an almost straight-A student in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He also dealt marijuana. And had taught at his former high school. See also here.


Districts in Florida, Georgia Split School Prize ABC News: In a first for the largest education award given to public schools nationwide, jurors decided to split the $1 million Broad Prize between two urban districts – a past winner with an established record in Georgia and an up-and-coming district showing recent gains in Florida. See also AP.

In Washington Heights, Students Greet Spanish Queen With Selfies and Song WNYC: At Dos Puentes Elementary in Washington Heights on Monday, first graders sang a stirring rendition of “Let it Go” in Spanish, and eighth graders took selfies with Queen Letizia of Spain. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Interim Superintendent Aims To Keep Seattle Public Schools On A Steady Course Seattle Public Radio: Marcie Sillman speaks with Seattle Public Schools Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland about the challenges ahead as he takes charge of Seattle Public Schools.


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  • Alexander, I am surprised and dismayed to read this headline and post. I take issue with the innuendo put forth about Raise Your Hand.

    You know me, you've interviewed me for "Education Next," you even donated a signed copy of your book "Stray Dogs, Saints and Sinners" to Raise Your Hand's first ever fundraiser in 2011.

    Echoing the back channel narrative that frames anyone that disagrees with the district as "for the union" is sadly, an effective but disingenuous way to marginalize real parent voices and to ignore and trivialize their real, on-the-ground concerns.

    At the recent City Club luncheon, I asked Barbara Byrd Bennett which parent groups she works with. She gave a perfunctory answer with absolutely no specifics. Raise Your Hand was not mentioned. CPS would certainly not promote and permit us to have an open channel to collect public school parent information like this new group called Parent Power.

    The district needs to make Herculean efforts to build back parent trust and engagement, and that doesn't start by further disenfranchising stakeholders, giving special access to "astroturf" groups, and framing a grassroots group of public school parents as anything but that.

  • Alex- Our total budget is $55k We received 3 grants in the past year and get individual donations from people. We do quite a lot of work on almost no budget. Not sure who has nagging questions but they should ask us.

    Our views often align with the CTU because we are a parent-led group with kids in public schools who don't think privatizing a good portion of the school system is the answer to systemic improvement. We have seen budgets slashed at our schools since our group started. Not sure what's so hard to understand about that. No one on our board is part of the CTU, although we do have 3 parents who are former teachers.

    We also don't think all charters are "bad" in any way, but we believe there is nothing to warrant the rapid proliferation of them during a fiscal crisis and declining enrollment. And we would like some sunlight on where they are spending money (position files, contracts) as district schools have to make public.

  • In reply to WendyK:

    The policies promoted by RYH simply point to a return to the "good old days" when more affluent schools had many ways to obtain a larger share of available resources.

    Experienced teachers often migrate to easier schools with more affluent parents. Without per student funding, the budget dollars move with the teachers. A desirable situation for more affluent parents and older, more influential CTU members. Not so great for lower income black and brown families trying to do better.

    RYH cares about everyone, as long policies benefit their own schools and children. They don't personally benefit from charters, so they decide the district doesn't need more charters.

    Like CTU members, most RYH parents would be horrified to send their own children to most traditional neighborhood schools in CPS.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn - we're actually putting an equity study out soon to highlight the disparities you mention and claim we want to foster? Where do you get your information about our group? We have many active parents in traditional neighborhood schools of all kinds, and those parents who only care about resources for their own school may have lost interest in us (if they ever had it) when we spent a full year working with parents at schools on the closing list. Oh well.

    Do you think many principals in low-income schools like their current budgets?

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn the ryh "moms with too much time on their hands" is just a handful of parents who pretend to represent many parents. The real mission statement is "promote negativity about the mayor and denounce anything CPS does and support anything CTU does." It truly does not matter if it is good or bad for the students.

  • In reply to WendyK:

    WendyK if you are genuinely concerned about budgets and the fiscal crisis then you should be trumpeting the need for pension reform. Pension problems are the reason for the declining budgets. Oh, that is right, your buddy Karen would not approve.

