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DFER-IL Announces Second Round Of 2015 Endorsements
January 16, 2015


January 16, 2015

DFER-IL Announces Second Round Of 2015 Endorsements 

Democrats for Education Reform -Illinois (DFER-IL) today released its second round of endorsements for the 2015 municipal elections. The candidates were evaluated on their responses to a questionnaire, as well as their public statements and City Council votes.

“Our children’s education future is at stake in this election in every ward and neighborhood of this city,” Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, DFER-IL state director, said. “We are committed to bringing parents, students and teachers together to rally around candidates who will fight to ensure that Chicago can deliver a world-class education to our kids.”

The endorsed candidates are:

Alderman Patrick O’Connor (40th)

Alderman O’Connor has a proven track record of leadership on education in the City Council. For many years, he served as chair of the Committee on Education, directly working to improve Chicago's schools by supporting early childhood education and quality options for children and their families. He also worked in Springfield to create Local School Councils, which give Chicago parents and community members more say in how our schools are run. Very few have the variety of experience in education policy that Alderman O'Connor has and he is strongly endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform. His opponent, Dianne Daleiden does not offer any meaningful policies to improve education, and will not hold schools accountable for ensuring that our kids succeed.

Alderman Howard Brookins (21st)

Alderman Brookins has provided a critical voice in the City Council as an outspoken advocate for the residents of the 21st ward. While serving as the head of the Black Caucus, he has been one of the most prominent leaders in fighting for jobs and economic development on the South side of Chicago. Ald. Brookins is committed to making quality investments in education like expanding school options in his community. The 21st ward will be well served with another four years of his leadership.

Alderman Walter Burnett (27th)

Alderman Burnett has advocated for the West Side of Chicago exceptionally well in the City Council. While he's known for his sense of humor, there is nothing he takes more seriously than the education of Chicago's children and will continue to fight for more selective enrollment schools, charter schools, IB schools and STEM schools in his ward. Furthermore, he has been a leader in pushing for increased diversity in Chicago’s highest performing schools, a problem we will be tackling in the coming months. His opponent, Gabe Beukinga, lacks the leadership qualities that the residents of the 27th ward need.

Elise Doody-Jones, candidate 32nd ward

Elise Doody-Jones will be a passionate representative of the hard-working families of the 32nd ward, while avoiding the impotent criticism often touted as productive by her opponent,  current Alderman Scott Waguespack. She knows the community, brick-by-brick, and understands the urgent need to improve the quality of education our students are receiving - from cradle to career. Her opponent often prefers the bright spotlight of the television camera then the crucible of tough decisions. The Alderman’s opposition to the city’s plan to give more than 2,600 preschoolers education opportunities otherwise denied to them highlights his preference for media attention and political opposition rather than results. The 32nd ward deserves a progressive, independent voice, and Doody-Jones will do more to affect change for her community, while focusing less on her media profile than the incumbent.

James Dukes, candidate 17th ward  

James Dukes knows that a high quality education is the most important thing we can give Chicago's kids and he will make sure that this a top priority if elected to City Council. His vision for the 17th Ward includes expanding access to great schools and boosting graduation rates. Bishop Dukes is a passionate advocate for his community and has consistently shown great leadership when it comes to keeping our neighborhoods safe from violent crime. He is the best candidate to represent the people of Chicago's 17th Ward. While we appreciate Glenda Franklin’s viewpoints on education based on her questionnaire responses, Duke’s active in role in advocating for more quality public school options over the years makes him the clear choice.

DFER-IL also has endorsed education champions Ald. Will Burns (4th), Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and Michael Diaz, candidate 45th ward. 

Since 2012, DFER-IL has been working with elected officials, community groups, parents and students to build support for an education reform agenda in the city of Chicago. DFER also established an Independent Expenditure Committee to support elected officials and candidates who support their goals, and hold accountable those officials and candidates who oppose necessary reforms to CPS. 


Making The Second City's Schools Second to None
September 22, 2014

In 2010, schools across Illinois were still reeling from the Great Recession. The Chicago Tribune reported that the crisis strained school budgets in Illinois so much that many were at a "breaking point." Across the state, teachers and parents worried that schools would not be able to open their doors, let alone improve their practice. Despite inheriting a school system in economic freefall, newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel did far more than confront budget challenges. In his first three years in office, Mayor Emanuel has secured more time for instruction, more public school options for parents, and more support for students.

Read "Making The Second City's Schools Second to None" here.

