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Action Alert: Don't Let the Board Stall on Facilities Requirements

UPDATE: Measure passes Illinois House.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, November 28, the House voted in favor of Senate Bill 547—along with the proposed Amendment that would allow CPS to delay revealing their school closing plans until March 31. The vote was 82 in favor, 24 opposed, and 2 absent. The measure was then ratified in the Illinois Senate 57-0.

BACKGROUND:

CPS is at it AGAIN Folks!

They want to delay providing parents and students the list of school closures until March 2013. And, they want to undercut the power of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force (CEFTF) by establishing their own independent commission to sell their vision for further community destabilization and increased school privatization. The district has a poor track record of handling school actions. Their independent commission is not representative of the stakeholders and their process quashes the democratic input and usurps the power of a legislated task force.

Public Act 096-0803 was enacted in October 2009 and created a task force to “ensure that school facility-related decisions are made with the input of the community and reflect educationally sound and fiscally responsible criteria” in the city of Chicago. The CEFTF has been meeting since 2010 and has developed models and guidelines for school actions. The CEFTF is also made up of a representative range of stakeholders: legislators, CPS officials, CTU members, local school council members, and other community members.

Last week, CPS leadership announced that they will ask the state legislature to provide them with more time to “figure it out.” If we give CPS until March then all of the impacted families and school personnel will be scrambling over the summer. This is a misguided proposition. So we’re going to have a board decision in July? How are families, students, and school personnel going to prepare for the upcoming year?

Every time there is new CPS leadership or a new mayor with big ideas and little context they beg legislators for leniency.

Photo: Community and students protest in Rahm Emanuel's neighborhood against his plans to close dozens of schools March 2012 This is unacceptable. We vote. And, it is up to us to put an end to this misguided idea.

We must challenge our elected Aldermen, State Representatives and State Senators to stop the Chaos on Clark.

On Tuesday November 20, 2012 the City Council Committee on Child Development and Education will hold a hearing on CPS School Actions. And, the Illinois General Assembly will hold a hearing during the first week of veto session to consider the extension proposed by CPS. I need you to make contact with your home and school elected leaders. And, I need you to speak with the individuals on these two committees: City Council Committee on Child Development and Education and the Illinois House Executive Committee.

Use this time to share your story. Tell them you are an educator, a public servant and voter. Challenge them to stand up for justice.

Call them today and set up an appointment to speak with them about this.

After your interactions, please email me the results of your discussion with your electeds: All we need to know is if they support or oppose CPS efforts to get the state legislature to extend the deadline for targeted schools from December 1st, 2012, to March 31st, 2013, which leaves CPS less time to effectively make a transition. 

Key Facts:

  1. School closings do not result in major savings—School officials have pegged savings from closed schools at $500,000 - $800,000 annually. Even if the district closed 100 schools, annual savings of $50 million - $80 million constitute only 1—1.5% of the district’s operating budget, and those savings do not reflect increased costs for transporting students, emergency response costs associated with increased violence, or the costs of fracturing a school community.
  2. CPS “manufactured” the crisis—through its aggressive for-profit charter operation expansion campaign, CPS created excess capacity in the system through construction of new buildings and the acquisition of others. CPS created more than 100 new schools in the past ten years. Underserved communities are now being asked to foot the bill for a policy in which they are the victims—their schools are being closed.
  3. CPS’s leadership team is in disarray—The team in charge of school actions is ill equipped to manage a project of the proposed scope:
    1. School actions team members have never taught or previously worked in schools. One previously worked for Boston Consulting; another, hired two months ago, previously worked as a marketing manager.
    2. Planning and public disclosure is haphazard and violates the spirit of the law: Illinois law requires a 21-day public comment period and a draft of proposed guidelines by November 1. CPS refused to release draft guidelines and the public comment process is being completed exclusively online or via phone conference. No in-person public hearings are currently scheduled. Such a process effectively kills any public input (the heart of the law), as many people do not have access to the internet or are unable to participate in a massive conference call.
  4. Students suffer—Multiple research studies demonstrate that student mobility negatively impacts student achievement. Forcing students to change schools ensures that educational outcomes will be worse. In fact, a University of Chicago study on school action sites from February 2012 demonstrates that any long term improvements in math and reading were minor and that long-term school absences increased in many of the high schools that went through a school action.
  5. Charters are not an educational solution—For-Profit Charter Operations enroll fewer special education students, fewer English language learners, and fewer hard-to-educate students, and they produce results that are indistinguishable from traditional public schools.
  6. Lost “Local Control”—CPS has ignored impassioned testimony by hundreds of members of school communities over the past ten years. Uniformly, these parents, students and school staffs oppose actions taken against their schools; yet, unproven school closings led by disconnected non-educators continue. Furthermore, for-profit charter operators make this problem worse: for-profit charter operations in Chicago have no local school councils or other forms of public control, and no elected official, parent or community member had any input into the Gates Compact. This form of governance effectively takes policymaking away from the public and gives unbridled power to private interests.

How will we ensure that CPS works with parents, teachers, and community members to develop better educational experiences for all students?

Chicago Teachers Union