Recess Blog

Tribune Features Tatum Op-Ed

By Rob Schroeder
March 20, 2017

"It was 1992. I was 23 years old. And it was my first year as a Chicago Public Schools teacher," writes College Dean Alfred Tatum, PhD, at the beginning of an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune.

My school was on the South Side, and I was determined to shape a positive life trajectory for my students, many of whom were mired in turmoil during one of the heights of Chicago's gang violence. Political assaults on public schools were ramping up as accountability mandates were put into place to reverse years of poor academic performance in many South and West Side schools.

By 1995, my third year teaching, the Republicans in Springfield had passed the Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act. This law gave Chicago's mayor the power to appoint school board members and replaced the superintendent's role with a chief executive. This shift led to a host of changes that included school accountability measures, trimmed union bargaining rights and school rehabilitation and construction projects under CPS's first CEO, Paul Vallas. In 1996, more than 100 CPS schools were placed on academic probation, and the state legislature passed the Illinois Charter School Law, which approved the creation of 15 charter schools in Chicago. The tensions between CPS and Illinois state legislature were put into motion.

All of this is a prelude to Chance the Rapper's philanthropic donation to CPS.

Read the full op-ed.

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