DFER-IL Calls On CTU President Karen Lewis To Choose Between Mayoral Candidate Or Lead Negotiator In New Teacher Contract
September 16, 2014

Owen Kilmer | 708.560.3388 | Owen@dfer.org


DFER-IL Calls On CTU President Karen Lewis To Choose Between Mayoral Candidate Or Lead Negotiator In New Teacher Contract

Chicago -- Democrats for Education Reform - Illinois (DFER-IL) today called on Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis to either declare her intentions to run for mayor of Chicago or step down from her post leading negotiations for a new teacher contract.

“With a $40,000 contribution to her mayoral campaign, President Lewis has made it clear she is running for Mayor, but she has also said that she will force negotiations over a new teacher’s contract this year,” DFER-IL State Director Rebeca Nieves-Huffman said. “Doing both would present nothing short of a conflict of interest. Chicagoans wouldn’t know whether President Lewis was representing her members, her political interests, or if she's using the negotiations merely as an extension of her campaign. If Karen Lewis truly cares about representing the interests of all Chicagoans, she should step down from her role as head of the CTU as she pursues a campaign for mayor.”

President Lewis has stated previously she will not agree to a contract renewal without providing any justification other than to score political points, such as in May when she said she was not “looking to make anybody’s election year easy at all.”

“Contract negotiations should be determined by what is best for our schools, our students, our teachers, and our city - not a vehicle for political agendas,” Huffman said. “Chicago students should not have to suffer because President Lewis wants to use contract negotiations as a political platform. She would be best serving her members, and the citizens of Chicago whose votes she is seeking, to pick one political role and devote her time and attention toward that.”

DFER-IL is urging President Lewis to make her decision by the end of the week in order to avoid a conflict of interest.


DFER-IL’s Common Core Pop Quiz
May 21, 2014

Owen Kilmer | 708.560.3388 | Owen@dfer.org


DFER-IL’s Common Core Pop Quiz

Today, Democrats for Education Reform Illnois is releasing a pop quiz. Can you match the quote from a prominent Common Core critic to the speaker?

For months, Tea Party leaders have been criticizing the Common Core curriculum as a federal takeover of education, with some states even opting-out of its adoption. The Common Core State Standards were established to make sure that American children have the necessary skills and learning to compete against their peers around the world. 

[Note: extra credit for identifying the only Democrat in the group]


A. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

B. Governor Mike Pence (R-Indiana)

C. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)

D. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)

E. Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin)

F. Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana)

G. Glenn Beck (Conservative Radio Host)

H. Karen Lewis (President of the Chicago Teachers Union)


_____ 1. "There's got to be a way for us to put our fingerprints on it. The standards we have in the state should be driven by people…"

_____ 2. "Instead of teaching kids about our Constitution and our heritage, Common Core will teach students to be 'global citizens.' It gets worse. Common Core also mandates that school districts track everything about our nation’s children and report it back to the federal government."

_____ 3. "I don’t think the federal government has any role dictating the content of curricula. I think education is a state issue and a local issue, and ideally at the local level, because that way parents can have direct input and control of what’s being taught to their kids."

______ 4. "I'm from the school that believes education is a matter best left for local control. The notion of Washington determining curricula is something most states are simply not interested in. It's a non-starter…"

______ 5. "Besides being dumber, our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology."

______ 6. "To those who would have preferred that we deferred more to out of state experts from Washington, D.C., to the East Coast to the West Coast, I ask, isn’t that the kind of elitist thinking that got us Common Core in the first place?"

______ 7. "I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy."

______ 8. "This effort to coerce states into adhering to national curriculum standards is not the best way to help our children attain the best education. Empowering parents, local communities and the individual states is the best approach."

Answer key:

1: E
2: D
3: A
4: F
5: G
6: B
7: H
8. C

“I’m disappointed that Karen Lewis would take sides with the Tea Party, and not President Obama, by attempting to throw out consistent education standards that will ensure our kids have the skills to pursue higher education and be successful in the 21st century economy,” said Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, State Director of Democrats for Education Reform - Illinois. “As a mother of two, I’m appalled that the CTU would let political gamesmanship with City Hall trump the need for a more rigorous curriculum in every classroom. Our kids deserve better.”


Statement from Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, State Director of Democrats for Education Reform Illinois, on a Potential Strike in 2015
May 6, 2014

Owen Kilmer | 708.560.3388 | Owen@dfer.org


Statement from Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, State Director of Democrats for Education Reform Illinois, on a Potential Strike in 2015

“With the safety and education of thousands of Chicago children on the line, a strike should be the last possible resort - not a political tactic. The parents sending their children to Chicago's schools should never be made to feel as though their kids are political pawns, but Karen Lewis always seems to put their interests second to her attempts to boost her own image. We hope union leadership will focus more on ensuring the contract puts the futures of Chicago's children first - that should be the primary mission of any responsible education advocate.”


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