Chicago’s Appointed Public School Board is the Product of Corruption and Criminal Activity

CPS Students Kept in the Dark

CPS students are required to learn about the U.S. Constitution and American government, but CPS students won’t study the civic lessons that are currently having the greatest impact on their education. CPS students will remain ignorant of the details of how Mayor Richard M. Daley and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan conspired to rig elections and change state laws to expand their political power. In the early 1990s state legislators became beholden to Mayor Daley after Daley ordered his ill-gotten patronage workers to help legislators win their elections. Legislators who illegitimately won their elections with Daley’s help returned the favor by bestowing Mayor Daley with the sole authority to appoint members to the Chicago Public School board.

The Illinois General Assembly first granted the mayor of Chicago the right to appoint school board members in 1995. We must go back seven years earlier to understand how the change to an appointed school board law was born out corruption and criminal activity. During former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez’s trial, witness Roberto Medina testified that Richard M. Daley’s brother Bill offered city jobs to members of the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) in exchange for campaigning for Richard. Bill Daley’s offer of city jobs for campaign work led to violations of the 1983 Shakman Decree.

Each time Richard M. Daley won his mayoral election or an election for his favored candidates, Daley rewarded his campaign workers with city jobs, promotions, overtime pay, etc. at the expense of taxpayers. For 16 years Daley’s illegal patronage was headquartered in his Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (OIGA). Daley did not stop violating the Shakman Decree on his accord. A 2005 FBI raid on City Hall ended Daley’s unlawful job and election rigging.

Mayor Daley put the OIGA in charge of rigging jobs and elections for very specific reasons. The OIGA worked with elected officials outside the City of Chicago. Daley knew state legislators were willing to pass favorable legislation for him if he provided legislators with campaign workers and city jobs. Daley’s patronage army just about guaranteed the election of any state legislator he supported. Legislators that were elected with Daley’s backing passed legislation that benefitted Daley. Granting Daley the power to appoint a Chicago Public School Board was one of several laws that legislators passed to repay the political debt incurred for having Daley’s patronage army help the legislators win their elections.

The biggest benefactor of Mayor Daley’s unlawful patronage was House Speaker Michael Madigan. Daley generously lavished city jobs to Madigan’s precinct workers since Madigan was the legislative leader who was in a position to give Daley what he wanted. The Chicago Tribune conservatively estimated Madigan amassed an army of 400 political foot soldiers. The majority of Madigan’s patronage workers are City of Chicago employees. At the Sanchez trial, Streets and Sanitation Personnel Director Jack Drumgould testified that there were so many Madigan patronage employees working in the Bureau of Electricity that he and others referred to the Bureau as, “Madigan Electric.”

The trial of Robert Sorich and three other OIGA employees also revealed how the Daley  administration violated Shakman to elect state senators and state representatives prior to the passing of an appointed CPS board. Former Water Department Deputy Commissioner Donald Tomczak plead guilty and testified that his 225 member political group campaigned for state senators and state reps after Tomczak received orders from the OIGA commissioner. As with Madigan’s patronage army, Tomczak’s group of campaign workers traveled to legislative districts in which candidates needed their help to win their elections.

The table below summarizes the political corruption and criminal activity that led to establishment of a CPS board comprised of members who serve at the discretion of the mayor of Chicago.

1972

Mayor Richard J. Daley signs the Shakman Decree to protect existing city employees from political discrimination. City employees can’t be demoted, disciplined, fired, promoted, or transferred for political reasons.

1983

Mayor Harold Washington signs an additional Shakman Decree that bans political discrimination in the hiring of city employees.The Shakman Decree prohibits public officials from hiring for political reasons, such as hiring campaign workers for Shakman non-exempt city jobs.

1989

Mayor Richard M. Daley wins his first election. Daley makes good on his promise of providing his campaign workers with city jobs. Daley trading campaign work for city jobs is a direct violation of Shakman. Daley starts to use the OIGA to manage his administration’s job and election rigging. Daley’s OIGA commissioner begins to order city workers and job applicants to campaign for candidates, including state senators and state reps.

1995

Illinois state legislators that Daley help elect through illegal patronage change state law to give Daley the power to appoint all five school board members and the entire CPS management team. Newsweek said the 1995 legislative changes gave Mayor Daley near “total power” over the schools.

