Strike puts charter management under microscope

The Chicago International Charter School strike entered Week 2. Strikers beefed up their campaign this week, blocking entrances and elevators at the accounting firm where CICS board President Laura Thonn is a partner. Unlike charter networks that run schools directly, Chicago International operates more like a contractor: It hires other organizations to run schools. The unusual structure makes the network an easy target for criticism that unions often levy at management during conflicts: that too much money is going to executives, while rank-and-file workers struggle. Meanwhile, some parents forced to stay home with their kids said they felt caught in the middle of wanting to support their teachers — and needing to go back to work.

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.

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The Week in Review

Meet “Mrs. Preckwinkle”: Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, running for Chicago mayor in a crowded field, has leaned on her resume as a former public school teacher with the progressive bonafides, experience, and compassion that Chicago schools need. We took a closer look at the Democratic leader’s history with schools both as an educator and in her former position as 4th Ward alderman. Chalkbeat Chicago has you covered.

The more things change: The Illinois State Board of Education will debut a new standardized test as promised last year  — but it still looks a like the oft-criticized PARCC test it was supposed to replace. State officials say the new test, called the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, is still due for more changes. Read about the four-year test overhaul in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bad attendance at early education forum: At a forum Monday at the University of Chicago on the topic of early childhood education, mayoral candidates addressed how city government can stitch together a stronger early learning system. Chalkbeat, unlike most of the candidates for mayor, was there.

Teacher charged with abuse: A part-time bilingual Teacher at Waters Elementary School in Chicago has been removed from his position pending an investigation into allegations that he abused a 14-year-old girl who used to attend another school he worked at in Chicago. The abuse happened in Skokie. But authorities have not disclosed the school the girl attended. The Chicago Tribune has more.

What happens on social media…: An investigation by ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago found that Chicago police and school officials regularly monitor students’ social media accounts for signs of violence and gang membership. Officials say it’s one way they’re keeping schools safe. Critics say it’s an invasion of privacy and a case of over-policing, targeting students of color. Read more here.

A closer look at police in schools: A year ago, a student killed 17 of his peers at their Parkland, Florida, high school, sparking a national conversation about gun control and a nationwide youth campaign against gun violence. Another outcome was the race to ratchet up school security. Some argue that those efforts are increasingly necessary. But others fear that more security — and police —will make schools less conducive to learning and more likely to funnel students of color into the criminal justice system.  Now, two new academic studies provide strong evidence that some of those concerns are valid. Chalkbeat National reviewed the research.

Looking Forward

City elections: Are you ready to vote on Feb. 26? Find everything you need at, a one-stop shop for the Chicago election. Chalkbeat Chicago is a partner along with the Better Government Association, Block Club Chicago, The Tribe, Chicago Reporter, the Daily Line, and others. The site has candidate bios, links to all those forums, a quiz to test your political know-how, and articles, including ours, to help you make your decisions. And if you haven’t already, peruse our Chalkbeat Chicago voter guide for education-focused Chicagoans.

Board meeting: The Chicago Board of Education’s monthly meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27, the day after election day, at 42 W. Madison St. Advance registration for speakers and observers opens Feb. 24.


This week’s #HighFive goes to Sydney Chapman, a theater teacher at University of Chicago Charter School. The Goodman Theatre recently awarded her the 2019 Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship, which the famed theater said it reserves for early-career directors based in the city. The prestigious fellowship, named for late Goodman artistic director Michael Maggio, is reserved for early-career Chicago-based directors.

A press release from the Goodman said the accolade provides Chatman, whose most recent credits include “How to Catch Creation,” with “complete access to the artistic process at the Goodman — from early research and design through the casting and rehearsal process to the opening night.”

Chatman, who writes and directs plays focused on youth empowerment and social justice, has taught at the U of C charter school for 16 years. The Goodman described her as a staple of the arts education community, and “a champion for new work that seeks to support, challenge, and empower black women and girls.”

“This is one small step for black girls,” Chatman said in a statement, “and an even bigger step for the representation of black women in the American theater.”