The Center Holds (on to the power): Chicago School Reform since the 1980s

by * Maureen Kelleher

Updated January 2008

Parents and communities in Chicago have more say in running their local schools than anywhere else in the country. At the same time, Mayor Richard M. Daley has held direct control of the district since about 1995. This tension between local and central control has been a key theme for Chicago schools since the Illinois General Assembly adopted the School Reform Act of 1988.

Centralization is winning.

Mayor Daley’s leadership has tipped the system toward centralization, as has local foundations’ shift away from supporting grassroots school reform efforts in favor of funding district initiatives. Increasingly, policymakers and funders want to affect classroom instruction, accelerating the trends toward working directly with the school district and professionalizing school reform work.

But while Local School Councils, the core achievement of 1980s-era school reform, have lost power in recent years, Chicago’s long tradition of grassroots activism and local control is unlikely to disappear. Many local communities continue to govern their neighborhood schools and are finding new ways to partner with them.

Before the Beginning

The Commercial Club of Chicago, founded 1877, opened one of the city’s first vocational schools by 1882. On the other hand, Chicago mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson filled non-teaching positions in the city’s schools with patronage clients after World War I.

By the Depression, teachers were demonstrating to protest decisions to keep politically connected clerks and janitors while cutting classroom positions. Although such blatant political interference in schools ended in the 1940s, subtle manifestations of clout continue. (For overall history of Chicago Schools, see Encyclopedia of Chicago History, also see this historical essay on business’ role in Chicago education.)

By the early 1960s, racial inequities in the public schools were causing public outcry. While class sizes dropped in the 1960s, predominantly African-American schools on the city’s South and West sides remained overcrowded and under-resourced. Then-superintendent Benjamin Willis refused to send students to less crowded schools in white areas, offering instead mobile classrooms. Residents ridiculed the idea, calling the mobiles “Willis Wagons” and staging public demonstrations for integration. However, later attempts to integrate the system by busing African-American students to Northwest and Southwest Side neighborhoods failed, too, sparking hostile demonstrations by white residents.

At the same time, white families fled the system in droves through the 1970s and 1980s, opting for the suburbs or private schools. In 1980, the federal courts produced a consent decree creating magnet schools and other incentives intended to encourage desegregation without resorting to forced busing.

Through the 1980s, white flight, teacher strikes and repeated budget crises weakened the system to the point that then-Secretary of Education William Bennett called Chicago’s schools “the worst in the nation.” State lawmakers took the system into receivership by creating the Chicago School Finance Authority, an oversight mechanism that approved the Chicago Board of Education’s budget and educational plans.

1987, School Reform & the LSCs

Chicago’s “first wave” of school reform grew out of the Education Summit convened by Mayor Harold Washington in 1987 on the heels of a contentious 19-day school strike.
The following year, the coalition convened through the Summit won passage of the School Reform Act, which created Local School Councils. (For a comprehensive history of school reform, view the Chicago Consortium on School Research’s book, Charting Chicago School Reform: Democratic Localism as a Lever for Change).

Local School Councils, or LSCs, are site-based, parent-led boards with power to govern their school. Each has six parents, two community members, and two teachers elected to two-year terms, plus the principal and, in high schools, a student representative. The council hires and evaluates its school’s principal and approves its budget. Elections for LSC are scheduled for winter 2008.

Researchers have observed LSCs have positive effects on both schools and local communities. The Chicago Consortium found that “the vast majority of LSCs are viable governance organizations that responsibly carry out their mandated duties….largely validating the wisdom of the 1988 Reform Act.” But the Consortium also found that 10 to 15 percent of LSCs are inactive, enmeshed in sustained conflict, or have engaged in unethical behavior. Harvard professor Archon Fung found LSCs were models of participatory government, especially in poorer neighborhoods; he uses them as a model in his work on urban participation. He also found that support from community groups was vital to their success.

While local leadership was helping individual schools make progress, corruption continued to plague central office. In 1994, the district’s facilities director, James Harney, resigned after investigative reporting revealed contractors had overcharged the board by $7 million in one year. He later pled guilty to extorting contractors as part of a kickback scheme. School Board President D. Sharon Grant was hounded by reporters investigating multiple conflicts of interest, and eventually pled guilty to income tax evasion after her term expired. For more on this, and for a history of school reform from 1990-2000, see Catalyst Chicago’s
10th anniversary issue.

