Longtime CPS activist Katten suddenly silent on school issues
Wendy Katten is unusually quiet.
Katten decided in the spring to step away from parent activism in Chicago Public Schools and a parent engagement group she helped found to move her family to Evanston so her son could attend high school there.
She apparently isn't looking back.
Chicago City Wire recently made multiple attempts to contact Katten to ask about school choice, private school tax credits, school vouchers, whether she saw irony in her move to the suburbs for better schools when others could not, and other pressing education issues in the Illinois.
Katten didn't respond.
The quiet is a bit of a change after so many years of so much vocal activism in Chicago Public Schools, so many school board meetings, so many digs at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city public schools officials — even chiding Gov. Bruce Rauner when she thought he'd paid more attention to prisons than to schools.
Katten, whose husband grew up in Evanston, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the suburb 12 miles north of downtown Chicago was "a draw," in part because of a school funding referendum voters there passed shortly before her announcement.
"It’s a place that really values public education," she said.
Katten's rise in the public eye among activist parents in Chicago began in 2010 when she was among CPS moms united against that year's budget cuts. That early beginning led to the organization of the statewide grassroots parental education advocacy group Raise Your Hand, of which Katten became executive director.
In April 2012, Kattan received kudos from Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), co-founder of Parents Across America, for joining with others to pull "together an impressive, diverse collection of parent and community groups who have had their fill of the arrogant, unresponsive, irresponsible school board and administration."
In March 2013, Katten participated with 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar in a forum on school closings. The following August she led protestors to the DePaul Center, prompting the Chicago Reader to declare "Hey, Mr. Mayor: Don't mess with Wendy Katten!"
Some elected officials did mess with her. In June 2014, she was one of 30 Chicago parents and community leaders forcibly removed from a microphone during a Chicago Board of Education meeting. The CPS security that dragged her away reportedly were acting on orders from then-board President David Vitale. Two years later, Vitale stepped down amid a federal probe into contracts he'd voted to approve. Katten was still there.
In summer 2016, Katten warned of the "total panic" of parents over CPS budget plans, and it seemed her CPS activism would not end any time soon.
But it did.
Katten announced her plans to move to Evanston on Facebook and the Illinois Raise Your Hand website on April 5., calling the decision "a long, grueling process."
"In the end, for a number of reasons not limited to any single issue, my family has decided to make a change and move to Evanston where my husband grew up and where our son will go to high school," she posted.
Katten vowed to stay on as co-director of RYHAction, the 501c4 affiliate of Raise Your Hand founded in September 2016, to work on statewide legislative issues.
"I will continue to work with this group to push for equity in education for all the students of Illinois — including those in CPS — who often are not getting the supports and resources they need to thrive," Katten said. "I look forward to doing that work alongside so many of you who have spent countless hours as volunteer advocates for all children."