  • hey, JLW -- thanks for responding, but after all this time i still hear/have questions about who you are and how you come to your positions that are pretty similar to the ones you guys got the sun times to ask about parent power.

    given that these questions are out there, can you take a minute to fill me and anyone else in about funding sources, professional or personal or professional affiliations that might be relevant, and policy development?


  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    In the interest of transparency, I am curious to know who exactly is asking these nagging questions?

    * * *

    As you know, I am very accessible. You have my cell and email, and as long as it's not during work hours, I am pretty easy to reach or schedule time. My affiliations are on my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/jillwohl.

    Wendy lists the primary funders above, but I find it curious that every so often, a new group bankrolled with big bucks gets unprecedented access in a system that is impenetrable to 99% of citizens, and isn't held to the same level of scrutiny as parents organizing across the city because you know, they have actual children in those schools.

    This power... if only it were used for good.

  • In reply to jillw:

    Thank you Parent Power for saving the district money by hosting and paying for the school fair that CPS used to have to plan and fund as stated in the article. The Sun Times story is just stupid. Slam a group for hosting a school fair and working with CPS to get neighborhood and other school options there?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Even catholic schools are attending. Sounds good to me. Maybe ryh is against the fair because it allows catholic schools? CTU does not like non union teachers. Catholic schools do an outstanding job in high poverty areas. Let's bring vouchers to Illinois!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Sorry, you have the story backwards; it is the Catholic system that has traditionally steered their students away from the public schools. They jealously keep their kids away from public school recruiters until they have skimmed off the top 1% for their high schools, then toss away the ones who don't get in, even though their families are the ones who kept the parish grammar schools open.
    Parents who felt blindsided and protested were often told things like "I don't know - maybe your child is special ed", which precipitated a stampede to the testing centers all summer by angry Catholic school parents who couldn't understand why their children were not 'diagnosed' immediately (a 13 year old has to go through a whole lot more testing if you are being thorough than a 6 year who has language delays or an 8 year old who isn't reading yet). The archdiocese was blithe and uncaring about the way they cheated parents and sandbagged the public school system.
    Their system is why they only have one admission test day citywide; kids can't make any 'safety' applications, only to one Catholic high school. When my niece decided to make a late switch from a Catholic grammar school to a public (she had been accepted to the one Catholic high school she was allowed to test for), I contacted a magnet school and read her California test scores over the phone to the counselor, who invited her family to enroll her as soon as she could get in. When I chatted with the counselor, he told me the Catholic schools never allowed his school come to talk to the kids or their families about considering the public schools.
    Where do you think CPS got the idea from? Vallas and Daley II were rabid fans of the Catholic school system for this reason, and used to model the expansion of college prep (for whites) and charter schools (for minorities).
    It is hardly surprising to see that the Catholic schools have deigned to attend this fair: they are trolling for any bright public school kids who didn't go through their system.
    For those who obsess about such things, I did work for the public schools, for nearly 40 years. I am now retired.

  • In reply to jillw:

    Jill people in glass houses should not throw stones. your group has touted many meetings with cps. You must be part of that 1% that "penetrates"? CPS would work with RYH if it wasn't always looking for or falsely creating a "gotcha" moment. Just admit that your agenda is to generate negativity about cps to support ctu. Then we all can ignore you like we should anyway.

  • Really Alexander Russo? How can you possibly equate these two organizations? What an outrageous headline. Who is inquiring about RYH's donors? Who from RYH has ever withheld information? Parent Power, dropped from nowhere into the city months, or even weeks ago, is already being utilized by CPS, has misleading ads on WBEZ, and will not disclose who it is connected with. That CPS has hopped in bed with these people so fast is somewhat alarming, as based on the name alone they sound connected to the national movement to dissolve teacher tenure.

