|Byrd-Bennett gets a whisper of advice on CPS truancy from state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie at a Nov.meeting. (Tribune )|
It turns out that the problem of dwindling attendance, particularly in low-income communities on the south and west side, has been ignored by the past three administrations at CPS, even though millions of dollars had been allocated for a comprehensive anti-truancy plan.
The Tribune reports that the plan, developed in 2010 by Ron Huberman's Chief Administrative Officer Robert Runcie, who left Chicago the next year to become superintendent of the Broward County, Fla., was shelved soon after it was written. Millions of dollars in anti-truancy funds that were apparently given to non-performing, outside consultants remain unaccounted for.
The Trib quotes former CPS Office of Student Support and Engagement leader Paige Ponder, whose division helped oversee the effort before she left the district in frustration. Truancy and absenteeism are "such an enormous, complex issue. But the money, the will, the leadership just wasn't there to tackle it in a sustained way."
It's not clear who's leaking these internal documents to the Tribune. This is the second major leak in a month, following the report of the secret list of supposedly underutilized schools marked for closing. The latest leak may have come from Runcie himself, a Harvard grad who was trained at the infamous Broad Superintendents Academy, but passed over for the top spot at CPS in favor of J.C. Brizard.
The long and short of it is that communities are not under-utilizing their schools. Rather, dwindling populations in some south and west side neighborhood schools are the product of a myriad of problems having to do with poverty, violence, and failed policies (over-development of charter schools) and misuse of public funds at the top of the system with its lack of transparency and public accountability.