Mayoral candidate Chico claimed to have a good working relationship with teachers when he was handpicked by Richard M. Daley to head the Board of Ed, but a closer look at his record shows destructive school policies and profits for his outside interests at the expense of educators, students and school communities.
CHICAGO, Jan. 9, 2018—The Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement today addressing mayoral candidate Gery Chico’s record on public education:
As the first Chicago Board of Education president handpicked by the mayor following the School Reform Act of 1995, Gery Chico set the tone for conflicts of interest between school leadership and personal interests, and is arguably the catalyst for voters’ overwhelming desire for an elected, representative school board.
While serving as Board president, he was also a senior partner and chairman of the Altheimer & Gray law firm, which saw its government business flourish during his tenure on the Board. By 1999, the Board had awarded Altheimer & Gray clients $259 million.
Shortly after his departure from Chicago Public Schools in 2001, the firm’s business began to spiral downward. Also occurring under Chico’s “leadership”:
- CPS introduced the school probation policy, which became the principal means of closing neighborhood schools in Black and Brown communities, and sparked the mass displacement of experienced Black teaching staff from hundreds of schools.
- The district’s discriminatory turnaround policy was first implemented, with seven “reconstitutions” of South and West side high schools in 1997—including recently closed Robeson high school. Chico’s turnaround of Robeson was the first of many school actions and test-based policy prescriptions which destabilized the school in the years since.
- CPS implemented its disastrous test-based grade retention policy, which led to tens of thousands of students repeating multiple elementary grades, lower achievement among affected students and higher drop-out rates. The policy was also found to disproportionately force African-American students to repeat grades.
- CPS launched a massive capital expansion program while simultaneously arming the school system to dismantle and close Black and Brown neighborhood schools for the next two decades. Within five years, the district’s general obligation debt rose from $1 billion to $3.34 billion.
- Altheimer & Gray helped private developers win $100 million in TIF funding—including funding to renovate Loop office properties—and secured $17.6 million in TIF money for renovation of buildings housing the Palace Theatre, which could have gone to CPS.
“Gery Chico participated in a CTU mayoral candidate forum nearly ten years ago and claimed he was the best candidate for mayor because of his good working relationship with us when he was president of the Board,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “His tenure as president, however, set the tone for a litany of successors who looted school funds for personal gain and let big banks like Chase and Bank of America get rich on the back of our school communities.
“Having worked under two terms of Rahm Emanuel, we know disaster when we see it, and Gery Chico as mayor would be a disaster for public education in this city.