  • Emanuel allies release results of anti-Lewis push poll - Chicago Tribune http://ow.ly/BPhVg @DFER_IL

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Big deal. Let's ask Rahm if he still beats his wife, and write the headline to his reply, "Rahm claims he's no longer a wife-beater" or "Emmanuel refuses to address wife-beating charges"

    Eric Zorn today -
    "The assumption of a conflict of interest in the wording of the question -- a question that almost no one is asking except the clearly frightened Emanuel backers -- poisons the result"

    "My takeaway from allies of Rahm Emanuel's "poll" results is that the mayor is a wee bit scared of Karen Lewis' prospective candidacy."


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    Hilarious. Anyone who has ever been on RYH's discussion board knows that CTU does not call the shots. It is completely parent led. In fact, as a parent, I wish they would work with CTU more. Also, as a parent who helped plan the Neighborhood Schools Fair held at Clemente last year, I am in shock at the Sun Times article. Our fair was free and paid for by parent donations and donations from community groups. CPS tried to stop us from having our fair. That would have been a great opportunity for them to work with parents and instead they attempted to sabotaged it.
    Your assumptions are laughable.

  • Video: Teachers union head @KarenLewisCTU discusses run against Rahm Emanuel | MSNBC http://ow.ly/BPuIV

  • Alex, ask ryh if they send their own children to their own neighborhood school. Choice is fine for them, but not for people who are looking for a better and safer option for their children in high poverty situations.

    Just imagine how ryh would come after a parent group who denounced choice, yet used choice for their own children. People in glass houses should not throw stones!

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    Neighborhood school parent right here. I also don't leave anonymous comments on the internet. Wondering if those anonymous commenters are actually staff from the communications office at CPS. There's a department that could be cut. As far as pension reform goes, the city didn't make their payments while they increased their budget on things our city didn't need or want. Well, that will change with the next election.

  • In reply to Janet Meegan:

    Janet Meegan are you on the board of ryh? If so, how do you set policy? This question remains unanswered by Jill above. Yes, Mayor Daley did screw up pensions as did Mike Madigan. I am sure you will agree that at least Rahm is trying to fix the pension mess. Yes, lets hope Rauner wins the election! We need change in Springfield!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Until the state legislators, judges, former mayor, and aldermen start reforming their own pensions don't talk to me about reforming my pension. I don't see Daley, Madigan, Cullerton, Burke, etc. stepping up and giving up what they were promised in pension and fabulous health care plans. They have managed to amass huge personal wealth in their roles as public servants, yet they will still collect the pension and health care they negotiated for themselves. What a joke, like any money would go to schools!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Amen! I hear ya! Mayor Daley, Madigan, Cullerton, Burke, etc. have screwed us all. I would add one layer to your post. As a taxpayer, ALL public pensions need to be reformed before you raise my property taxes. The CTU and pension board were complicit in the delayed payments and got unsustainable contract concessions accordingly. Do NOT come to taxpayers until the public pensions fix their own mess.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    You need to be a bit more realistic about your property taxes. I moved from the city to a smaller home on a slightly larger lot in a nice suburb, not a wealthy one by any means, and I now pay almost double in property taxes. Yes, the school district is very good, but I don't have any school age children. The services, garbage pick-up, park district, etc. don't seem to be any better than what I had in Chicago, so I guess I'm paying for the schools which is fine by me. I work part-time in the school district that I live in and I am amazed at the difference between these schools and what I experienced working in CPS. You want quality schools and services, you have to ante up to pay for them.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    ................and teachers need to be more realistic about their pensions and pay what the rest of us do for healthcare. That alone would fix a lot.

  • @Janet sorry I too am a neighborhood parent. Dream on about me working for cps. Most parents welcome choice and do not condone the blowhard pretend parent groups lying about parent representation. Ryh is an AstroTurf group. Just a different brand. Brand CTU.

  • Someone asked how we set policy. We have a Board with 11 people on it (you can see bios on on our website if interested), and we have a new Advocates Board with around 25 parents on it. We vote on our initiatives. We have never consulted with the CTU on our agenda, although they are part of one coalition we are a member of- More than a Score.

