Policy Documents

No. 64 Chicago School Reform: First Annual Evaluation

Daniel D. Polsby –
October 31, 1994

On July 1, 1988 - the final day of that year's legislative session- the Illinois General Assembly passed school reform legislation touted by many as "far-reaching" and "nothing less than a blueprint for revolution." On paper, at least, Public Act 85-1418 appeared to give Chicago "the first fully school-based management system in the country."

Few issues have generated more heated debate and disagreement in Illinois than school reform. The orginal Act was ruled unconstitutional and required legislative amendment to adress the flaw. When serveral local school councils exercised their reformgiven power to fir principals, charges of racism filled the air; according to one report, " near- riots broke out over school councils' selection of principals, sit-ins were staged, lawsuits were filed and veteran principals were shifted to others assignments or forced to retire." <2> The eyes of the country were on Chicago; at times, what they saw was as ugly as it had been before school reform took place. The New York Times reported,

What began as a revolution born of hope and desperation has become a sometimes bitter tug-of-war for many of the local school councils as they stuggle against a resistant central office, intransigent principals, factional fighting on the councils themselves and major setbacks that have put into question their very place in the school system. <3>


Please note The Heartland Institute’s phone number and address have changed since this document was created. The correct contact information is The Heartland Institute, 19 South LaSalle Street #903, Chicago, IL 60603; phone 312/377-4000; fax 312/377-5000; email think@heartland.org.