Second Wave

In 1995, Daley succeeded in getting Springfield to amend Chicago’s school reform law to give him direct control of the system. The 1995 Amendatory Act abolished the School Finance Authority and gave the mayor power to appoint the school board and the system’s CEO.

The Act also stripped the Chicago Teachers Union of many bargaining rights and consolidated property tax money earmarked for specific purposes, including teacher pensions, into one general operating fund. This move, plus relaxed rules around the use of state money, gave the district more financial flexibility.

Subsequent legislation allowed the administration to create charter and small schools with less direct local control and in some cases outside the teachers’ union contract. Thus began what is known as the “second wave” of school reform in Chicago.

Daley appointed his hard-driving budget director, Paul Vallas, as the district’s CEO. Many reform advocates perceived Vallas’s six-year administration as hostile to LSCs. While his efforts to invalidate particular LSC votes, often on principal selection, sparked public outcry, council powers were more substantially weakened by his placing over 100 schools on “academic probation” for low test scores. At schools on probation, LSCs lose their powers to hire principals.

Vallas instituted other “get tough” accountability measures, such as setting up benchmark grades (3,6 and 8) at which students had to make targets on standardized tests or be retained (i.e., held back). At the same time, he implemented a wealth of programs to increase learning opportunities after school and during the summer, which appeared to have beneficial effects on student achievement. Although test scores improved in the early years of the Vallas administration, eventually they hit a plateau. A Consortium researcher, Melissa Roderick, found that while dropout rates for average and high-achieving students improved in those years, low-achieving students’ dropout rates increased after retention was instituted.

Vallas left Chicago’s schools in 2001 to run for governor, lost, and went on to run school systems in Philadelphia and New Orleans. His successor, Arne Duncan, was hailed by LSC proponents as less confrontational than his predecessor. However, council powers have continued to shrink under his tenure, largely through the creation of new schools not required to have elected LSCs.

Renaissance 2010

In 2004, Daley announced an ambitious plan to create 100 new schools by 2010. Some would replace persistently underperforming schools, and two-thirds would be run by private operators. Though Renaissance 2010, as the plan is called, launched with strong backing from the business community, the school closings that have accompanied it sparked strong community opposition.

Although school violence in the system overall is down, it has spiked in high schools receiving new students due to school closings. In the wake of this violence, the board has virtually halted school closings, preferring instead to replace a school’s entire staff and administration while keeping its students in their home building.

Renaissance 2010 also generated opposition from teachers concerned about lack of union representation in new schools and from LSC advocates, who fear the administration is using legal loopholes to evade the school reform law’s provisions for local school governance. Moreover, funding from business and foundations to support the new Renaissance schools has not materialized to the extent originally envisioned. Despite these obstacles, CPS counts 55 Renaissance schools opening since 2004.

Much has changed in Chicago’s public schools since 1988. Beyond the struggle over who controls the schools, other factors have had as much or more impact, from chronic issues like too few state resources for education and high numbers of city dropouts, to new challenges, such as increased pressure to show results on standardized tests and boost the academic performance of English-language learners and students in special education. Here are some highlights of other hot-button issues in Chicago’s schools today.


Illinois now ranks among the worst states in terms of disparities in school funding, due to our over-reliance on property taxes and low income-tax rates. The gap in per-pupil spending between the highest- and lowest-spending districts has grown steadily, passing $19,000 in 2003-04. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability tracks the history of efforts to make the tax system more equitable and highlights its own model legislation at

Although strong legislative and grassroots leadership has emerged for school funding reform, Governor Blagojevich’s opposition is unyielding. Meanwhile, Chicago’s property taxes, normally used for schools and parks, are increasingly being siphoned off into Tax Increment Finance Districts (TIFs) to spur development.

To help fill the gap, Chicago Public Schools has made serious efforts to court local and national foundations and to win competitive federal grants. The Chicago Community Trust have collaborated closely with district officials.

Since its launch in 2000, the Chicago Public Education Fund has raised more than $25 million from city business and civic leaders and funnels that money into projects developing strong school leaders, both principals and teachers. From 2002 to 2007, the Trust invested $55 million in district initiatives around literacy, teacher training and “alternative models of schooling.”


Well before the federal No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2002, Chicago’s schools were already under pressure to meet test score benchmarks put in place by former CEO Paul Vallas. The biggest change for Chicago since the federal law was adopted has been a shift in which test counts. Under Vallas, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills was the test where results had consequences for students and schools. Today, elementary school students take only the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and high school juniors take the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE). In 2006, students across the state and in Chicago showed substantially higher results, but changes in the state test that year rendered comparisons invalid, and many observers questioned whether the state had made the test easier. Last spring, 64 percent of CPS elementary students met state standards in math and reading, a new record.