    Astroturf groups generally have more than $55k in their budget. Luckily, we have a lot of parent volunteers who do a ton of great work.

    We aren't against school choice. We have parents on our board with kids in all types of schools - including one charter and one contract school. We are against the irresponsible opening of massive numbers of schools (charters, selective enrollment, etc) during major budget deficit times and shrinking enrollment. CPS opened 21,251 new seats during the last three budgets while claiming they had a severe under-utilization crisis. There's a difference between school choice and school destabilization.

  • In reply to WendyK:

    location, location, location underenrollment in some parts of the city and overcrowding in others. Typical RYH slant of throwing out a statistic for media coverage while missing the reality of trying to improve a school district with over 400 thousand students.

    I am calling your BS on choice. Everything ryh does and says is anti-choice. Except for you and others not sending their kids to your neighborhood school. Choice is fine for you.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    That's true, and most of the schools that have opened in the past 3 years have been in areas of declining population. We actually mapped it out. You can check it out here.


    Most of the schools that have received relief for overcrowding have received annexes. If you had attended all the board meetings for the past 4.5 years like we have, you would know that.

  • In reply to WendyK:

    Slanting data again to support your negativity brigade. Since you claim to support choice, please send your own children to the neighborhood school in one of the areas of declining population that you claim should not open an alternative choice for parents.

  • In reply to WendyK:

    As long as the 11 are in the same groupthink as queen bee katten, it is policy. What a joke!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Wendy has the education deformers scared. "Parent Power" is another lame last ditch effort by the astroturf suburban charter groupies to make a buck off of public education.

  • In reply to WendyK:

    Astro turf has nothing to do with dollars. It means being fake and trying to look like something else. RYH fits this definition by pretending to represent parents when it is just 11 people who all have the same CTU ideology "voting" and claiming to be policy experts.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    So, Parent Power fits you definition of astroturf as well, right?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    all are astro turf groups. I am not defending parent power. I am pointing out that ryh is an astro turf group as well. They do not represent parents. They are simply a ctu ideological offshoot with the sole goal of churning negativity about the mayor and cps.

  • I was blown away by Russo's insinuation about RYH--by the idea that we could have arrived at this point in our uncivil discourse about education--and I thought I would try a little experiment, changing a few words to see what this sounds like:

    I have, in my hand, a list of names that were made known to Wendy Katten as being supporters of the Chicago Teachers' Union and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in Raise Your Hand Illinois.

    There are people in Raise Your Hand who knowlingly support teachers. I will expose them and will show that this entire organization is none other than a front for the Chicago Teachers' Union.

    Members of Teachers' Unions, body and soul, are the property of the Union.

    Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between unionized teachers and Business. The modern champions of unionism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down — they are truly down.

    Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to teacher and who says, "I will protect another teacher who supports unions," is not fit to be in that classroom.

  • In reply to josephmcCarthy:

    Hey General you can plug in the same scenario with what RYH and CTU do every chance they get just replace with cps and the mayor. I do agree that it is a sad state of education with RYH and CTU churning negativity and keeping important dialogue from taking place. Heck, no big deal, the students can wait.

  • In reply to district299reader:


    You've made a good point. I am going to revise one of my anti-teacher McCarthy speech snippets:

    "Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between unionized teachers and students. The modern champions of unionism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down — they are truly down."

    That's much more incendiary--really gets your anger up at those teachers and their unions. It makes me want to burn down the home of every teacher I know. And I'm a teacher myself.

  • In reply to josephmcCarthy:

    LOL! In truth I adore teachers who are in it to make a difference in student lives (not those who just show up, get a pension and hide behind tenure.) There is no battle between teachers and students as far as I can tell. I do not get angry at teachers and in fact have defended and supported my kids teachers in every way. I do believe the union with Karen Lewis as the spokesperson ringleader is harming the students. The union strives to protect those teachers who just show up and hide behind tenure. That is what I get all pissed off about.

  • In reply to josephmcCarthy:

    Oh please, CTU teachers are criticized for what they say and do.

