Union campaign heating up

Deborah Lynch (right) is trying to regain control of the Chicago Teachers Union, after losing by a narrow margin to current President Marilyn Stewart in 2004.

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart and former president Deborah Lynch are trading barbs on the campaign trail leading up to a rematch of the contentious 2004 race that Stewart won on a razor-thin majority. This year’s May 18 contest comes just weeks before the current union contract expires on June 30, tossing the winner immediately into negotiations marked by rising health care costs, uncertain state funding and a continued boom in charter schools.

Hope for prisoners’ children

For any number of reasons, many children who attend Chicago’s public schools live very stressed lives. Joblessness, the lack of affordable housing and high-crime neighborhoods all take a toll. For some, these afflictions are aggravated by having a parent in prison. Statistics show that about half of the male children whose parents are in jail or prison will someday follow in their footsteps. While the situation for these children is extremely difficult, it is not without hope.

Counseling for ‘taboo subject’

This school year, Von Humboldt joined more than 1,400 schools, faith communities and social service agencies in Illinois that use Rainbows, a curriculum designed to help grieving children–including those whose parents are in prison.

Wanted: mentors and children

A national study found that when they have mentors, children with incarcerated parents do better in school and are less likely to use drugs or get violent, but some advocates worry that mentoring may fall short.

Retiring principal on new mission

Set to retire in June, a West Side principal is laying the groundwork for an organization that would provide mentors to children in North Lawndale whose parents are in prison. As many as 57 percent of North Lawndale’s adult population has had some involvement with the criminal justice system, either by being arrested, incarcerated or being put on probation.

Knowledge, training lacking

CPS social workers do not know how many of their students have parents in prison, nor do they know exactly what to do for these children. Catalyst Chicago conducted a survey of school social workers, primarily in schools in South and West side communities that have a higher than average share of children with an incarcerated parent. Here’s what the had to say.

Collateral damage to kids

A special project of the Community Renewal Society

As the prison population has soared, so too has the number of schoolchildren with one or both parents behind bars. These children show up in classrooms with social and emotional problems that hinder learning. Yet schools are often unaware of the problem and lack resources to help students.

Program helps to draw kids out

It’s the last day of Rainbows program at Von Humboldt Elementary this year and a dozen or so children are sitting in a circle in the school social worker’s office.

Moms in prison, kids left behind

llinois prison populations have more than doubled over the past 20 years, yet school officials have no idea how many students are affected, and advocates disagree about whether they should be identified.

The struggles and lessons of New Orleans

Leslie Jacobs and Shenita Johnson Garrard describe how New Orleans is striving to convert a failed, corrupt school system into a decentralized system of schools. With some 60 percent of its public school students enrolled in charter schools, New Orleans has the most school autonomy and competition of any district in the country. To hear their presentations, go to www.catalyst-chicago.org and click on “On the Air.”


A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country.

Q&A with Greg Duncan

Economic policies that support work and boost income are a proven way to improve children’s academic achievement, says Greg Duncan of Northwestern University. Duncan is co-author of the new book “Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children,” on a three-year program instituted in Milwaukee in the mid-1990s.

Comings and Goings

SCHOOL TAKEOVER, CLOSING CPS officials are proposing that the Academy for Urban School Leadership take over Harvard Elementary in Greater Grand Crossing this fall, under a restructuring plan similar to that used this year at Sherman Elementary.

Few students use ‘opt out’ rights

Only 12 percent of high school students in Chicago Public Schools have taken advantage of their right not to have personal contact information forwarded to military recruiters, CPS data show. Activists say schools aren’t doing enough to let students know they can block access to that information.