City's Populist Rebellion: A Chronology

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June 1986--Eight parent and community groups and coalitions concerned about the performance of the Chicago Public Schools meet at Loyola University, leading to the formation of Chicagoans United to Reform Education.

Oct. 1986--Mayor Harold Washington creates an "education summit" composed of 35 education, business, and community leaders and charges it with finding ways to reverse the decline in the city's public schools.

April 1987--Cure sponsors a citywide conference at Loyola that is attended by 400 parents from 80 of the city's schools. The group discusses cure's new proposal to empower parents by giving them majority representation on local school governing bodies.

Sept. 1987--The Chicago Teachers Union votes to go on strike after negotiations with the board of education break down over salary issues. The district's ninth teachers' strike in 18 years begins the following week and sparks community protests that escalate throughout the four-week walkout.

Oct. 1987--The teachers return to work after community and city leaders pressure the board and the union to reach an agreement. Despite the reopening of the schools, many Chicagoans remain angry at both parties and mount a sustained call for fundamental reform of the district.

One week later, Mayor Washington responds to the continuing community ferment by calling a citywide summit. Some 1,000 parents and community leaders vent their frustrations over the district's unresponsiveness to their demands for substantial school improvements.

Mayor Washington agrees to add parent representation to his existing summit panel, and asks the group to draw up a consensus blueprint for school reform.

Nov. 1987--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett meets with activist parents in Chicago and labels the school system "the nation's worst."

March 1988--Mayor Washington's education summit agrees on the broad outlines of a reform plan that calls for the election of local school councils with a parent majority.

April 1988--Disagreements over the power the school-based councils would wield and over reforms affecting the central board and the teachers' union lead several of the summit participants to put forth their own reform plans. A host of bills with widely varying reform proposals are introduced into the Illinois legislature in the next few months by interested parties, including several plans that embody the local school councils.

July 1988--The legislature narrowly passes a reform bill crafted after lengthy negotiations with Chicago's reform activists and city and school leaders. The measure includes the basic governance structure outlined in the original cure proposal and in the mayor's summit.

Sept. 1988--Governor James Thompson uses his amendatory veto power to seek changes in the reform bill, sparking a bitter partisan feud over provisions that few of the bill's supporters see as key to the reform plan. The Governor also insists that the bill include a provision that would lead to greater parental choice in the district.

Nov. 1988--Facing continued pressure from Chicago activists, the Illinois legislature passes an amended reform bill in consultation with the Governor's staff, paving the way for implementation of the measure in the summer of 1989.

Vol. 08, Issue 15

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