Obama’s SecEd manipulated school lists to favor powerful

posted at 10:12 am on March 23, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Chicago Breaking News reported late last night that former Chicago schools chief and current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan manipulated a system to favor powerful political allies by placing their children in the schools of their choice.  The discovery of a  list, the existence of which had been long denied by the city, and its composition of mainly high-powered political figures calls into question the appeals system used to reconsider applications that had been denied by the top Chicago-area schools:

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. …

The list surfaced amid a federal probe and an internal investigation into admissions practices at the city’s top high schools. Until Monday, the district had not revealed it had kept such a list.

The list was maintained by a top Duncan aide, David Pickens, currently chief of staff to the president of the Chicago Board of Education. Pickens said he created the log at Duncan’s behest to track the flood of calls pouring into district offices from parents, politicians and business leaders trying to navigate the system’s mysterious and maligned application process.

But Pickens acknowledged the list was kept confidential. The vast majority of parents who follow the system’s school application process never knew they could appeal to Duncan’s office for special consideration.

Why not?  Pickens said that they “didn’t want a bunch of people calling.”  No, apparently Duncan and his staff only wanted certain people calling — people like the Madigans, Mosely Braun, and so on.  The kind of people who could do something for Duncan, like perhaps push his own political career forward until he got a spot like … Secretary of Education.

This is bald corruption.  Having a secret process that only the powerful know to get preferential treatment for their children is the antithesis of openness and transparency.  It turned Chicago schools and their admission process from an open competition to another spoils process in the Chicago Machine.  It’s not surprising, given the rampant corruption in the Windy City, but it is disgusting.  Parents of children who got aced out of a spot in the school of their choice now have to assume that Duncan and his team gamed the system, putting children at a disadvantage in order  to gain political favor for themselves.

Anyone participating in that system should leave public service immediately, including Duncan himself.  Will Mr. Hope and Change keep Duncan as part of his White House team and endorse this patronage system built on the backs of children?

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Wait, Jimbo, so you quote something that fully admits that that is how the Chicago system works?

Do you realize it’s not the fact that people got in, but the fact that the requests were even considered, that is the corruption issue here?

Scott H on March 23, 2010 at 1:41 PM

–Scott, you don’t want to know all the times I’ve been asked to do “favors” for officers and directors. That’s not corruption. That’s the way things work in almost every organization.

Jimbo3 on March 23, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Of course he’ll keep him, the ends justify the means…

reshas1 on March 23, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Jimbo3 on March 23, 2010 at 2:05 PM

You just don’t wanna be called corrupt that’s all. But you are.

lorien1973 on March 23, 2010 at 2:13 PM

This is bald corruption.

Yeah. And your point is….

PrincipledPilgrim on March 23, 2010 at 2:25 PM

–Sure. I’m all for school choice as long as you pay for the school and don’t expect me to directly or indirectly fund any private schools through my tax dollars or tax deductions or tax credits.

Jimbo3 on March 23, 2010 at 11:13 AM
I love the way liberals are so generous with other people’s money. But when it comes to their own …

MarkTheGreat on March 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM

So priceless!
Jimbo-if you really feel this way, then why are you trying to FORCE ME TO PAY FOR OTHERS’ HEALTHCARE?!?!?!?!?!

Badger40 on March 23, 2010 at 2:29 PM

You see, in a communist society the laws are made up as we as we go along. This is perfectly alright. Remember, Working Hard Will Set Us Free!

Mr. Arrogant on March 23, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Why isn’t this getting more attention? Why doesn’t even drudge pick it up?

ninjapirate on March 23, 2010 at 2:42 PM

And this surprises anyone how exactly?

It is “The Chicago Way”, after all.

Nahanni on March 23, 2010 at 2:48 PM

In the dictionary, under the definition of “corruption”…”0bama Administration” will appear. That of course will be 2nd to “Chicago Politics.”

JoeySlippers on March 23, 2010 at 3:36 PM

I live in Chicago. This came as absolutely no surprise to me. The University of Illinois just got busted for doing pretty much the same thing.

