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The Manhattan Institute Honors outstanding urban leaders who have improved the quality of life in their cities with its annual Urban Innovator Award.

Gina M. Raimondo
Michelle Rhee
Renee Glover
Mitch Daniels
Jeb Bush
Paul Vallas
Raymond Kelly
Manuel Diaz
Martin O'Malley
Anthony Williams
Norm Coleman
Jerry Brown
Richard Daley

 

Urban Innovator Award Winner

Richard Daley.2000
CCI Honors Mayor Daley, Chicago Leader is an 'Urban Innovator'

The ongoing revival of America's great cities is one of the most compelling stories of the last decade. Just as there was no shortage of blame to go around when our urban centers were in decline, the leaders who have guided the resurgence of our cities deserve recognition.

It was therefore CCI's great pleasure on August 9, 2000, to honor Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose singular focus on improving his city's schools has created an example for other large urban districts around the nation. CCI paid tribute to Mayor Daley in a breakfast ceremony at the Chicago Union League Club, before an audience of Chicago's business leaders. The event was underwritten by Beth Coolidge of Lehman Brothers and Ambassador Robert Stuart, Jr.

Mayor Daley outlined what he views as the seven keys to the revival of Chicago's schools: giving the city's top elected official direct responsibility over the system through governance reform; establishing accountability by articulating and enforcing academic standards for each grade, and having real consequences when schools fail to meet those standards; eliminating social promotion; making capital improvements to schools; expanding educational options; promoting partnerships with the community— especially cultural institutions and businesses; and being unafraid to bring new approaches to bear on seemingly entrenched problems, whether that means implementing a longer school day, a zero-tolerance policy for weapons possession, or a systemwide anti-truancy initiative.

Given the abysmal state of his city's schools in 1996—a dropout rate of over 50 percent, an average daily attendance rate of about 86 percent, and math and reading scores placing about three-quarters of Chicago public school students below the national average—no turnaround could possibly have happened overnight. But Chicago's strong progress over the last four years proves that no school system can be written off, no matter how daunting the challenge may seem.

Today, Chicago's test scores are rising in every category, at virtually every grade level. Attendance rates are 90 percent for the first time in fifteen years. And systemwide enrollment is up 30,000—indicating that parents' confidence in neighborhood schools is growing. That is why Daley's blueprint for improving urban education is included as one of the reform plans outlined in CCI's recently published how-to handbook for urban innovators, The Entrepreneurial City.

CCI Chairman Stephen Goldsmith, himself introduced by one of Mayor Daley's most important partners in this resurgence, Chicago School Board President Gery Chico, introduced Mayor Daley. The significance of Goldsmith, former Republican Mayor of Indianapolis and a lead domestic policy advisor to President George W. Bush, praising a Democratic mayor with close ties to former Vice-President Al Gore, should be unmistakable. The best solutions to the problems faced by America's cities defy simple ideological labels, and the most effective leaders are those who put aside narrow-minded partisan politics and instead embrace promising new ideas—no matter what their source.


 

 

 

 

 
 

The Manhattan Institute, a 501(c)(3), is a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas
that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

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