Mayor Rahm Emanuel named millionaire venture capitalist Deborah Quazzo to fill the Chicago Public School Board vacancy left after billionaire Penny Pritzker resigned ahead of her nomination for U.S. Secretary of Commerce in March.
A statement released by Emanuel’s office described her experience:
“Quazzo has been a strong advocate for students throughout her career and personal life, from supporting innovative ideas for improving education to providing one-on-one mentorship to students,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Deborah brings a valuable perspective that will help make sure we can provide all of our students with a path to a bright future.”
She is the chair of the board of Marwen, a visual arts education provider for underserved Chicago youth; is an ex officio board member of The Chicago Public Education Fund and previously served on the boards of New Schools for Chicago and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and America’s Promise Alliance, an organization that is committed to seeing that children get the resources they need in order to ensure they are prepared for college and a modern economy. In these roles, Quazzo has championed programs and initiatives that promote professional development for teachers, tackle truancy, infuse the arts into education, and work to increase the nationwide college graduation rate.
Emanuel’s pick will no doubt get under his critics’ skin, especially those of the Chicago Teachers Union and parents of Chicago children affected by the city’s recent announcement that they were closing 50 public schools.
As Carol Felsenthal of Chicago Mag points out:
Quazzo’s appointment came three days after a speech [Karen] Lewis (Chicago Teachers Union President) delivered at the City Club of Chicago in which she asked what “rich white people” know about what’s best for minority children. She noted that the one thing these “elites” did know is “what good education looks like because they have secured it for the own children.”
And, Lewis continued (as if she might have had Quazzo in mind): “When did all these venture capitalists become so interested in the lives of minority students in the first place? There’s sometime about these folks who love the kids but hate their parents … these folks who use little black and brown children as stage props at one press conference while announcing they want to fire, layoff, or lock up their parents at another press conference.”
Quazzo, like her predecessor Pritzker, has long established ties in investment banking, raising questions from many concerned Chicagoans about how banking experience translates into resolving and dealing with the cities educational deficiencies–especially after Emanuel’s school board just closed 50 schools.
Chicago Mag reports Quazzo has also been a major campaign contributor to Rahm Emaunel’s mayoral campaign, giving as much as $5,000, and more recently $3,500 to Emanuel’s close personal friend, Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner. DNA Info reports Quazzo has also contributed to former U.S. Rep. liberal Republican Bob Dold, as well as left-leaning pro-abortion causes.