Teacher quality

Improving teacher quality is another longstanding challenge to which NCLB has added urgency. The federal law requires that all teachers be “highly qualified,” meaning certified and having passed a test in their subject matter. Chicago Public Schools has stepped up its recruitment efforts and is working to move its hiring process earlier in the year, to better compete with suburban districts.

A number of efforts have sprouted in Chicago to attract and train new teachers. The Academy for Urban School Leadership recruits career-changers and recent college graduates into an intensive one-year program that combines on-site residency in a school with coursework through National-Louis University. Graduates commit to at least five years in Chicago Public Schools.

Community groups have also taken up the challenge of bringing in new teachers. In 2000, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association piloted Nueva Generacion, a training program for parents and community leaders with experience in schools who want to become teachers. That program has expanded to become Grow Your Own Illinois, which hopes to add 1,000 teachers to low-income schools by 2016.

Efforts are also underway to help mid-career teachers demonstrate and deepen their expertise. The Chicago Teachers Union’s Quest Center runs one of the country’s most successful programs for helping teachers achieve National Board Certification, a rigorous process that helps teachers reflect on and refine their practices.

After-school programs

Chicago has a notoriously short school day and year. In the Vallas years, the district funded after-school and summer programs to add more time for reading and math instruction. The Summer Bridge program was created to help students who had nearly met promotion standards get over the hump in time to avoid repeating a grade the next school year.

Meanwhile, other efforts to increase after-school options for youth were gaining ground. Maggie Daley, wife of the mayor, founded the after-school arts program Gallery 37 in 1990. Ten years later, the program was expanded to include arts, tech, sports and writing and became known as After School Matters.

In 1996, the Polk Bros. Foundation funded three “full-service” schools in Chicago. These schools built community partnerships and began working to bring family and community within their walls by offering educational programming for all ages, from arts for youth to adult education for parents. The schools also brought in health and other services for families. The schools saw positive effects on school climate, student learning, parent and teacher involvement. As a result, in 2002 a group of funders and CPS kicked off the Chicago Campaign to Expand Community Schools, which met its goal of 100 community schools in the city in 2006, two years ahead of schedule.

This year, the Campaign merged with the Chicago Coalition for Community Schools (a network of practitioners) to form the Federation for Community Schools, which combines technical support for the schools with organizing and advocacy efforts.

Charter schools

In 1996, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation creating charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded but freed from many of the laws governing public schools in the state, especially those related to teacher qualifications and union representation. The Illinois law caps the number of charters statewide at 45: 30 for Chicago, 15 for its suburbs and 15 for the rest of the state.

While most Illinois districts have been hostile to charters, under Vallas Chicago embraced them, particularly as a tool to create new high school options. Chicago’s first five charter schools opened in the 1997-98 school year. Since then, the district has bumped against its charter ceiling and found creative ways to push the envelope, such as allowing charter holders to operate multiple “campuses,” or school sites under one management umbrella.

Because state law expressly prohibits charter school teachers from being part of the same contract as teachers within Chicago Public Schools, the union has bitterly opposed them and has succeeded in weakening provisions allowing uncertified teachers to work in charter schools. Recently, however, the union has made overtures to teachers working in charter schools, hoping to spark an organizing drive.

Maureen Kelleher is a freelance writer and adjunct professor in the journalism department of Columbia College. For 11 years, she wrote about education for Catalyst Chicago, an award-winning newsmagazine covering the Chicago Public Schools.


Chicago Education Contacts List


Chicago Public Schools
125. S. Clark St., 6th Floor, Chicago, IL 60603

The city’s public school district and third-largest in the nation. Director: Arne Duncan, CEO, aduncan (at), 773-553-1500
Media contact: Celeste Garrett, cgarrett (at), 773-553-1620


Chicago Teachers Center
770 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60622
Director: Henry “Cappy” Ricks, H-Ricks (at), 312-563-7153
Media contact: Wendy Stack, director, GEAR UP Alliance, W-Stack (at), 312-563-7164

Chicago Teachers Union
222 Merchandise Mart, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60654
American Federation of Teachers local representing CPS teachers.
Director: Marilyn Stewart, president, leadership (at)
Media contact: Rosemaria Genova, communications, rosemariagenova (at)

Mikva Challenge
25 E. Washington #703, Chicago, IL 60602
Challenges high school students throughout Chicago to be active participants in the political process through election and issue campaigns. Works to develop the next generation of civic leaders, activists and policymakers by providing young people with opportunities to act, think, live and breathe politics.
Director: Brian Brady, executive director, mikvachallenge (at)

Teachers for Social Justice
Teachers and professors interested in promoting social justice. Have taken positions against military recruitment and Renaissance 2010.


ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now)
209 W. Jackson Blvd., 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60606
State chapter of national issue-based organizing framework
Director: Madeline Talbott, executive director, ilacorn (at), 312-317-2456 cell

Bethel New Life
4950 W. Thomas, Chicago, IL 60651
Longstanding church-based community organization in West Garfield Park. Partners with the Al Raby School for Community and Environment in the former Flower High building.
Director: Steven McCullough, president and CEO, SMcCullough (at)
Media contact: Mildred Wiley, senior director of community and government affairs, mwiley (at)

Blocks Together
3914 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Blocks Together (BT) is a multi-issue, direct-action community organization made up of residents, schools, and churches in the West Humboldt and North Garfield Park communities of Chicago.
Director: Irene Juaniza, Executive Director , blockstogether (at)
Media contact: Amita Lonial

Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore
1809 E. 71st Street, Chicago, IL 60649
Pushed to revamp South Shore High into four small schools. Now working on improving local elementary schools.
Director: Marie Cobb, executive director,
Media contact: Lestine Byars, education organizer

Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI)
954 W. Washington Blvd., 4th Floor, Box 42, Chicago, IL 60607
Spearheaded successful parent campaigns to revise the Chicago Public Schools’ code of discipline and restore recess. Promotes alternatives to suspension at a demonstration site, the Austin Peace Center, at Brunson Elementary.
Director: Kelli Magnuson, Kmagnuson (at)

Developing Communities Project
212 East 95th Street, Chicago, IL 60619
Faith-based grassroots organization organizing and advocating for social change in the Greater Roseland Community.
Director: Debra Strickland, dstrickland (at)

Grand Boulevard Federation
715 E. 47th St., Chicago, IL 60653
Brings together Bronzeville social service providers and residents to advocate for better family supports, including education.
Director: Greg Washington, executive director, gregwash (at)
Media contact: Andrea Lee, education organizer

Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp.
1159 W. 79th St., Chicago, IL 60620
Greater-Auburn Gresham Development Corp. (GADC) works to foster and promote revitalization of the low-to-moderate income neighborhoods of Auburn-Gresham, Englewood and West Chatham.
Director: Carlos Nelson, executive director, gadc.c.nelson (at)
Media contact: Ernest “Ernie” Sanders, esanders (at)

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
1005 E. 43rd St., Chicago, IL 60653
Neighborhood organization with strong focus on schools. Leader in the fight against Ren 2010.
Director: Jay Travis
Media contact: Jitu Brown, schools organizer

Little Village Community Development Corp.
2756 S. Harding, Chicago, IL 60623
Instrumental in the planning and development of the $68 million Little Village High School. Works with neighborhood schools to create community learning centers like those at Whitney and Castellanos elementary schools.
Director: Jesus Garcia, jgarcia (at)
Media contact:Jorge Cestou, associate director

Logan Square Neighborhood Association
2840 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
A national model of community-school partnership, LSNA partners with 10 neighborhood schools. It has developed innovative programs to train parents as tutors and mentors and has worked to create paths for parents to become classroom teachers.
Director: Nancy Aardema, executive director, naardema (at)
Media contact: Joanna Brown, director of education organizing, jbrown (at), x 16

MAGIC Chicago 950 E. 61St., Chicago, IL 60637
Through its prevention projects, leadership development program for teen women and men, youth organizing initiative, after-school apprenticeships, art and culture activities, string instrument program and teen talk show—MAGIC serves over 200 Woodlawn youth annually
Director: Bryan Echols, executive director, bryane (at)
Media contact: Richard Muhammad, straightwords (at)
773-290-2313, 773-616-5058, cell

Organization of the North East (ONE)
4648 N. Racine, Chicago, IL 60640
Coalition of community organizations in Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park. Has been involved in efforts to improve Senn High School.
Director: Jamiko Rose, executive director, jrose (at)
Media contact: Astrid Suarez, education organizer, aesuarez2001 (at)

Southwest Youth Collaborative
6400 S. Kedzie Ave., Chicago, IL 60620
Youth-led organizing on jobs, reducing criminalization of youth and education. Brought the well-respected AVID program to Chicago public high schools.
Director: Camille Odeh, executive director, codeh (at)
Media contact: Jonathan Peck, asociate director organizing and projects, jpeck (at) ext. 224

