An Introduction

Meet Patrick McAlister, the policy wonk in charge of the mayor’s education agenda

PHOTO: City of Indianapolis
Patrick McAlister was recently named the director of the Office of Education Innovation, overseeing mayor-sponsored charter schools in Indianapolis.

For six months, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has been searching for someone to manage his primary education responsibility — overseeing most of the city’s charter schools and shaping the district-charter partnerships that are a nationwide model.

This week, seasoned Indiana education policy director Patrick McAlister joined Hogsett’s team to do just that. He is the former policy director for the Indiana Department of Education and TeachPlus, a teacher leadership program, and a former member of Teach for America.

As the director of the Office of Education Innovation, McAlister will be in charge of monitoring and holding accountable the 35 mayor-sponsored charter schools, several of which partner with Indianapolis Public Schools as innovation schools. He’ll also lead any city plans to improve education.

Hogsett, a Democrat in his first term, has taken a much less aggressive approach to education than his predecessors, who championed the rapid growth of charter schools in Indianapolis. Instead, McAlister said the mayor has a broader vision to address poverty in the city and sees education as a key piece of that.

Still, Hogsett’s office plays an integral role in expanding Indianapolis Public Schools’ innovation schools strategy of partnering with outside operators to run schools that remain under the district’s umbrella. McAlister said he’s excited to continue that work.

“It’s so unique around the country to have the charter sector and the district working so closely together,” McAlister told Chalkbeat on Thursday. “And I really think the key to that is the mayor has authorization over many of the charter schools in the city, and we’re able to build that strong relationship.”

But innovation schools have been divisive, drawing concerns from supporters of traditional public schools. McAlister said he sees his role as bringing different stakeholders together.

“I want to do more listening than talking,” he said.

And expect McAlister’s past involvement with teaching and teacher training to come into play: He said he plans to advocate for innovative strategies to attract and retain teachers, such as the city’s recent Teach Indy campaign and Teachers’ Village.


Criticism mounts for Adams 14 school board for asking police to escort critic out of meeting

File photo of the Adams 14 school board, including Connie Quintana, right, the board's current president. (Photo by Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat)

Two organizations are demanding the Adams 14 school board apologize for removing a vocal critic from a public meeting, after he insisted on calling out school officials by name in criticism officials characterized as “not constructive.”

Jorge Garcia, the head of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education, has been a frequent critic of the district and Superintendent Javier Abrego ever since the district stopped the expansion of biliteracy programming. At the last meeting, top district officials interrupted Garcia and ordered police to escort him out.

Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado sent the school board a letter, signed by their attorney, asking for an apology to Garcia, “for violating his First Amendment rights,” and attacking the board’s unwritten policy against criticizing district officials and staff by name. It asked for a response by Oct. 1.

“The board’s silencing of Mr. Garcia represents viewpoint discrimination that the First Amendment forbids,” the ACLU’s letter states. “Mr. Garcia has every right to mention Superintendent Abrego by name when providing public criticism of a public official who is the highest-ranking executive officer of the Adams 14 School District.”

Tuesday afternoon, officials from the school district did not return a request for comment.

Earlier, the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education, where Garcia is executive director, also issued a statement, asking for an apology from the school board. In its statement, the association wrote that Garcia offered to resign “in order to spare the organization any possible retaliatory litigation targeting him,” but the association’s board unanimously rejected the offer and instead supported Garcia’s attempts to speak to the board.

“CABE is the foremost advocate for educational equity for emergent bilinguals in the state​,” the association wrote. “Jorge’s initial actions at the Adams 14 board meeting were perfectly consistent with this role.”

The board has its next regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Read the full letters below:


Where Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker stand on key education issues, from charters to Chicago’s school board

PHOTO: (Rauner) Alex Wong/Staff/Getty Images; (Pritzker) Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Our conversations with Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) and challenger J.B. Pritzker will be aired on Oct. 3 on WBEZ 91.5 FM.

The race for Illinois governor is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history, and anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has probably seen or heard one of the barrage of ads for the candidates. There have been puppies, toilets, and plenty of barbs over wealth and taxes — and the back-and-forth has drowned out the discussion over where the candidates stand on education, arguably one of the most crucial policy areas facing the state.

To dig deeper, Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

The interviews will be separate, but will be broadcast back-to-back on WBEZ 91.5 FM on Oct. 3 starting at 8 a.m.  

In advance of the discussion, Chalkbeat and WBEZ asked each candidate for his position on five questions, and we’ve reprinted their answers in their entirety. We’re also soliciting interview suggestions from our readers and listeners. Use this form to submit a question to us, and follow along with the discussion on Oct. 3 using #GovTest.