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.And if you ask yourself - why liberals support more government control - this article answers this question abundantly clear. More government power means more power to the individual corrupt bureaucrats. If Republicans take over Congress in 2010, they need to open congressional hearings on the government corruption. American people will be stunned to find out about the liberal little tricks.
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.
Often a sponsor's request was rejected. Principals responded that a student's scores were too low, or that the school was full. In other cases, the student hadn't even taken the required admissions test, and therefore could not be considered, according to the documents.
The list surfaced amid a federal probe and an internal investigation into admissions practices at the city's top high schools. Until Monday, the district had not revealed it had kept such a list.
The list was maintained by a top Duncan aide, David Pickens, currently chief of staff to the president of the Chicago Board of Education. Pickens said he created the log at Duncan's behest to track the flood of calls pouring into district offices from parents, politicians and business leaders trying to navigate the system's mysterious and maligned application process.
But Pickens acknowledged the list was kept confidential. The vast majority of parents who follow the system's school application process never knew they could appeal to Duncan's office for special consideration.
"We didn't want to advertise what we were doing because we didn't want a bunch of people calling," Pickens said.
Pickens said that principals grew tired of getting calls from influential people seeking admission for a student, and that by centralizing it, he could serve as a firewall. After getting a request, he or another staffer would look up the child's academic record. If the student met their standard, they would call the principal of the desired school.
Pickens said the calls from his office were not directives to the principals -- no one was ever told they had to accept a student. Often, students did not get any of their top choices but were placed in larger, less competitive, but still desirable schools such as Lane Technical High School.
Duncan has remained mum on the list. "We never pressured principals or told them what to do or said this person needs to be considered over this person," said Duncan spokesman Peter Cunningham. "It's just a way to manage the information."
The initials "AD" are listed 10 times as the sole person requesting help for a student, and as a co-requester about 40 times. Pickens said "AD" stood for Arne Duncan, though Duncan's involvement is unclear. Duncan's mother appears as a sponsor, as does "KD," whom Pickens identified as Karen Duncan, Arne's wife.
Competition to get into the city's premier selective enrollment schools is fierce. Every year thousands of students apply for openings at the schools, considered the crown jewels of the city's public school system. But parents have long complained the system is rigged, murky and unfair. They tell stories about friends and neighbors whose children were admitted through back channels.
Admission to selective enrollment high schools and gifted elementary centers is supposedly based on merit, while entry into the magnet schools is conducted through a randomized lottery.
For years, Chicago Public Schools officials acknowledged the admission process -- especially in the elite selective-enrollment high schools -- was flawed. Principals were letting students in outside the general application process based on a loosely defined "principal discretion" procedure.
In 2008, Duncan created a formal process where students initially denied acceptance could get in based on five criteria, including outstanding extracurricular activities or ability to overcome hardship. But even that didn't stop principals from violating the rules and enrolling students who did not fit the criteria, district officials have said.
Pickens said that every student on his list applied for principal discretion.
When new schools chief Ron Huberman replaced Duncan, he announced he would implement a series of changes to prevent people from gaming the system.
Many of the politicians named on Pickens' log acknowledged that they made calls on students' behalf because this is how the system works in Chicago. They weighed in on behalf of relatives, friends and campaign workers.
"...Whenever anybody asked me -- whether it was a relative, a distant relative, a next-door neighbor or the guy across the street -- I would write letters," said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, who has ended the practice. "Sometimes the kids get in; sometimes they don't.
In 2008, former U.S. Sen. Braun sought help for two students, though she said Monday she does not recall placing a call to Duncan's office. Pickens said she called him, seeking help getting a student into Whitney Young Magnet High School, and he asked Principal Joyce Kenner to call the former senator back.
Braun said she called Kenner to inquire after one child's mother told her the student's application had been "lost in a computer glitch." Braun said Kenner told her: "I'll take care of it."
The child got into Whitney Young, despite a below-average admission score. The Tribune is not naming any students involved because they are minors and it is unlikely they knew about efforts being made on their behalf.
"This process is not pure, and everyone knows it," Braun said. "The process is a disaster, and quite frankly, I don't have a problem making a call. If the process were not as convoluted as it is, parents wouldn't be asking for help."
Kenner, who has testified under subpoena in the federal investigation, said the admissions problems are "old news."
"There is a new framework in place for principal discretion," she said in her e-mail response. "I think we have an opportunity to move on from this issue."
The nearly 40-page log obtained by the Tribune provides a detailed account of calls and requests coming into Duncan's office in 2006 and 2008, though it's unclear if the documents are complete for those years. The log includes detailed information about how the district intervened.
Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, said that most of the students he sought help for were turned away. Of the seven students found in the records, two got in.
Burnett requested consideration of a student in 2008 whose test score did not get him into Whitney Young. The log suggests the principal offered the student future enrollment as a consolation and notes that Burnett "was OK with that offer."
Burnett also made requests in March 2006 on behalf of other children, including a former city employee's child. In one case, the child was enrolled "without our assistance" according to the documents. Another took the admissions test about a week before school started and is now enrolled at Skinner School, where the student sought a placement.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office made a request in 2006 on behalf of a student who wanted to get into Walter Payton College Prep but the log carried this notation, "STAY AWAY FROM THIS ONE." It's unclear what happened to the student.
Desiree Rogers, who was a Peoples Gas executive when she contacted Duncan's office, sought help for one student, who did not get in. Rogers said she thought she followed the proper procedure when she wrote a letter on behalf of a student.
Michael Madigan's office said he considered his involvement a part of constituent services. Lisa Madigan's spokesperson said she supported a longtime family friend.
Daley's office also appears on the list. The logs indicate that in 2008 a mayoral staffer made inquiries on behalf of a new out-of-town Daley hire.
"We just offered our help, as you would for anyone who was moving from out of state with his family to work," said Lori Healey, Daley's then chief of staff. "But there was never a commitment to get (the hire's) kids into a 'good school' or a particular school or anything of that nature."
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
These people want to regulate your health care....
Chicago Tribune reports that Obama's Education Commissar, Arne Duncan used her position as a Chicago schools chief to make sure that children of powerful politicians are admitted to the best schools in Chicago. I am reproducing the article in full, so you could see how any welfare socialist system works.