Monday, March 29, 2010

How VIPs lobbied schools: Duncan's office tracked politicians and others

Sadly, this expose by the Chicago Tribune about favoritism toward the politically connected in Chicago is, I hear, true in many, many cities.  It's a travesty that someone with political connections can get their kid out of a bad school and into a good school.  But if a kid in a bad school wants to transfer out under the transfer provisions of NCLB, they're usually told they can't because there are no seats in good schools – this leads to the worst kind of sorting.  It reminds me of the story I heard from a KIPP school leader (not in NYC): that the day after the lottery, he gets calls from politicians asking him to break the law and get the politician's child/niece/nephew into the school – and in a truly ironic twist, it's often the very politicians who oppose charters and are trying to KILL his school!  Ya simply can't make up hypocrisy of this magnitude…

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 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.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.


How VIPs lobbied schools

Duncan's office tracked politicians and others

Rod Blagojevich

Walter Payton


Human Accomplishments


Desirée Rogers

Barack Obama

Ron Huberman

Chicago Public Schools

White House


Arne Duncan

Michael Madigan

Richard M. Daley

8:21 a.m. CDT, March 23, 2010,0,189690,full.story

 Subscribe in a reader