Transparent as a rug

So, the transparent system to “fix” the bad CPS facilities planning process will start with less than one day’s notice, in SPRINGFIELD. Great start, guys.

We would not have known about this meeting at all if not for an e-mail sent out by Task Force member Andrea Lee yesterday. 

The announcement she sent around includes these ironic words:

“This open meeting is for parents,
community groups, educators, and members of the public interested in
understanding and impacting a more fair, transparent, and accountable
Chicago Public Schools facilities’ policy and legislation. ” (emphasis added)

I agree with Substance, which claims that “the process by means of which members of the ‘Task Force’ were selected was
a secret from the public that the ‘Task Force’ was supposed to empower.”

I had applied to be a member of the Task Force representing PURE. The criteria under the law for community group representatives was “past involvement in school facility issues.” I listed these credentials:

  • I am a veteran LSC member and a 20-year CPS
    parent advocate.

  • I
    was an appointed member of the
    Ribbon Capital Development Task Force

    created by Paul Vallas in 1995. On that Task Force, I strongly
    advocated for exactly the kind of fair and transparent process that
    we are hoping to create now.

  • I
    was also a member of the
    Capital Plan Commission
    organized by Chicago’s Neighborhood Capital Budget Group in 2004.
    This group carried out national research and consulted experts in
    creating a facilities planning proposal which should be of great
    help to the Task Force.

  • Recently, PURE sent a FOIA request to CPS for a report on the impact of school closings on students which CPS was supposed to have made public. Our persistence paid off when CPS finally provided the report, although the content fell short of expectations. This is the kind of intensive, informed, child-centered monitoring that PURE is known for and that we believe will be an asset to the Task Force’s work.

  • PURE
    has an excellent communications network throughout the city, which
    is a critical need for a fast-moving project that must inclusive and
    are committed to helping assure the broad and meaningful involvement
    of CPS parents and LSCs.

Although no process for applying had been made public, I sent an application letter to Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton (who were each to appoint two community members) and to HB 363 key sponsors Rep. Cynthia Soto and Sen. William Delgado.

I never received a response to any of these letters. 

The only information the larger school reform community has gotten about the Task Force has come from members Andrea Lee (Grand Boulevard) and Cecile Carroll (Blocks Together), who have at least tried to bring some transparency to this supposed transparent process.

It’s a shame that the dog-in-the-manger tactics of some organizations, wanting to be “in charge” and take credit for wider community victories, can lead to tactics that are no better than the ones that caused the problem in the first place.

This unfortunate secretiveness puts a shadow on any potential good that might still come out of the Task Force’s work.   

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.