Telpochcalli Community Education Project
2832 W. 24th Blvd., Chicago, IL 60623
“Aims to increase school-community relations and work with families and numerous community groups (including service providers, advocacy groups, neighborhood development corporations, and state and local agencies) to build a resident-run community center.” – The Family Involvement Network of Educators.
Director: Dion Miller Perez, dmperez_tcep (at)

West Town Leadership United
1116 N. Kedzie, Chicago, IL 60651
Grassroots community organization supporting parental involvement in schools.
Director: Idida Perez, executive director, idida (at)


Alternative Schools Network
1807 W. Sunnyside, Suite 1D, Chicago, IL 60640
Supports a network of community-based alternative schools that re-enroll dropouts, as well as other programs supporting children and youth. Engages in policy advocacy, especially on behalf of out-of-school youth.
Director: Jack Wuest, executive director, jwuest (at)

Black Star Project
3473 S. King Drive, Box 464, Chicago, IL 60616
Organizes fathers to walk their children to school on the first day of the year. It also runs a number of other programs for African-American and Latino youth and families to help them succeed academically.
Director: Philip Jackson, executive director, blackstar1000 (at)
Media contact: Philip Jackson, blackstar1000 (at)
312-771-1010 cell

Greater West Town Development Project
790 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622
Offers education and job training programs, including West Town Academy, an alternative high school for returning dropouts. Strong advocates for state and local policy changes that could stop “pushouts” (schools forcing truants off their books.)
Director: Bill Leavy, executive director, wjleavy (at)
Media contact: Juliann Salinas, assistant director, juliannws (at)


Designs for Change
814 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60612
Designs conducts education research and does policy and advocacy organizing. Expertise in LSCs and special education
Director: Don Moore, executive director, donmoore (at)
Media contact: Don Moore or Valencia Rias, LSC organizer, valenciaforlscs (at)

Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE)
100 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607
Helped advocate for the creation of LSCs and has continued to support them since.
Director: Julie Woestehoff, pureparents (at)

South Side LSC Federation
P.O. Box 173298, Chicago, IL 60617
Collaboration of school councils throughout the south side for the betterment of the school councils and the local school community as a whole– teachers, parents, students, business leaders.
Director: Evan Credit, Mary Ann Bly, AL Rogers Co-Chairs


Chicago Catholic Schools
Archdiocese Pastoral Center, 155 East Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2980
Runs 217 elementary and 39 high schools in Cook and Lake counties.
Director: Nicholas M. Wolsonovich, Superintendent (assistant is Sandra Griffieth-Smith), 312-751-5210
Media contact: Colleen Dolan, director of communications and public relations, 312-751-8289, cdolan (at)

Chicago International Charter School Foundation
228 S Wabash Ave , Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60604
CICS serves a very diverse student population across nine CICS campuses offering nationally acclaimed college-preparatory programs in a disciplined learning environment.
Director: Dr Elizabeth D. Purvis, executive director, epurvis (at)
Media contact: R.J. McMahon, rmcmahon (at)

Illinois Network of Charter Schools
20 E. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60604
Membership organization for Illinois charters, provides support to schools and advocates on their behalf in Springfield. As of 2007, fighting to lift the cap on the number of charters allowed in the state.
Director: Elizabeth Evans, executive director, eevans (at), Ext. 12
Media contact: Cristina Vera, communications director, cvera (at), Ext. 16

Lake Michigan Association of Independent Schools
This Web site offers a list of private schools in the Chicago area as well as in Indiana and Wisconsin with their contact information and links to their Web sites.

HomeSchool Central
This Web site offers links (not all of them live) to regional associations and affinity groups of home-schoolers.

National Association of Charter School Authorizers
105 W. Adams St., Suite 1430, Chicago, IL 60603
National association for groups that award charters and hold charter schools accountable. Active in New Orleans school rebuilding efforts. Greg Richmond and VP John Ayers are excellent sources on Chicago education. Greg served as director of new schools for CPS and John ran a charter support organization for 10 years.
Director: Greg Richmond, executive director, gregr (at)
Media contact: Katie Kelly, director, policy & communications, katiek (at)

Noble Network of Charter Schools
1010 N. Noble Street, Chicago, IL 60622
Noble Street Charter School campuses seek to prepare Chicago’s youth to function successfully in our society through commitment to educational excellence, civic responsibility and respect for their community, the environment and people from all walks of life.
Director: Ron Manderschied, rmanderschied (at), ext. 101
Media contact: Rachel Kramer, Director of External Affairs, rkramer (at), ext. 174