    You work to minimize instruction time for poor children and limit choices for their parents. You not the victim here. You are also not generally criticized for belonging to a union.

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    The insinuations against RYH are just odd. I found them when my son was still a toddler and I wanted to know who to work with to fight budget cuts as CPS. I have gotten to know more through more rounds of budget cuts and school closings. I have found them to be transparent, honest, and desiring evidence-based education for the kids of Chicago. Things CPS should also value, but doesn't. They respect the individual choices parents make--from private to SEES to charter. I personally appreciate their support of neighborhood schools as we attend one.

    For the record, I don't work for CTU or CPS. I have no financial vested interest in education at all. Other than the value of a quality education for my kids.

    Now excuse me, I have a donation to go make.

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    Why is a group, started by parents such a threat to Rahm and his status quo at BOE / CPS??? Russo claims to have lived in NY since 2006, where voters (and many public school parents) just elected a new mayor this last year opposed to educational reformers. Mr. Russo you are out of touch when it comes to what is happening in neighborhood elementary and high schools in Chicago. When was the last time you stepped foot into one? Or spoke with parents struggling to raise monies for their kids school(s)? RYH is one of the few sources parents have to learn how to navigate CPS red tape for their children, because many of the "new" people running CPS have no clue and neither do many school administrators. Maybe you should stick to writing about NY school system since you only have hate for the Chicago Teachers Union and not the politicians who created the pension mess in IL - it started back with Gov. Thompson and was multiplied under Mayor Daley along with Mike Madigan. It seems that those in the 1% want to blame the teachers union for everything, but they did not pass the legislation to allow political appointees to be a substitute teacher for a few weeks and then collect a full pension.

  • In reply to Fran Konieczko:

    Very true in many ways with mayor daley and the big wigs. However, teachers do pay union dues that pay for the union cronies to grease the wheels with legislators. Regular taxpayers do not have those connections. So teachers have way more clout than the regular taxpayer. This is probably why the public sentiment is negative toward teachers regarding pensions. Although I do think it is all public pensions, not just teachers that regular non connected people are pissed off about. Teachers get more of the brunt of anger because Karen Lewis is such a negative representative of teachers. Karen Lewis is what is causing much of the hate. Teachers did choose her, so live with your poor decision. It really is too bad because I genuinely admire and like my kids teachers.

  • A lot of anonymous postings attaching RYH. Must be 'parent power' astro turf group led by communications people in city hall and CPS. Speaking of communications folks in City Hall the latest addition comes from a very wealthy family that made a fortune outsourcing call center jobs to foreign nations. Very fitting. Maybe they'll place all our children on computers and have their teachers outsourced via the internet to foreign cheap labor.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Who are you speaking of?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Nope, a cps parent without any ties to parent power, city hall or cps. However, you are obviously from the ctu press desk huh?

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    Founding and organizing an inclusive, grassroots group that self-fundraises and chooses its own issues is in no way "similar" to getting together the board of New Schools for Chicago and calling some millionaire investors.

    We need more of the former, less of the latter.

    Neither will ever be perfect, but they are in no way equivalent.

    There's a reason why RYH have put out a half dozen independent studies that have blasted through the lack of transparency at CPS (that the professional journalists have covered often). It's because this is a poorly funded, labor of love, not recycled astroturf with a new name.

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    Also, it'd be nice to see someone at Parent Power show a decent bit of respect for existing parent organizations and work.

    I mean this ignorance of existing parent power is pretty unexcusable for a group that claims to represent parents. Beyond the dig at them, this is also basically a response to the grassroots Neighborhood Schools Fair from last year--where no one had to mandate participation, and no one had a massive, clouted advertising budget and yet it was a huge success.

  • fb_avatar

    Sorry to triple post, I just saw that in the second article that Hood says that it's not mandatory, so sorry about that. It's hard to tell when conflicting things come out from district.

  • I wonder if what is happening to RYH here is related to this story -http://ow.ly/BRytX - about "opposition researchers" hounding a New Mexico activist?

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