Troy LaRaviere resigned this week from his position as principal at Blaine Elementary. That’s not big news, since he had already won election as the president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. But his resignation cleared the deck at Blaine, allowing the school to move on and find a new permanent principal. And it eliminated the likelihood a public spectacle as he fought CPS and Mayor Emanuel, who had tried to fire him for “political activity” while he was the highly-regarded principal.
It’s generally accepted that LaRaviere was punished because he began speaking out vey publicly about what he considered to be wrong-headed policies enacted by CPS and the Mayor. It all began on May 10, 2014, when LaRaviere posted a scathing critique of the Mayor in a Sun-Times Op-Ed. It’s no longer available at the Sun-Times Web site, but you can read it HERE.
Ben Joravsky is a political columnist for the Chicago Reader, who’s been covering Chicago, its mayors, its communities and city council for decades.
Both are our panelists on today’s show.
A few highlights:
LaRaviere on the devastating effects of so-called school-based budgeting on Chicago’s schools
It’s a way to reduce funding in the schools and then shift the blame for the consequences onto the principal who has to make the decisions about what to cut. So it helps them to 1) reduce the funding, and take the funds and divert them; and 2), take less blame for it because you can say, well, I didn’t cut the position, the principal cut the position. But the principal didn’t have a choice.
Joravsky on the potential for change represented by LaRaviere’s election to the Principals Association
Ben: This is where Troy’s group has the potential to really be a game-changer in Chicago because principals have always lined up behind whatever cockamamy ideas have come out of City Hall. But if principals stop doing that, politically it may be harder for the mayor to sell these ideas, whether it’s a longer school day, changing the school formula, or privatizing janitorial services so we end up with dirtier schools than we had before…if principals speak out and oppose these positions…then maybe we could see some change in Chicago.
LaRaviere: Emanuel’s policies impede recruitment
It is important for us as principals to be able to recruit good people into our schools. And we cannot recruit good people, or our ability to do that will be far less, if the Mayor gets his way in Chicago and devalues the value of teaching and learning in Chicago and continues his anti-teacher narrative. No-one wants to work in a district where the mayor has this anti-teacher narrative and blames them for his own fiscal mis-management. And says they have to be held responsible because the politicians we all elected threw away their pension money building schools.
LaRaviere on the CTU
In order to stand firm they’re going to have to feel like they have some public support. And they’re gonna have to generate it with talking points that are more effective, and get repeated more often, than the ones the Mayor repeats. They have their talking points. They repeat them relentlessly. So I’ll be on the street and I’ll hear someone say, oh, yea, the teachers should pay into their (pension), without understanding what’s behind that talking point, and the falsehoods that are behind that talking point. So they have to come up with points that are just as succinct. That actually explain the truth of the matter and could get public support behind them standing firm on the respect due to the people who educate the children of Chicago. Respect in the form of their working conditions and their compensation.
LaRaviere’s response to a question about whether the Mayor, whose position on policing and community relations has shifted siginificantly in the past few months, might also change his views about education policy
Only if the people force him to. Because he didn’t pivot on the police. He came out with his “lone officer” theory and the only thing that changed it was the uproar and the protests in the streets and the call for his resignation. And he came back a little softer and a little more willing to admit something might be wrong. It didn’t work. There was still an uproar in the streets, and that uproar caused a national call for his resignation. And then there was the famous City Council speech. He’ll go as far as the public pushes him. That goes back to my point about CTU and their talking points and their advocacy and the relationship-building with different organizations across the city that care about eduction to push him the way those protesters – and create the kind of uproar – the kind of critical mass of public support for their position. That’s the only thing that’s going to change the Mayor.
Joravsky’s response to the same question
The Mayor’s attitude toward police and his attitude toward education are dramatically different. If you just look at his first four years, the Mayor acted as though the issue of the police relationship with poor black communities was a non-existent issue. It didn’t matter to him. Everything changed with the release of the LaQuan McDonald video. It wasn’t even the shooting that changed people’s attitude, because it was the release of the video that totally undercut whatever the mayor was saying about him. In terms of education, the mayor ran into office with a very proactive point of view, which was essentially, shift from public schools to charter schools, be tougher on teachers, try to whittle away at tenure, move more money under his direct control. So I think it’s gonna be harder to get the Mayor to have a conversion on education. Because politically he thinks it’s to his advantage to be hard on teachers. To use principals as props. He just figured there was no point in getting involved in the police matters – there’s no way to win it politically – so just ignore it. Pretend it wasn’t there. And then when he couldn’t pretend it wasn’t there any more he started inventing policies. So, you know, these problems have been around forever. Well, didn’t they exist the first for years you were Mayor? So…I think it’s gonna be harder to get the Mayor to change his ways in terms of education, because I think politically he believes (not changing) will benefit him.
You can read a full transcript HERE: CN transcript Sept 1 2016