Published Online: April 30, 1997

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Chicago's Road to Reform

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1986--Mayor Harold Washington convenes an "education summit'' to prod city businesses to hire well-qualified public school graduates. Talks later break down.

1987--A 19-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union galvanizes parents. Protesters rally at City Hall, demanding Mayor Washington's involvement. During the strike, "freedom schools'' serve about 30,000 students.

The education summit resumes, with focus on restructuring school system.

1988--With extensive involvement from local reform groups, Illinois lawmakers pass and Gov. James R. Thompson signs the Chicago School Reform Act. The law creates a nominating commission to recommend school board candidates to the mayor, caps administrative expenditures, directs state compensatory education money to schools, and creates local school councils. The councils--each made up of six parents, two community representatives, two teachers, and the principal--have three jobs: to adopt school improvement plans, approve budgets, and hire and fire principals.

1989--In May, an interim school board appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley takes office. In October, the first LSC elections draw 17,256 candidates and 294,200 voters.

1990--The interim board grants employees raises it can't afford--21 percent over three years--setting off years of budget turmoil.

1993--Schools open a week late when an oversight agency rejects the school board's budget. Court orders keep city schools open.

1994--Superintendent Argie K. Johnson unveils a plan to stimulate improvement efforts; activists complain it focuses too heavily on standardized tests.

1995--The legislature gives Mayor Daley control of the Chicago public schools for four years. The mayor names his chief of staff, Gery Chico, to head the new reform board of trustees and his budget director, Paul G. Vallas, as chief executive officer.

SOURCES: Catalyst magazine; School Restructuring, Chicago Style, by G. Alfred Hess Jr., Corwin Press, 1991.

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