Perspectives Charter School
1930 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60616
Perspectives Charter Schools is a growing network of high performing public schools. Chartered in 1997 as one of the first five charter schools in Chicago, Perspectives has earned its national reputation as a model of how a small school with innovative, effective education can transform urban schooling.
Director: Diana Shulla-Cose, dshulla (at), 312-604-2123
Media contact: Dianne S. Campbell, dcampbell (at), 312-604-2125

University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement
1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637
Supports a network of 20 new schools created under Renaissance 2010, including the University’s three charter campuses.
Director: Timothy Knowles, executive director, tknowles (at)
Media contact: Lori Olszewski, senior analyst/writer (Lori does not technically handle communications, but is a writer at the Center and a former education reporter at the Chicago Tribune.), lolszewski (at)

United Neighborhood Organization
954 W. Washington Bl. , 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60607
Works to engage Chicago Hispanics in American opportunity through grassroots organizing and progams in immigration, economic development, leadership training and local schools; operates local charters
Director: Juan Rangel, President, juan (at)
Media contact: Mark Flores, mflores (at)

Youth Connection Charter School 10 W. 35th St., Suite 11F4-2, Chicago, IL 60616
A network of 25 alternative schools with varying degrees of autonomy, operating under a single charter.
Director: Sheila Venson, executive director


A+ Illinois
25 E. Washington St., Suite 1600, Chicago, IL 60602
Statewide coalition campaigning to change the Illinois tax system to fund schools more fully and equitable. Illinois ranks dead last among the 50 states in amount and equity of education funding.
Director: Mary Ellen Guest, campaign manager, meguest (at)
Media contact: Clare Fauke, communications coordinator, cfauke (at)

Better Funding for Better Schools Coalition
10 West Sibley Blvd, Dolton, IL 60419.
Another coalition with similar mission and goals. Many politicians and past and present school board officials are members.
Director: Sharon Voliva, chairman, SVoliva (at)
Media contact: Sharon Voliva, SVoliva (at)

Business and Professional People for the Public Interest
25 E. Washington St., Suite 1515, Chicago, IL 60602
Sponsors annual luncheon series on education. Co-sponsors the Chicago Schools Alliance, a network of about a dozen innovative small and charter schools.
Director: Hoy McConnell, executive director, hmcconnell (at)
Media contact: Kim Zalent, director, public education, kzalent (at)
312-641-5570 or 312-759-8241

Catalyst Chicago
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60604
The indispensable news magazine covering Chicago public schools, and host of
District 299: The Chicago Schools Blog, Alexander Russo’s “highly unofficial inside scoop on Chicago schools-all day every day.”
Director: Veronica Anderson, editor, anderson (at)
Media contact: Lorraine Forte, deputy editor, forte (at)

Center for Tax and Budget Accountability
70 E. Lake Street, Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60601
Nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank that researches Illinois’ budget and taxing structures. Experts on school funding proposals.
Director: Ralph Martire, executive director, rmartire (at)
Media contact: Ralph Martire, Chrissy Mancini, director of budget and policy analysis, cmancini (at), 312-332-1481

Consortium on Chicago School Research1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637
The premier researchers on school improvement in Chicago. Founded in 1990, the Consortium has the best data archive in the country on an urban public school system
Director: John Easton, executive director, jqueaston (at)
Media contact: Tracy Dell’Angela, senior manager of outreach and publications (is a former education reporter at the Chicago Tribune), tracydell (at)

5132 W. Berteau, Chicago, IL 60641
Opinionated, insider take on Chicago public schools.
Director: George Schmidt, editor, Csubstance (at)

League of Women Voters of Chicago
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 1150, Chicago, IL 60604
The League has published several documents explaining Illinois’ tax system and how it funds public schools. Retired board member Edna Pardo is an expert in this area.
Director: Esta Kallen, president, President (at)

Renaissance Schools Fund
21 S. Clark St., Suite 3120, Chicago, IL 60603
Nonprofit created by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago to pool and distribute business grants to Renaissance 2010 startup schools.
Director: Phyllis Lockett, president/CEO, contactus (at)

SEIU Local 73
1165 N. Clark Street, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60610
Leading efforts to organize charter schools.
Director: Christine Boardman, president,
Media contact: Joanna Misnik, Communications Director, jmisnik (at)

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