Education key issue in race for Chicago mayor

February 16, 2011 3:16:49 PM PST
All of the candidates in the race have a plan to improve Chicago's public school system.

The challenge for the next mayor will be improving schools while dealing with a huge budget deficit.

It's been 16 years since the mayor took control of Chicago Public Schools. Mayoral candidates are split over whether a school board should be appointed or elected and have different views on who should be in charge of CPS.

Who should be in charge of Chicago Public Schools? A CEO or superintendant?

"Having an educator in the at the top spot makes all the sense in the world," said candidate Carol Moseley Braun.

"I want an educator in charge of our schools, but one with a vision," said candidate Miguel del Valle.

It's a view shared by mayoral hopefuls Patricia Van-Pelt Watkins and William "dock" Walls.

Former school board president Gery Chico endorses the current system with a CEO running the show.

"I want a CEO at the public school that is a good manager," said candidate Rahm Emanuel, "and has a zest for educational reform, this either/or choice is wrong."

Improving the Chicago public school system is a priority for the six mayoral candidates. All favor lengthening the school day.

Gery Chico wants day-long kindergarten in all schools and is eager to expand pre-school. They are expensive ideas. Chico says cuts will help pay for them.

"I would say I would dismantle the central office by a third and use those monies to fund the reforms I propose," Chico said.

Braun's education plan includes expanding the curriculum in all neighborhood schools. To pay for it, she hopes the state and federal government can kick in more money.

"We are going to have to go back and really do a full court press with greater investment by national and state government for schools," said Braun.

And while he has not identified a funding source, del Valle proposes the idea of community learning centers as a way to expand the school day.

"I think a school day is lengthened by these community learning centers in every neighborhood where school is open from 2-8, where entire families are involved," del Valle said.

Parental involvement is another issue all six candidates promise they will improve.

And, while he promises to cut the central office, Chico wants to add a new position called "parent advocate."

"I call for this position to make sure that we never make policy without parents in mind," said Chico.

Emanuel proposes tying after school programs to parental involvement.

"One of the things I'm looking at, and the conditions of that, is having a child participate is parents to pick up the report card, attend parent-teacher conferences and review homework," said Emanuel.

Emanuel also wants to institute parent-teacher contracts that encourage reading and limit TV and video games.

Besides a parent advocate, Chico's education plan calls for parent academies in every school.

One education expert ABC7 spoke with says coming up with money for all these ideas will be the biggest challenge