Rahm's vision, building on the legacy of the Daley regime, includes the privatization of everything public. Take away the last vestiges of democratic public decision making, weaken the labor unions and put everything into the hands of his corporate patrons. But Rahm's vision would remain unframed and unfocused without the help of his academic brain-trust.
One of Rahm's closest such academic confidants, especially on ed policy -- read privately-managed charter schools and union busting -- is U of C' prof Timothy Knowles. He's definitely a guy you won't find walking the picket lines with striking teachers next week.
It's not that there's anything new or original in what Knowles espouses. Rather his role is to flavor Rahm's vulgar frat-boy language with hip acky-talk. Knowles, like Arne Duncan, who brought him into town, is a Harvard grad so you know he's smart -- or at least clever.
For example, just check out Knowles latest contribution to Chicago Mag's quest for "6 Big Ideas to Make Chicago Better." His Idea #6 is called: Turn Chicago into the Silicon Valley of education. You see what I mean? Where Rahm might have resorted to middle-finger language, Knowles deftly turns the privatization of Chicago schools into a sunny, pleasant and well-heeled metaphor for rich and teckie. You know about Silicon Valley right? White-only gated communities where even millionaires don't feel rich. Why is this a good metaphor for Chicago's public education system? I have no idea.
What would it take to turn Chicago in the Silicon Valley of education? Easy, says Knowles. Just a couple of charter school chains like Aspire and Rocketship, plus "a couple hundred million."
“No other U.S. city holds this mantle of education innovation. It would cost a couple hundred million. But Rahm, working together with the local education talent and the business and philanthropic communities, could make this happen in 12 months."Damn Timothy. If your pal Rahm can raise $200 million that easily, why can't he use it to hire back some of those laid-off art teachers for those 400,000 kids who just go to -- you know, school. Some of them may not even be interested in Aspira or Rocket Ship?
I knew this wasn't a money problem. It's all about "innovation," says Knowles.
"Yeah, innovation," I can hear Rahm saying. "That's what I meant to say -- innovation."