Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Emanuel Fails to Win Outright in Chicago

 Update:  in a HUGE win, voters in Chicago voted to have an elected Chicago Board of Education (after 20 years of mayoral appointments.)   From the Chicago Tribune:

Voters in 37 wards overwhelmingly endorsed an elected Chicago Board of Education, according to preliminary tallies Tuesday, a non-binding outcome that nonetheless promises to stoke a long-running debate over the mayor's power to appoint board members.

In the 2012 general election, 89 percent of voters in five Chicago wards approved a similar advisory referendum for an elected board.

Earlier this month, a Tribune poll also reflected broad support for the idea. Seventy-six percent of voters said they favor an elected school board while 14 percent backed an appointed board.

Gee, sounds like voters in Chicago want to democratically elect who represents them in school governance.

I tweeted this story to Mayor Murray and Rep. Eric Pettigrew (who is sponsoring a bill to allow the mayoral to appoint two members to the Seattle School Board).

end of update.

Why should you care that one-term Mayor of Chicago failed to win outright in his bid to continue on?

Because it had a lot to do with how he handled public education in Chicago.

His primary threat - early on - had been head of the Chicago teachers union (and force of nature) Karen Lewis.  Unfortunately Lewis had a brain tumor and was didn't enter the race.  (An early poll had shown that she had a good chance at unseating him.) That turn of events should have been enough for Emanuel to win. 

And yet, it wasn't.
He needed to get 50% plus 1 and he would have taken the job outright.  He had four challengers with a Cook County Commissioner, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, getting the most votes of any of them.  (I have not met a guy named Chuy - pronounced Chewy - since high school in Arizona. Warms my heart.)

Emanuel had more than 45% of the vote with Garcia in second at 34% of the vote. 

Make no mistake, Emanuel still has the most money but it must be humbling to have to keep fighting. I mean when you have Obama and Arne Duncan stumping for you and you still don't win?  Then someone is not listening to the electorate.

In reading various articles on this story, the issue of how Emanuel treated public education in Chicago - as something of a personal fiefdom - may have really hurt him.  He closed more public schools in one swoop than any mayor in history.

As well, Emanuel, who is white, seemingly alienated a lot of minority communities and Garcia may be able to capitalize on uniting those communities against Emanuel.

Going forward in Seattle, with huge and defining races coming up in both the City Council races and for the majority of School Board seats, this across-the-country race may be a harbinger of things to come.

That the Seattle City Council races are now district races increases both the focus on local issues AND what is happening in school communities.  

That our School Board elections will come against the backdrop of two possible game-changers for SPS  - mayoral appointment of two members and/or the splitting of the district in two - makes it vital to keep up with the election season.

We may be seeing more empowerment among groups who traditionally feel left out of these elections and their communities may be the ones to swing elections.  We also may be seeing the City Council lean harder to the left; will that be the case for Seattle School Board elections?

Last thing - all this to and fro and churn may be playing right into the hands of one person.  Mayor Ed Murray.  He may be both openly but also quietly (in a behind-the-scenes kind of way) consolidating power.  That will make it easier for him to direct the conversation on any subject including public education.  


Watching said...

There is no reason to believe that Mayor Ed Murray and his financial backers will not attempt to gain control of public education.

Ed Murray and his financial backers want control of Seattle Public Schools.

In Washington DC, There is no evidence that mayoral control closes the achievement gap. See Chicago, Cleveland, D.C., Boston, NYC, all of which have gaps.

D.C. Has biggest achievement gaps of any urban district tested by NAEP after 8 years of mayoral control.

Anonymous said...

It may be a harbinger but with one huge caveat...

Chicago has a strong, involved teachers' union. When SEA shamefully reelected Knapp, 54% of members voted--about twice the usual turnout!

SEA has been pathetic for at least 25 years. Chicago teachers would never put up with the crap that SEA has helped put on the table, often working with the district and its Alliance/Gates puppeters to sell out its own members.

Teacher unions help provide checks and balances in a district, as well as a voice for the students who don't have parents with power. No wonder this district is so out of whack.

Chicago teachers would tolerate what SEA members have voted for themselves when it rains in hell.

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

EA, good point.

Anonymous said...

what happens to SEA if district splits? has Knapp said a thing or is he hiding out with his overlords as usual?


Anonymous said...

"In Washington DC, There is no evidence that mayoral control closes the achievement gap. See Chicago, Cleveland, D.C., Boston, NYC, all of which have gaps. "

There is evidence that the current management structure of SPS doesn't
close the achievement gap or follow the IDEA or follow cost controls..ect...ect...ect.

So keep banging your heads or expecting different results. JUST LIKE THE LAST 15 YEARS.

"Teacher unions help provide checks and balances in a district, as well as a voice for the students who don't have parents with power."

You are kidding....wait until full disclosure happens, people are going to be shocked just what teacher say and do that HARMS students! The teachers are just as culpable as the administrators in the current state of SPS.

Split Now

Watching said...

I agree that Jonathan Knapp has been a disappointment.

I note that Knapp did testify against splitting SPS.

Eric B said...

I'm a little confused by the "Murray is obviously for X" statements. I've seen it on charter schools, district splitting, appointed board, etc. I don't think he's been out on the record on most of these issues, so where's the evidence?

Charter schools is maybe the easiest case, with FEL money being made available to charters. On the others, is he lobbying behind the scenes, or is it that his political donors also support these issues? Or something else?

I'm not trying to knock anyone, it's an honest question.

Melissa Westbrook said...

How do we know? First, I heard from more than one legislator (before the session) that Murray wanted to be able to appoint all or part of the Board (and they heard it from good sources and are not legislators who gossip).

