With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good riddance

It seems like everyone is feigning surprise over Daley's "time to move on" announcement yesterday. Not me. The writing was on the wall back in July when da mayor's poll numbers dropped down into the 30s. And why not? Daley's botched attempt to land the Olympic Games caused havoc and scandal in the ranks of his speculating business patrons--possibly even leading to the suicide of his real estate-speculating school board president, Michael Scott. His giant privatization yard sale of everything not nailed down, from the Skyway, to the schools, even the city's parking spaces, has left this once-proud city, on the brink and mortgaged up to its eyeballs with federal investigators once again, sniffing around City Hall.

Daley was the first of the big-city mayors to take control of the public schools, which he then turned into another wing of his patronage machine. He reshaped the office of school superintendent, changing the title to CEO, pleasing his friends at the Civic Committee who had enough of the first-wave of Chicago's decentralized school reform. That reform movement, back in the late '80s and early '90s was the most radical, democratic and inclusive in the nation.

With a hand-picked board of bankers and corporate execs and a string of (hopefully) loyal CEOs --Vallas, Duncan, and now Huberman--Daley hitched his wagon, first to Bush's No Child Left Behind and then to a local, top-down model of reform called Renaissance 2010, hatched in the offices of the Civic Committee. Recognizing the need to reverse white flight and attract young, middle-class professionals and technocrats back into this post-industrial city, Daley engineered the move to a new two-tiered system of schools, with a neutered teachers union and a focus on privately-managed charters, neglect and then mass closings of neighborhood schools.

The Chicago model was touted as a political winner, a turnaround miracle without any research evidence to back up the claims. But there was enough good-news stories about the Chicago miracle from a compliant local and national media (shades of the Bush/Paige "Texas Miracle") to send Arne Duncan to Washington in hopes of leveraging the top-down, business-model reform nationally. But under the weight of the current global financial collapse and massive state and local budget crises, Daley/Huberman have moved from reform to mass firings of teachers and exploding class size in neighborhood schools.

Without any clear alternative in sight, the Daley era is coming to a close. It appears that Duncan's Race To The Top is also a political loser for D.C.'s Mayor Fenty, who has tied his fate to Michelle Rhee's divisive reform strategy and is now facing defeat in the upcoming elections. Good riddance to both of them.


  1. We need another Harold Washington.

  2. i linked to your post on my blog, and rod estvan had some things to say


  3. Thanks Alexander. I will try and respond to Rod as soon as I get some time.


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