I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Are Chicago's Billionaires So Obnoxious?

Seriously, Chicago: what is up with your billionaires? It's bad enough that they all want to stick their fingers into the public education pie, even though they and their children attend elite private schools. But is there something in the water that makes them extra obnoxious?

The great EduShyster has a hysterical post about the most insufferable of them, Bruce Rauner:
The award for best strike analysis, though, goes to venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who summed up the lack of support for corporate education reform among minority parents this way: parents are dumb. Before you watch Rauner melt down on camera, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with his illustrious bio. The senior principal of GTCR Golder Rauner LLC, a Chicago-based private equity firm, Rauner is not only responsible for making Rahm Emanuel a millionaire, he also recruited  Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman to come to Illinois. For those of you who are playing the EduShyster Connect the Dots drinking game at home, this would be a good time to refill your glass…

Gosh, Bruce, why don't you tell us again what a great guy you are because you gave all that money to charities - even though it is a small part of your vast fortune which you made in the casino otherwise known as Wall Street.

The sanctimony of these people is only matched by their illogic. Rauner says he's only against the teachers unions, not teachers. Why? Because those unions fight for better teacher compensation, including pensions. Sorry, Bruce; that level of cognitive dissonace may fly down at your men's club, but here in the real world, anyone who wants the government to break its promises to public employees so we can keep taxes low on the filthy rich isn't really a friend of teachers.

I wanted to know more about this guy, so I looked him up at the website of the Chicago parent advocacy group, PURE:
The latest offer of “help” from the hedge fund crowd comes from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which is establishing ELP Venture, a “venture philanthropy fund” to offer rewards for more education innovations to inflict on CPS students. 
According to the Sun-Times, “Rather than focus on proven reforms, the group hopes to develop ‘the new, yet-to-be-proven reform,’ said class member Gillian Darlow, a principal at Civic Consulting Alliance.” 
How have they done so far? Well, Global Council Chair, Bruce Rauner, was one of the corporate brains behind SB7 and its 75% “strike-proof” vote standard that was supposed to be too high for the Chicago Teachers’ Union to meet. We know what happened there. Rauner also supports the Noble charter network schools, one of which is named after him. We all know what those schools are like. 
Rauner admits to his lousy track record in education reform: he “warned the group that the ‘school improvement wars’ was an important struggle but also was ‘ugly, dirty’ and ‘not fun.’ He said he provided $20 million to help with education reform and 80 percent of it was ‘wasted.’ ’’ 
But now they’re going to collect $10 million to fund more “unproven” boondoggles. 
Hey Bruce – why don’t you mess around with your own children’s schools for a while and leave ours alone? [emphasis mine]
Wait a minute; this dude has a charter school named after him? For real?

Yep: Rauner College Prep, part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. I've blogged about these schools before: aside from their insane discipline policies, Noble Charters have a troublesome habit of shedding kids through their four years of high school:

When I did the original post, I wasn't aware of the data sets available from the Chicago Public Schools; I used state and national data, which combined all of the schools in the Noble Network into one group. I've since gone back and looked at the CPS school-level data; here is the student attrition for Rauner College Prep, based on 20th day membership:

About 30% of the incoming freshman at Rauner College Prep leave the school by their senior year. Worse, this does not count against RCP's dropout rate: these students all transfer back to the CPS schools, and it's not considered a dropout when they transfer, no matter what happens to them afterward.

It's easy for Noble to brag on their college admissions rate and ACT scores when they have this high level of attrition. There's no doubt that this also impacts the students who apply for admission: once the word gets around that you are counseled out if you can't cut it, I'm sure there's quite a bit of self-selection.

Again: I have no doubt that the staff of RCP is doing a great job, and the students should certainly be proud of their accomplishments. But this school is not replicable. To pretend, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner and all the other elites of Chicago do, that Noble has the "combination to the lock" is to engage in a serious deception.

Bruce Rauner is a plutocrat who gets flustered when the proles dare to stand up to him. He can write as many checks to charter schools and Jonah Edelman as he wants, but at some point, he's going to have to face the truth: the massive inequity and chronic poverty visited on the children of Chicago and America is not the fault of middle-class teachers.

And if we're ever going to help these children, we will have to start by demanding that folks like Rauner pay their fair share back to the society that has allowed them to amass their fortunes.

Writing checks to your favorite charter schools is not the same as paying taxes in a Democratic society.  All the bluster and whining in the world won't change that, Bruce.


KatieO said...

Oh this is SO good! I never actually thought how completely crazy it is that this megalomanic has a school named after him. I've worked with a couple kids from this particular school through my job as a teacher on an inpatient psych unit in Chicago. They were the usual charter kids: bright, relatively stable families, no outward behavior probs. I always interview each student about their home schools and I remember one girl saying emphatically "I hate it" again and again. (Just so you know, I also never share my personal opinions on charters with my students.) I always try to get kids to tell me some positives about their schools, but she refused to acknowledge even one. Kept saying, "I hate the teachers, they don't know what they're doing." True story.

Duke said...

Damn, that's awful. You know, I always try to think the best of the people who work in charters, and who even run charters. But sometimes...

Folks, you need to read this woman's blog. She walks her talk, unlike the plutocrats of her city. You are one of my heroes, Katie - but you still owe me a slice of deep dish when I get out there one day! (I'll buy the beer) ;-)