Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chicago & Oakland

Recently, I’ve become curious about Chicago. Arne Duncan, Obama's U.S. Secretary of Education Nominee, has been the CEO of Chicago public schools for several years. That city has been dealing with issues similar to those here in Oakland (teachers blamed for low student achievement, the closure of existing, neighborhood public schools and the re-routing of low-income students to other types of schools, all maneuvered by the power and dollars of educational philanthropist businessmen who seem, to me, incredibly misguided about what children really need).

Oakland’s parents might be interested in knowing about Parents United for Responsible Education (P.U.R.E.), an impressive, independent public school parent organization in Chicago. One of the things they do is to give a great deal of support to their equivalent of OUSD’s School Site Councils (called Local School Councils). Please take time to look at their website.

I’ve been involved with School Site Councils here, and have seen how hobbled they are by their limited parent involvement, and the rigid, one-sided agendas of certain participants. In my imagination, I can see their tremendous potential and wish it could be better tapped. I give my kudos to P.U.R.E. for the work they’ve done in Chicago because they are definitely on the right track.

Here’s a basic comparison between Chicago and Oakland.


City population, 2006 estimate: 2,833,321 vs. 397,067

  • Black/African American: 36.8% vs. 35.7%
  • Asian: 4.3% vs. 15.2%
  • Latino/Hispanic: 26.0% vs. 21.9%
  • White: 42.0% vs. 31.3%

Public school enrollment: 380,787 (13.4% of city pop.) vs. 46,431 (11.7% of city pop.)

  • Black/African American: 45.4% vs. 36.2%
  • Asian: 3.5% vs. 13.7%
  • Latino/Hispanic: 39.7% vs. 36.6%
  • White: 8.3% vs. 6.2%
  • Low income: 83.6% vs. 64%
  • Limited English/English Learners: 14.8% vs. 30%
  • High School Dropout Rate: 12.5% vs. 10.5%


  • Avg. Teacher Salary: $74,839 vs. $53,869*
  • Statewide Average Teacher Salary: $60,871 vs. $63,323**
  • Avg. Teacher Experience: 12.3 years vs. 11.4 years

Other facts

  • Median home cost: $510,400 vs. $573,800
  • Cost of living: 26.45% higher than US average vs. 40.73% higher than US average
  • Student spending: $6,681 vs. $6,289

My sources are the Illinois State Board of Education (2008 Report Card for City of Chicago), the California Department of Education (DataQuest and Ed-Data), the US Census Bureau (QuickFacts), and Sperling’s Best Places.

Other interesting sites out of Chicago that cover local educational issues are Substance News and SmallTalk, Mike Klonsky’s blog. I have also discovered Michelle Obama's public magnet high school, Whitney M. Young. Here is its report card (Young Magnet High School).

* & ** This comparison was totally shocking. Is it a wonder why OUSD teachers might not be satisfied with their paychecks? The word that comes to mind is “deprived.”

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