02/14/2011 06:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Civil Rights Advocate Payne Appointed CPS Chief Educator

Interim Chicago schools chief executive Terry Mazany has appointed Charles Payne, a University of Chicago sociology professor and author of So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools to the position of chief education officer. Payne is a long-time social-justice advocate who also authored one of the best histories of the civil rights movement, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle.

The post has been vacant since the departure of Barbara Eason-Watkins in June. There has been a strong community demand, especially in the midst of the mayoral campaign, for the appointment of educators to leading positions within CPS.

Both Mazany and Payne have education backgrounds and are local foundation favorites as well. They are both critical of the over emphasis on standardized testing, by the previous administration and neither see the teachers union as an enemy or negative force.

Writes Roz Rossi at the Sun-Times:

He has been critical in the past of Chicago's school closing policy and the multitude of "choice'' schools created under Daley. CPS has since improved the closing process, Payne said Friday, and "I think CPS realizes... it's a much more delicate thing than it looks."

Both leading candidates in the mayor's race polls, Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico, have promised to appoint corporate manager types to leading positions at CPS. Both Miguel del Valle and Carol Mosely-Braun favor putting educators in those positions. That has also been the position taken by the CTU, the Principals Association and many of the city's community and parent organizations.

Payne's appointment will put even more pressure on whoever is elected to keep someone with an education background in place.