- Financial crisis forces the second-largest Illinois School district (U46) to cut budgets for student transportation, physical education, art, and even crossing guards.
- School Superintendent gets appointed to Dept Of Ed commission on "Equity in Education"
- Three months later, the budget-strapped U46 School District announces $120,000 job for "Chief of Equity & Social Justice"
- Residents and parents protest, yet the School Board approves the new position without a single dissenting vote.
The U46 School District in Elgin, Illinois is the second largest school system in the state and U46 has dealt with the same financial strain facing many districts around the country. Budgets have been cut to the bone, programs like physical education and art have been eliminated, but that did not prevent the school board from hiring Ushma Shah as "Chief of Equity & Social Justice," at a cost of $120,000 a year (plus another $12,450 in benefits).
As might be expected, parents who have watched their children's classroom become increasingly overcrowded are not pleased. Many residents believe the money allocated to "Equity and Social Justice" would be better spent hiring teachers -- or crossing guards. Two days ago the Daily Herald revealed that the school district, in cost cutting moves, had reduced the number of bus stops for high school students and also decided against spending just over $13,000 to pay for two crossing guards near an elementary school.
So, recapping: U46 has cut funds for student transportation and crossing guards, while allocating over $120,000 for a newly created position -- the chief of equity and social justice.
The question remains, what is the job of a chief of equity and social justice? CBS Radio in Chicago reports that the role of the chief will be "to overcome the district's educational gaps and foster racial equity." (Huh?)
The official online job listing for the position states the following "position goals":
Develop and communicate the vision, mission, goals and measurable outcomes for equity, closure of the achievement gap, and culturally responsive teaching in School District U-46. Work with Superintendent and Cabinet to drive and infuse equity into all aspects of the District. Accountable for developing and implementing "proof of concepts" models for closing the achievement gap in support of the District's Accountability for Continuous Improvement Plan, Destination 2015. Member of Superintendent's Cabinet advising District leadership regarding current and future equity and social justice issues and needs of the District.
Coincidentally enough, in March of this year, the man who created the position, U46's Superintendent Jose Torres, was appointed to a high profile Department of Education commission to study "equity and excellence in education." And it should also surprise no one that the department does offer training in "social justice" and "equity". The Dept. of Ed website attempts to offer clarity on the purpose of this program:
The purpose of this program is to award grants (cooperative agreements) to operate ten regional equity assistance centers to provide technical assistance and training, at the request of school boards and other responsible governmental agencies, on issues related to equity in education to ensure that all children, regardless of race, gender, or national origin, have equal access to quality education and the opportunity to develop high academic standards in reading, math and other core subject areas.
Huh? Does that mean the Illinois program is one of 10 being set up around the country? If so, where are the other nine "Chiefs of Equity and Social Justice?" A quick search of the Internet did not turn up another one. . . yet.
Either way, the Dept. of Education commission on which Superintendent Torres served must have learned that "equity and social justice" is an important component to a good school, because it was only a matter of a couple of months before Dr. Torres appoint Ms. Shah to be his chief, telling the Daily Herald:
“Dr. Shah brings to U-46 her expertise and her proven ability to work with school leaders in closing the achievement gap between student groups.”
The hiring of Ms. Shah to this controversial position was the subject of a public meeting on Monday August 1st. Parents and local taxpayers were in attendance to voice their displeasure.
One very vocal resident at the meeting was Terry Gavin, a native Chicagoan and former Elgin City Council member who has lived in this NW Chicagoland suburb for twenty years. Terry spoke with The Blaze about the appointment of Ms. Shah, stating that he only heard about the hiring on Saturday in an email that alerted him to the meeting slated for this past Monday. Mr. Gavin gathered a crew of eight concerned citizens. He did address the U46 School Board letting them know:
"The term Social Justice is not a religious or Christian term, it's not in the Constitution, it is not in the Pledge of Allegiance. At best it's a socialist term and at worst, it's Marxist."
Despite the complaints from many parents and residents, the School Board voted again to unanimously appoint Shah as chief of equity and social justice.
And she may not be the last.