1999

Legislators who won their elections thanks to Mayor Daley’s patronage workers pass a state law that allows Daley to appoint all seven members to the CPS board.

2005

FBI agents execute a search warrant to look for evidence in City Hall. Agents uncover and start to investigate the Daley administration’s job and election rigging.

2006

Robert Sorich and three other OIGA employees were convicted of awarding jobs and other perks in exchange for campaign work. Judge David Coar sentenced Sorich to 48 months in federal prison. By the end of 2006, 41 people either plead guilty or were convicted for participating in the Daley administration’s job and election rigging.

2010

Mayor Daley’s Street and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez is convicted for his influential role in Daley’s job and election rigging. During Sanchez’s trial evidence shows Sanchez’s HDO organization illicit support of Daley dates back to Daley’s first run for mayor in 1989.

2012

Aldermen loyal to Mayor Rahm Emanuel deny a referendum for an elected school board because aldermen in favor of the ballot question filed the referendum three minutes passed a deadline.

2013

Alderman loyal to Mayor Emanuel once again block a referendum for an elected school board. This time Emanuel’s followers fill all available slots with their referendums; thus, no room is left on the ballot for the question of an elected school board.

 The More Chicago Changes, The More Chicago Stays the Same

Mayor Rahm Emanuel inherited control over the school board from his predecessor Richard M. Daley. Emanuel has surpassed the fears of his biggest doubters and greatest enemies. In the three years Emanuel has succeeded Mayor Daley, he has made dramatic changes to the CPS without input from parents and educators. Emanuel’s unilateral decisions make him a dictator and educational know it all under the pretense of democracy and reform. The CPS changes Emanuel initiated are the direct result of the Daley administration’s corruption and criminal activity that happened before and after the Illinois General Assembly gave the mayor of Chicago “total power” to run the CPS system.

Mayor Emanuel’s aldermanic allies stopped a public referendum for an elected school board in 2012 and 2013. The 2012 and 2013 elected school board referendums were non-binding. This meant Emanuel could do with the CPS as he pleased regardless of how voters cast their ballots. Emanuel has publicly declared that he is proud of his four letter words and in your face management style. If Emanuel is such a proponent of democracy and bad ass as he thinks he is, why does he fear putting an elected school board referendum on the ballot?

I went to Chicago Public Schools from kindergarden through twelfth grade during the 1960s and 1970s. Many significant political and social events occurred during this period. There was the 1960s civil rights movement, riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, riots after the Reverend Martin Luther King’s assassination, Vietnam War protests, and the resignation of disgraced President Richard M. Nixon.

The required Constitution course was one of the few classes that I excelled in during the 13 years I attended CPS schools. I believe in the U.S. Constitution and American democracy with all my heart, but I have also learned that politicians like mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel are more concerned with power than they are with upholding the Constitution and voters’ rights. Indeed, the 16 years that the Mayor Daley administration rigged job and elections violated first and fourteenth amendment rights of voters and did an untold amount of damage to democracy in Chicago and Illinois. Emanuel’s refusal to allow voters to decide the fate of a CPS school board perpetuates Daley’s sins for Emanuel’s own egotistical reasons.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), CPS students and parents should sue in federal court for a citywide binding school board referendum. There is a mountain of evidence from federal court corruption trials that show Mayor Richard M. Daley and House Speaker Madigan tampered with state senate and state representative elections prior to them passing the 1995 law that gave the mayor of Chicago the total power to run the CPS. Daley and Madigan’s election tampering continued another ten years until the FBI ended it in 2005.

Democracy rarely works in Chicago and Illinois because Chicago machine leaders like Madigan and Emanuel use state law to remove voters from the political process. Denying citizens a chance to cast ballots for or against an elected school board is a perfect example of how the Chicago machine renders voters irrelevant. The U.S. system of checks and balances allows aggrieved parties to file a lawsuit that will let a federal court judge determine if the initial school board appointment law was the result of corruption and criminal activity and if the harm to students and teachers is continuing. If so, the judge has the authority to order a citywide binding referendum that enables voters decide whether or not Chicago has an elected school board. Let’s hope this happens.