Several days ago, Alderman Joe Moore announced the formation of a new community committee he was sponsoring, called CORPS. The stated purpose of CORPS is to publicize and support the six non-charter neighborhood schools in the 49th Ward. A number of our members have asked us about the timing of this new initiative.
Since the late summer of 2015, Network 49 has been deeply involved in supporting our neighborhood schools. We believe the privatization of public education – through the expansion of charters and potentially with publicly funded vouchers, is undermining our neighborhood schools. Our work culminated in a referendum for the November 8 ballot, calling for a “freeze” on any new charter expansion in our ward. The referendum gained over 11,000 votes and was supported by 63% of voters. Alderman Moore was the only neighborhood elected official who opposed our referendum. Alderman Moore has also consistently opposed an elected school board for Chicago, and instead supports the appointment of all board members by the Mayor.
Alderman Moore has been a champion of charter schools in Rogers Park for years. He has steadfastly supported the Chicago Math and Science Academy, our first charter, even though residents were opposed to it. He supported the opening of UNO high school, ignoring ongoing investigations into UNOs school construction and contracting practices. And emails released in late 2016 show he was actively scheming with Mayor Emanuel to bring a Noble Network Charter School to Rogers Park, while denying publicly any such plan existed. This is his record on charters.
Alderman Moore also launched a plan in 2016 that would have led to the consolidation of two of our neighborhood schools to give Decatur Gifted a campus in our community. As best we can tell, he did not consult with the LSCs or the community before announcing the plan, which was cancelled because it violated CPS policies.
And now we have CORPS. While the proof of CORPS will be in the pudding, we are concerned the central thrust of CORPS is to create a support group for the schools, rather than one that advocates on their behalf. We don’t oppose supporting local schools. But we believe what will make a bigger difference is to encourage our members and neighbors to attend and support the local school councils and school events and to get involved in any way they can. It is this community self-education and knowledge that will create the staunch local allies our schools need.
But even more importantly, our concern is that CORPS does not address the central issues facing our schools: continued privatization (charters/vouchers), lack of a democratically-elected school board, unfair and inadequate school funding, and the siphoning of school funds into unnecessary TIFs. These are the areas where Alderman Moore needs to use his voice and his office.
In the meantime, Network 49 is moving on with our work. Through grassroots organizing and under the leadership of neighborhood residents, we will fight – in our community and through collaborations with other neighborhood and city-wide public-school advocacy organizations – to put neighborhood schools first.
We invite you to join us!