I will improve public education in Chicago, with the following specific steps:
HIRE A CPS SUPERINTENDENT
Under my Administration, the leader of the Chicago Public Schools will be an educator, not a businessman. Instead of hiring a Chief Executive Officer, I will hire a Superintendent. This Superintendent will come from the ranks of the Chicago Public Schools (just as I am a product of the Chicago Public Schools), as the best managers fully understand the challenges and opportunities that come from working in the schools. A Superintendent will help bridge divisions within CPS and fully empower teachers and staff to create excellent neighborhood schools.
MAKE NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS THE PRIORITY
I do not support the path to privatization of public education. I believe it is a right to have access to a quality education, not a privilege. While charter schools have had some success in developing new models of education, most children are educated at neighborhood schools, and the focus must be on improving the schools that serve the most children. Every child should have a high-quality neighborhood school that they can walk to, and I will keep the focus on improving each neighborhood school.
REFORM TIFs TO BETTER PROVIDE FOR CHILDREN
The Tax Increment Finance program diverts almost $300 million from the operating budget of the Chicago Public Schools. This is a significant source of revenue that we can not afford to lose. Under my Administration, I will impose a moratorium on TIF diversions to shore up the operating budgets during these lean times. While we have built more schools with TIF funds, CPS can’t hire teachers to work in them. I will demonstrate that public education is my top priority by exempting the CPS from future TIFs, to make sure that property tax dollars meant for the Chicago Public Schools actually go to the Chicago Public Schools.
INVESTING IN THE ARTS
I support further investing in drama, art, and music programs within the CPS curriculum. Studies show that students who participate in these programs are more likely to achieve further down the road. We need to ensure that our schools are not drop-out factories and investing in these programs is the first step in that direction. Further, these programs promote community involvement in the schools through recitals and other events. Increased parent participation will help motivate students to achieve both in and out of the classroom.
INCREASE COMMUNITY INVESTMENT
The heart of successful schools is parental and community involvement. There is no substitute for an engaged parent or guardian in a child’s academic success. I wrote and sponsored the Urban Schools Improvement Act in 1985 as an Illinois State Representative to create Local School Councils, as I understand how important it is to put parents and community at the center of public education. Furthermore, our schools must become community centers that provide training and programs for parents and community members. My Administration will partner with other public and non-profit institutions to hold ESL and GED classes in the schools, as well as parent training classes, to provide a safe atmosphere of learning in the late afternoons and early evenings. By educating the community, we will further educate our children. Finally, I will coordinate the CAPS program with the Local School Councils to ensure our community leaders in public safety are working hand-in-hand with our community leaders in public education.
REDUCE TRUANCY BY MAKING SUSPENSION A LAST RESORT
Children who drop out of school never catch up economically. Black boys in particular suffer from an epidemic of dropping out of school, with devastating social and economic consequences. My Administration will follow the model created by the Baltimore Public Schools for reducing dropouts and absenteeism by creating a graduated system of consequences and interventions from student misconduct and only suspending students for dangerous behavior. Many teenage boys, particularly from disadvantaged households, simply do not have the maturity or mental capacity to properly consider the consequences of disruptive behavior. We will address misconduct in school and keep our students as students as much as possible, using in-school suspensions and mediation as our primary tools instead of simply kicking the children out of school.
TEACHER PENSION FUNDING FAIRNESS FROM SPRINGFIELD
The State of Illinois currently pays the pensions for all non-Chicago teachers, while Chicago pays for all CPS teacher pensions. This is blatantly unfair and a long-standing anti-Chicago policy. Chicago taxpayers should not have to pay the employer portion of teacher pensions when no other community in Chicago is similarly burdened. As a former member of the Illinois House of Representatives, I will work the floor of the House to change this unfair, anti-Chicago policy.
FEDERAL FUNDING FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION
One of my proudest accomplishments as a United States Senator was passing the Educational Infrastructure Act that authorizes the federal government to finance the construction and renovation of public education facilities. The federal government only pays 7% of the cost of the Chicago Public Schools budget. By defining the federal government’s role in local public education as financing the buildings (and not developing curriculum, something many conservative legislators oppose), I was able to create consensus on the law. Now, as a former member of the United States Senate, I will work the floor of the Senate to lobby that body to invest more dollars into the capital requirements of CPS and public school systems around the nation.
TECHNOLOGICAL CONSOLIDATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES TO REDUCE COSTS
A cornerstone of my plan to reduce administrative costs for the Chicago Public Schools and all other units of local government is to consolidate the administrative functions of each of these agencies. I will consolidate information technology infrastructure, streamline government supply chains, reduce energy use, move to shared services for mission-support activities, apply advanced business analytics to reduce improper payments, reduce our field operations footprint and move to electronic self-service as part of an overall consolidation of administrative functions to save hundreds of millions of dollars, consistent with the efficiency gains seen by the private sector in the last few years. I will work with other local governments, such as Cook County and nearby municipalities, to share technology and save money. I will keep more of our dollars in the classroom to hire more teachers and reduce our administrative costs.