Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pritzker (The Penny Dropped?)

Pritzker & Elected School Boards (the penny dropped?)

Idiom:  In Britain, a penny was initially a small bronze coin worth one-hundredth by weight of a pound.  Because of its ubiquitous nature in everyday exchanges, the diminutive coin was employed in many phrases and colorful idioms (penny for your thoughts, in for a penny, pretty penny).  The Penny Dropped was an informal British idiom for suggesting maybe someone had finally learned or understood something.

The hard fought campaign to bring an elected school board to Chicago culminated this last Tuesday in a resounding victory for concerned parents of students, grass-roots activists, and the CTU. WBEZ radio reported approval of the ballot initiative to force an elected rather than an appointed school board at over 85% of voters (New Momentum).

The change will promise major modifications to Mayor Emanuel’s handpicked assemblage.  Just last year, David Vitale, the former aide to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, was selected to lead Rahm Emanuel’s “new” Board of Education.  The former CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade joined a like group of business people Emanuel described as “committed to education.”  Those members included a chief marketing officer, a Chicago Urban League president, the former President of Northwestern University, a former CPS principal, and Penny Pritzker.  Their first action was the appointment of Jean-Claude Brizard and an agreement to his salary and contract.  Even before the teacher’s strike Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis noted, “The five member board – made up of CEOs, bankers and real estate developers – is making decisions regarding schools they never set foot in, and without considering the views of residents who speak at public hearings…We feel that an elected school board is not only a step in the direction of accountability, but ultimately a better form of democracy” (New Momentum).

You might remember that the original attempt to put a non-binding resolution on the ballot was denied because ten Chicago alderman were three minutes late in getting it to the chair of the Human Relations Committee.  After that, thousands of parents, teachers and students “committed to education” sought petition signatures from Chicago residents to force the ballot referendum.  Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE) was chief among the many forces behind the initiative to an elected school board.

Pritzker, who has her own Noble network charter school, once identified the needs of students in Chicago schools as simply enough skills in reading, math, and science to be productive members of the workforce.  As Diane Ravitch notes, “Why no mention of the arts, of music, of physical education?” (For Shame Penny Pritzker). To get a sense of the injustice, Ravitch urges watching the viral video of trial lawyer Matt farmer at a CTU rally, discussing the inequalities in our city schools with an imaginary Penny Pritzker ( ). 

Meanwhile, Pritzker, the national co-chair of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign described herself as simply ecstatic to be a part of Tuesday’s exciting albeit exhausting process.  “My favorite story from last night was, as I was watching the President give his acceptance speech, I realized there were two young children sitting on the floor, holding their flags, to one side of me exhausted…And there was a very successful hedge fund manager to my right.  And there was a labor leader in front of me.  And there were some good friends of mine who’ve been volunteering…Everybody was just there. There was no distinction.  Everybody’s just there for the same reason” (Harris, Melissa. Big Night, Behind the Scenes. Chicago Tribune. 8 Nov 2012).

Instead of sleeping when she arrived home at two in the morning, Pritzker sat up and wrote notes to friends,  “I wrote them and congratulated them.  I wanted to share the feeling of the moment…That personal touch, it matters.” 

Note to Penny:  86.6% voted for an elected school board in Chicago.  That’s distinctive. 


  1. "The corruption we today call government..."
    - Chris Hedges
    We are undergoing betrayal, injustice and the mass sale of government to the wealthy. Pension raiding, seizure of control of duly elected governmental boards, legalization of social service looting and more have become the "new normal."
    New? Yes.
    Normal? Only if the abnormal is normalized.
    Penny is part of the new normal. 86.6% voted to declare her abnormal and unacceptable.

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