Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Chicago After-School Programs Get Tons Of State Pork

State pork has found its way into after-school programs in Chicago. An article in the Tribune has the details: "In a new kind of political pork, state officials awarded $12 million to more than 100 non-profit groups, businesses, schools and churches for after-school programs that, in some cases, served few students or failed to deliver on their promises, the Tribune has found."

The key phrase in the above, of course, is some cases. But even excluding the legitimate recipients, the pork is still upsetting. It includes $25,000 for a drama program that had four students, and was run by a state senator's sister, $30,000 for a hip-hop exercise class, $30,000 for an arts program that never took place, and $5,180 to pay off debts that recipients owed the state.

I want my taxes back.

The part of story that caught my eye had to do with Marshall Metro High here in Chicago. From the second page of the article:

Another grant sponsored by Hendon went to Anita Jahshana Brooks, whose College Preparatory Educational Center had its address in a modest house in Midlothian. In a handwritten application, she provided no information about her qualifications, nor did the form ask for any. She got $30,000.

She wrote that her program would provide the "tools & training in GED, aides Prevention Information on testing, Resource center for Information. Bilingual class arts, & computer classes." She planned to offer the program at Marshall High School in Chicago.

Here's where the story becomes at once comic and tragic:
Gwendolyn Boyd, principal of Marshall, said during an interview in her office that she did not know Brooks. But when a reporter pointed to a gospel music CD on Boyd's desk with "Jahshana" on the label, Boyd said that jogged her memory.

"I didn't remember the name at first, but yes, I met with her once," Boyd said. "She was working with the kids and parents to introduce them to her gospel CD. She didn't work with the kids in after-school."

An hour later, Boyd telephoned the reporter to say that, after talking with her staff, she recalled that Brooks had run an after-school program for about 20 students in which she taught voice and piano lessons.

Attempts to contact Brooks were unsuccessful.

Marshall High School is almost entirely African-American and low income. A general page about the school can be found here; the PDF of the school's report card is here.

The average ACT score at Marshall is 13.8. To put this in perspective, the highest possible ACT score is 36. This puts them in the 8th percentile nationwide.

If you were to simply fill-in the same answer choice for each of the 215 questions on the ACT, you would most likely answer 54 questions correctly. If you were to answer that many correctly on the test, your scaled score would be a 12. On average, these students aren't even 2 points above what you would get if had simply guessed a single answer for the entire test.

And for a school population in that much trouble, someone got $30,000 for voice and piano lessons? As I said, I want my taxes back.

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