Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Chicago Way and the End of the Obama Dream

Instructive narrative from Tom Roeser.

...Take the case of Paul Vallas. An outstanding Democratic public official he served as chief budget adviser to the president of the state Senate, chief budgeter for the city of Chicago under Mayor Daley. Daley took over the job of running the city's public schools by legislative fiat to replace a system where the schools were run loosely by a board of education not directly under the mayor's control.

The Chicago public schools had been called the worst in the country by William Bennett, Ronald Reagan's secretary of education. This led Daley to name Vallas, a no-nonsense administrator, as superintendent of schools. Vallas decided to let nothing stand in his way to improve the condition of the schools. During his tenure from 1995 to 2001 he led the way to reform the school system, his work being cited by President Bill Clinton for hiking test scores, balancing the out-of-kilter schools budget, developing new programs including mandatory summer school, after-school programs and expanding charter, alternative and magnet schools. Devoutly Greek Orthodox Vallas favored vouchers but was powerless to implement them. Nevertheless he achieved a national reputation for his reforms.

He was particularly welcomed by African Americans who were enthusiastic that their kids were showing all kinds of improvement. He was a veritable pop idol in the eyes of many blacks.

But in trying to improve teaching standards, he trod on the toes of the powerful teachers' union, a key source of voter nutrients for The Squid. The union commanded that Vallas had to go. It passed the word to Daley and The Squid. Daley was mum-and stayed mum.

Vallas resigned and Arne Duncan took over. Arne got along well with the teachers' union...and had nothing whatsoever to do with any improvements in the Chicago schools. In fact, performance of the schools declined under Duncan, who is now Sec/Ed for Obama.

Roeser posits that exactly the same thing happened to Greg Craig--a Clintonista who didn't fit into the Chicago Way mold. So he was dumped.

That motivated a few Lefties to muse that perhaps Obama is just another slimy Chicago politician (the term "FIB" is not au courant in DC--yet.)

You'll know it's over for good when that Wisconsin appellation sneaks into a Beltway column.

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