Second, I don't know what Murray's stance is on splitting so I don't know about that issue.

Third, he's been supportive of charters via FEL. He's trying to take space from SPS for his preschool program (how does that truly help SPS).

He also rarely says anything positive about SPS. It would be nice to be in a town where the Mayor and City Council found good things to say about this district and yes, there are plenty of them.

Anonymous said...

In 2007 Ed Murray introduced legislation to allow a petition process to change school boards - from an elected to an appointed board. It was aimed at SPS.

He is on record as well in a recent interview with Jean Enersen as wanting a different governance structure. He was not specific but offered both mayoral appointment of school board members and mayoral appointment of the Superintendent.


Anonymous said...

"there are plenty of good things"

That's depends on if you're one of the disenfranchised students or not, don't you think? Some people would say we already have two districts, so why not make it official?

Split Now

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, there is always dissent. I have never said all is well with SPS (or public education).

I think you would have to define "disenfranchised" to me and whether that covers one area of education or the whole thing.

Are you talking Sped or ELL or what?

Insider said...

I understand Eric B's angst and Melissa is correct.

With the exception of Murray introducing legislation to appoint school board members in 2007 (Kohl-Welles co-sponsored BTW), Murray is VERY careful with his statements. Murray side-steps the question of mayoral control by saying he doesn't want issues of student achievement "devolving" into governance issues. As one commenter pointed out, Murray IS on record stating that perhaps we should look at governance changes to SPS. The media has reported this in at least two instances.

Murray is smart enough to know that attempts to control SPS will result in public backlash.

It is worth noting that the city is merging student data systems with SPS. Murray has created a Department of Education. I imagine shifting of governance systems is a gradual process and one that isn't done overnight. There are a few more things, but the writing is on the wall.

Anyone that knows Murray knows that he does not respect SPS and or the board voter put in place. Shall we talk about Murray's failure to fund education while in Olympia?

There are FOUR council members that will not seek re-election and Murray IS working behind the scenes to support candidates that are friendly to his agenda.

Murray likes his connections to Washington DC and hired an individual (for Parks Department) that owned a charter school, worked as a TfA executive in Ny and worked with Michelle Rhee. This individual was also the Superintendent of Washington DC schools. That is a lot of educational experience for someone that will run the Parks Department. Will Murray attempt to shift this guy into the city's Education Department? Will Murray consult with this individual regarding shifting of governance systems?

The City of Seattle will not be funding charter prek during their first year of operations. What about their second year?

Insider said...

I've also seen documentation that Murray wants to "look at" a hybrid structure of shared governance between the city and SPS. He specifically mentioned a a partially appointed school board- or the Mayor hiring the superintendent.

Murray has consistently stated that he does not want to run SPS, and I believe him. Appointing school board members or hiring the superintendent would give the city significant control over SPS.

Insider said...

Lastly, one night I saw Ed Murray get angry and loose his temper. He became red faced and vowed "Changes to Seattle Public Schools that have never been seen before."

Eric B said...

Thanks, all. I get nervous when people are basing statements on connecting the dots--sometimes the dots aren't really there or are just random things. It sounds different in this case.

Broader Conversation said...

An interesting counter is happening in New York City, where the new mayoral elections and the mayoral appointment of a new chancellor were considered a counter to the Bloomberg/Kline administration. Mayor DeBlasio is a proponent of mayoral control, despite strong ties with the New York teachers' union: Article Link

Kate said...

I don't think that Mayoral control of the board is dead, even if it didn't make it to a vote this session. But Mayor Murray may want to think twice if he intends to wield power the Chicago manner. From In These Times (

"Indeed, the mayor faced a drumbeat of outstanding journalistic exposés all throughout the campaign. The Chicago Sun-Timesreported on Deborah Quazzo, an Emanuel school board appointee who runs an investment fund for companies that privatize school functions. They discovered that five companies in which she had an ownership stake have more than tripled their business with the Chicago Public Schools since she joined the board, many of them for contracts drawn up in the suspicious amount of $24,999—one dollar below the amount that required central office approval. (Chicago is the only municipality in Illinois whose school board is appointed by a mayor. But activists succeeded—in an arduous accomplishment against the obstruction attempts of Emanuel backers on the city council—to get an advisory referendum on the ballot in a majority of the city's wards calling for an elected representative school board. Approximately 90 percent of the voters who could vote for the measure did.)"

Chicago Style said...

Kate's article links to this quote:

"That reinforced suspicions that the cameras weren’t installed for the safety of “the children,” as Emanuel sanctimoniously insists, but are a revenue grab, a regressive tax that falls disproportionately on the poor."

The quote reminded me of a story that Danny Westneat wrote in yesterday's paper. The title of the story: Why ban cars on Bell Street when you can give drivers $124 tickets.

Yes, this and BERTHA on Murray's watch, but Murray is Vulcan's man.

Anonymous said...

"Lastly, one night I saw Ed Murray get angry and loose his temper. He became red faced and vowed "Changes to Seattle Public Schools that have never been seen before.""

Ed Murray has a reputation for having a quick temper. I saw this in action once when Jonathan Knapp and I did an SEA candidate interview with him. He argued for standardized tests as a factor in teacher evaluations. I responded by saying that I found the argument for basing teacher evaluations on test scores "to be deeply irrational." At that point, he stood up and threatened to leave the meeting. I told him that I wasn't referring to him but to his argument. He managed to calm down and we continued the interview.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

Chicago voters back a non-binding call for an elected school board.

Don't get too excited!


Anonymous said...

Article and movie about Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago school closures

Under the Bus