Ethics concerns — including charter execs’ ties to SUPES — push opponents to ask CPS Inspector General to undertake formal investigation.
CHICAGO, November 28, 2017—CPS officials and its board – all hand-picked by Chicago’s mayor – must reject the latest scheme to open a charter school in the south side’s Hirsch Metropolitan High School, said teachers, parents and community allies today. The deal, say opponents, is fraught with conflicts of interest and possible ethics violations – concerns they outlined in a formal complaint delivered on Tuesday, November 28, to CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler. The charter project would destroy a venerated neighborhood public high school which has seen its enrollment and funding slashed as a consequence of rampant charter expansion.
Teachers and their allies also delivered a letter on November 28 to Mayor Emanuel that outlined their concerns about Distinctive Schools’ involvement in the charter proposal put forth by Art In Motion Performance Arts Charter School – or AIMPACS.
Joseph Wise, the former CEO of troubled charter manager Edison Learning, and his close colleague David Sundstrom are top executives of Distinctive Schools – the proposed charter operator. Both have long-standing ties to SUPES, whose top executives were convicted in a multi-million dollar contract and kick-back scandal along with then-CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Wise subsequently purchased SUPES and rebranded it as the National Superintendent’s Academy, under the aegis of one of a number of interlocking companies that he and Sundstrom own, Atlantic Research Partners, or ARP. The executives and their various companies have received tens of millions of dollars from CPS for endeavors that include charter school management.
Wise and Sundstrom have also been involved in a series of scandals related to financial mismanagement of public dollars. Those include scandals in Delaware’s Christina School District, which Wise and Sundstrom left in deep financial disarray, and in Wise’ subsequent position as school superintendent in Duval County, Florida, which fired him in 2007 in a move that also pushed out Sundstrom.
According to Hirsch teachers, ARP was ousted as the project manager of Hirsch’s school improvement grant after the principal, an ally of ARP named Joyce Cooper, was terminated in 2012 for fabricating attendance records and grades for “ghost” students. Cooper was listed as an AIMPAC governance board member as recently as October 11 (the full 2017 AIMPACS application can be found at this link). ARP has continued to receive funding through CPS, however, which recently awarded ARP a no-bid contract of over a million dollars to oversee school improvement grants at other schools.
Hirsh supporters are calling for a moratorium on all charter applications and school closings until the CPS Inspector General can conduct a rigorous investigation into AIMPACS’ charter proposal to take over Hirsch. They are also calling on Emanuel to support the wishes of an overwhelming number of Chicago residents for an elected, representative school board that can provide CPS with the kind of stringent independent oversight that the system clearly lacks today.
The AIMPACS charter proposal threatens to further destabilize Hirsh, a treasured community anchor with an active alumni association and local school council. CPS has already oversaturated the surrounding area with charter high schools – including Ace Tech, UC-Woodlawn, Perspectives-Leadership, Perspectives-Tech, CICS-Ellison, CICS-Longwood, Noble-Butler, Noble-Johnson, Noble-Comer, Noble-Baker, Noble-Hansberry, Urban Prep-Englewood and EPIC. At the same time, CPS has forced three non-contiguous boundaries on Hirsch, making it very difficult to recruit students.
Charter proliferation has also severely undercut Hirsch’s budget, preventing the school from offering a range of programming and much-needed social services – a situation that the AIMPACS proposal will deeply exacerbate. Hirsch has lost more than 75% of its enrollment since 2000 because of CPS’ policy of charter expansion, and area public high schools collectively have lost more than 60% of enrollment since 2000, while area charters have GAINED almost 700% in enrollment in the same time period. Hirsch has seen its budget slashed by more than 60% since 2012, including cuts of 37% since 2015 alone under student-based budgeting.
As a consequence of this forced draining of students and resources from Hirsch, the school’s programming has been decimated. The school, which won the city football championship in 2010, no longer has a football program. Music and band programs have been gutted, and career technical education programs in broadcast technology (radio and television) and pre-law have also been slashed.
Hirsch supporters are demanding instead that CPS’ student-based budgeting scheme be replaced by the new evidence-based model enshrined in SB1947, the school funding reform legislation that passed in Springfield in late August. That move, say AIMPACS opponents, will provide Hirsh – and all CPS neighborhood public schools – with a more equitable funding platform to allow the restoration of gutted programming and vital support services.
Teachers and parents are also demanding that Emanuel reject the Trump policy of providing big corporations with even greater tax breaks. They are demanding that Emanuel instead move to impose a corporate head tax and other forms of progressive revenue that would force the city’s financial elites to pay their fair share into public schools – forestalling the devastation caused by any additional school closures.
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The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctunet. com.