It sure would be nice to live in a place where this type of thing did come as a surprise. Unfortunately the whole country is going this way thanks to the Marxist thug in the White House.

xrayiiis on March 23, 2010 at 3:40 PM

There are at least 4 things that upset me about this:

1) They set up an appeals process for only the connected
2) This means that the politically connected ones knew the neighborhoods in their schools were bad, hence the need to move their kids out of it
3) Taking their kids out of it takes the pressure off for them to do the hard work- firing bad teachers and admin, closing structurally poor schools, moving more to voucher or charter schools etc
4) How many of the priests and pastors who are politically connected AYKWIM knew this was going on and instead of pointing a damning finger at it, they point the blame at the suburbs and try to force suburban schools to enroll kids
even though their is the cost and logistics of bussing students to the burbs daily AND how do you keep parents involved if they can’t get out to the burbs for conferences and other school activites?

Stop pointing the blame at the burbs and point it back at your connected friends!

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM

There is an update… with Mayer Daley defending the list…

Mayor Daley defends (Arne Duncan’s) secret school admissions list


ninjapirate on March 23, 2010 at 4:22 PM

–Scott, you don’t want to know all the times I’ve been asked to do “favors” for officers and directors. That’s not corruption. That’s the way things work in almost every organization.

Jimbo3 on March 23, 2010 at 2:05 PM

So because everybody you know is corrupt, that means there is no such thing as corruption?

Maybe you just need a better class of friends.

MarkTheGreat on March 23, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Or is it only corruption when Republicans do it?

MarkTheGreat on March 23, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Excuse me while I put on my shocked face.


There, that’s better.

Bruce in NH on March 23, 2010 at 4:43 PM

Or is it only corruption when Republicans do it?

MarkTheGreat on March 23, 2010 at 4:30 PM

By Jove, I think he’s got it!

Spiny Norman on March 23, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Between Duncan’s corruption & the so-called “safe school czar’s” lessons for children in homosexual techniques, I’m glad my kids don’t go to gov’t schools any more.

There ought not be such a thing as a gov’t school.

itsnotaboutme on March 23, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Jimbo3, you’re nothing to me now. You’re not an alderman, you’re not a friend. I don’t want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you at the hotels, I don’t want you near my house. You understand? Otherwise, Gery Chico will be takin’ care of youse, ya silly cuckoo.

MayorDaley on March 23, 2010 at 5:20 PM

ninjapirate on March 23, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Weak! A secret “complaint, but no action” file? That’s a laugh. They need to find out how many of those on the list got their child into their 1/2/3 school of choice and how that compares to the “less distinguished” parents of Chicago.

journeyintothewhirlwind on March 23, 2010 at 5:32 PM

That’s not corruption. That’s the way things work in almost every organization.

Jimbo3 on March 23, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Jimbo-this is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have EVER heard.
Only a lawyer could say something like this & truly mean it.

Badger40 on March 23, 2010 at 9:08 PM

I’ve just got here. Can anyone give me a quick summary of the trolls’ spin on this?

Sharke on March 23, 2010 at 9:52 PM

Sharke on March 23, 2010 at 9:52 PM

Oh I’m sorry, I just saw the quote from Jimbo3 two posts above. That will suffice.

Sharke on March 23, 2010 at 9:52 PM

“spoils” I like that word, it’s been long time since I’ve heard it used except in pirate movies. It applies to this health care bill in spades doesn’t it. Certain selected states and unions and Congress themselves have certainly received the ‘spoils’ of this war. The rest of us have got the schitzen.

jeanie on March 23, 2010 at 9:58 PM

Where is the student list for Duncan’s goal of an all glbt high school? Because some are more equal than others.

FeFe on March 23, 2010 at 10:27 PM

What a waste of resources; all the federal dollars flowing into ACORN and they didn’t help kids in poor communities get on Arne Duncan’s special list? I wonder too, how many children from the projects did Rev Wright help get on the list?

Who is looking out for the children???

TN Mom on March 24, 2010 at 12:24 AM

Did Salem radion guy Bill bennett address this at all this morning? He’s been a big cheerleader for Duncan.

james23 on March 24, 2010 at 9:48 AM

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