PSAT for 3-27-12: Crank up the pressure!

Perhaps in response to Illinois having been named the third most corrupt state in the nation, and maybe also just having watched former governor Blagojevich head off to prison for 14 years, our state legislators have begun acting uncannily as though they are listening to us instead of the power elite.

First we heard about Sen. Delgado sponsoring an amendment to ban charter schools from charging fines for disciplinary infractions, in direct response to the efforts of PURE, VOYCE and the Advancement Project to challenge the absurd and unfair policy of CPS’s pet charter company, Noble Network. AND the amendment passed out of the Senate Education Committee, which has yet to move on several other bills that we support.

That bill has more recently been amended again; instead of a flat ban on fees for disciplinary infractions, it now states that charter schools must waive all fees for low-income students as defined by the federal free lunch program, which is currently the case for non-charter public schools. We feel that this is an even better bill. One of the biggest problems parents have with charter schools are the various fees that can add up and even get in the way of earning credits and being promoted or graduating.

Now we hear that several state representatives ganged up on CPS at yesterday’s House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee hearing on HB 4487, the House companion to the Senate school closing moratorium bill, SB 3239. Chicago parents, teachers, and students have been calling for strong action to stop CPS for years.

According to this lively report from Jim Broadway in Catalyst, several Chicago reps were furious that CPS sent lower-level staffers to speak in place of CEO Brizard and Mayor Rahm. Things got so heated that committee chair Linda Chapa LaVia had to take a break and move the reps out of the room to cool them down, something that apparently has never happened before. At their request, she also dismissed the CPS staffers in favor of listening to testimony from two students.

Here are some of the rep’s comments:

  • Rep. Esther Golar: “We have been bamboozled again by CPS.”
  • Rep. Mary Flowers: CPS is “destroying our future.”
  • Rep. Cynthia Soto: “What does it take [for CPS] to understand?”
  • Rep. Kenneth Duncan: CPS officials need to “show us some respect.”
  • Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, who chairs the education appropriations committee: If it takes “holding the funding [from CPS to gain its cooperation], so be it.”
  • Rep. Monique Davis: “Is [CEO] Brizard just a figurehead? Someone is making big dollars … to manage the turnarounds.”

Even Republican Downstaters got into the act:

  • Rep. Robert Prichard (R-Sycamore): CPS is “not serving the people of Chicago” as it should.

Maybe there was an all-General Assembly viewing of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” the night before.

At any rate, they are calling for a joint meeting of the Senate and House education committees and the House and Senate education appropriations committees for this THURSDAY 3/29 at 8 am to discuss the proopsed school closing moratorium.

Let’s not waste the momentum, shall we? Here’s one easy thing you can do: File an online witness slip in support of HB 4487. The link will take you to the correct page. The subject matter is the school closing moratorium. PURE supports it.

If you can do more, please also contact your state senator and state rep. Ask him/her to:

1) Join as a co-sponsor of SB 637 to require charter schools to waive fees for low-income students. It’s time to stop the use of exorbitant fees charter schools use to push out low-income students.

2) Join as a co-sponsor of SB 3239/HB 4487 calling for a school closing moratorium. The children of Chicago have waited long enough for school leaders to act responsibly.

  • Stop the experimentation that hasn’t worked!
  • Stop pushing students from one struggling school to the next!
  • Stop firing our most experienced teachers without reason!
  • Stop selling our schools out to private companies that are not accountable to the public!

Let’s crank up the pressure!

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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.