Urgent action needed for school closings bill

From DFC:

We need your help to make sure that the “Equitable and Effective School Facility Development Process” Bill (House Bill 363, sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Soto), passes the House Elementary and Secondary Committee on Thursday at 8 a.m.

An overwhelming positive vote will be a big rebuke to CPS, as it completes its current charade of hearings and secret deliberations.

A decisive win in the first step of the legislative process will also create momentum behind House Bill 363.

We have to keep the pressure on; CPS is. They know how critical this bill is. Also, this is just the first of six votes that the bill will face.

Ir is critical to call or fax House Committee members in their home offices today and their Springfield offices on Wednesday. Here’s the list of representatives where you can access their contact information. Talking points about the bill are below.

DFC is also looking for people to come to Springfield to lobby on Wednesday and, if possible, stay over for the  vote at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning.

  • DFC is renting a 12-person van for Wednesday  that leaves the Home Depot at 5 a.m. at 87th and the Dan Ryan and the Dominicks at Roosevelt and Canal at 6 a.m.  There are a few spaces left.  Call Valencia Rias at 312-236-7252, ext. 241 for details.  You will be home between 7 and 8 p.m on Wednesday.
  • Arrange your own transportation.  Drive down with a few other people and join the group to lobby.

We will meet at the statue on the ground floor of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. and expect to lobby the House Committee members all day.

Lobbyists from the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Principals Association, along with Valencia, will be there to help.

Please make some calls on Tuesday or Wednesday or come to lobby on Wednesday.

Sincerely,
Don Moore and Valencia Rias

Talking Points for Gaining Legislative Support for House Bill 363, Which Establishes a Fair School Facility Development Process in Chicago

 
Key Message

I am calling to ask Representative [???] to vote for and co-sponsor House Bill 363, which was introduced by Representative Cynthia Soto.

Currently, Chicago’s facilities process is blatantly unfair. House Bill 363 will put a one-year moratorium on school closings, turnarounds, phase-outs, and consolidations in Chicago. This moratorium will give the legislature a chance to develop and pass a new state law that creates fair procedures for decisions about school facilities in Chicago.

Specifics

Currently, Chicago’s Chief Executive Officer announces a list of school of schools that the Board intends to close, consolidate, phase-out, or turnaround.

This plan is largely a plan for driving low-income families out of neighborhoods that the Mayor’s School Board wants to help gentrify.

Once a school is placed on this list, they are supposedly given a chance for a public hearing.  However, these hearings are a sham:   (1) the “independent hearing officers” are highly paid consultants to the Board and almost always support the Board’s initial recommendations; (2) Board members almost never attend the local hearings; (3) the Board never even sees the testimony introduced at the local hearings before they make final decisions, and (4) the original recommendations are rubber-stamped by the Chicago Board for virtually every school.

Sadly, high-achieving schools that serve low-income students are being closed.  For example, in Representative Soto’s district, Peabody and Carpenter Schools are both more than 90% low-income, yet they both have more than 60% of their students who meet state test standards.  Peabody and Carpenter are being closed. Amazingly, the school system’s highly-touted turnaround schools, which the Chicago Board cites as models, have only 40% of their students meeting state standards.

It is time for the state legislature to step in.  Please help our children by co-sponsoring and supporting House Bill 363.

For More Information, contact:  Valencia Rias (312-236-7252, ext. 241) or Elena Rios  (312-236-7252, ext. 234)

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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.