Bruce Rauner is considered a front-runner in the four-way Republican gubernatorial race. | Jessica Koscielniak~Sun-Times
Updated: February 16, 2014 6:31AM
While no one could argue that Bruce Rauner has been extremely generous with his donations to Chicago students, at issue was his use of clout to gain admission to Payton Prep for his daughter. While Rauner presents himself as a “political outsider,” his use of clout to get his daughter into Payton proves that he is anything but an outsider; he is rather much more of the same type of politician we are all too weary of in Illinois.
Gary White, Edgebrook
As we near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Jan. 20, we applaud Arne Duncan and the Department of Education’s recent release of new federal discipline guidelines for states and school districts (CPS says it will consider new federal school discipline guidelines, Becky Schlikerman, 1/8/2014). I’m also reminded that it was Dr. King who said that “Real peace is not just the absence of conflict — it is the presence of justice.”
Zero tolerance does not promote justice, nor does it promote peace. It only serves to strengthen the “school-to-prison pipeline” and further distance our young people most in need from the very thing we all agree is an essential part of the solution: education. In Illinois, where suspension rates of African-American students are the highest in the country, discriminatory policies not only hurt our young people but lead to staggering social and economic costs for all.
As a nonprofit working in deep partnership with high schools in Chicago since 1997, Umoja Student Development Corporation sees high schools as a place where we can break the cycle of violence and trauma. We believe that as a city we can no longer afford to push our young people out of our schools and into the street with the criminal justice system as our only response. Traditional approaches of suspension and expulsion only increase the likelihood that a next altercation will end up in physical harm, incarceration or homicide.
As an alternative, Umoja’s restorative justice model focuses on creating a peaceful school culture and climate. Using peace circles, peer mediations and implementing restorative discipline policies, Umoja partners with schools to keep our young people in the classroom. There, we have the opportunity to teach skills, influence positive choices and restore both the person doing the harm and those harmed to the school community.
While I am encouraged by the federal call to action to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, we know that schools cannot do it alone. And while we share in the hope offered by the recent decline of violence, making a less violent Chicago a permanent reality is not just about a decrease in the number of homicides. As I imagine Dr. King might say, it’s about the presence of a healthy Chicago for all. For Umoja, that means well-resourced schools for every student in every neighborhood.
Chief Executive Officer
Umoja Student Development Corporation