The students at Roger C. Sullivan High School in the video listened to a mayoral debate in which Rahm Emmanuel, former White House Chief of Staff, said that charter schools were the best-performing schools in the Chicago Public School system. All of the students attend existing public high schools–and they knew mayoral candidate Emmanuel had his facts wrong.
In a Huffington Post article that describes city high school reputations based on student performance, Curtis Black points out that
Not only are no charters among Chicago’s top-ranked high schools; not one charter is among the twelve Chicago high schools with 50 percent or more of students meeting standards.
Unlike charters, eleven of the top-performing schools are governed by Local School Councils, which select their principals for four-year performance contracts. [In Illinois, Local School Councils have historically been a source of parent and community voice in school operations. –Eds] (The twelfth, Rickover Military Academy, has an advisory LSC.) Also unlike charters, all twelve are staffed by unionized teachers.
In addition to favoring privately-operated, nonunion charters, Emanuel has called for removing the power of public school LSCs to appoint principals–a central accountability feature of Chicago school reform– and returning it to the central bureaucracy. (Several efforts by Mayor Daley to accomplish this over recent years failed to gain traction in Springfield.) And Emanuel has backed legislative efforts to severely constrain teachers’ seniority and collective bargaining rights.
The video was completely student-generated, -produced, and -researched. A counselor at the high school said that a non-partisan civic engagement group got them interested in the mayoral election, and after scrutinizing all the candidates, the students decided to support Miguel del Valle for mayor of Chicago as someone who would improve and invest in existing schools.
The tension between parents who support charter schools and those who support existing public schools has been building for some time now and is a central issue in the mayor’s race. Early voting for the February 22, 2011 election has started as of February 7, and Rahm Emmanuel seems to be in the lead.