Critical information on Springfield school bills

From Jackie Leavy:

Dear Supporters of Great Public Schools for ALL STUDENTS:

In April and May, most of us have struggled with the “fall out” of the CPS Board’s actions.  Efforts in Springfield to block school closings and other “School Actions” and “Turn-Arounds” engendered a lot of debate, but no final action.  SB 3237 – the Senate version of the “Moratorium” bill – remains technically “alive” in the Senate Education Committee, with an extended deadline of May 25th.  But the companion House Bill – HB4487 – has been stuck in the House Rules Committee – despite bi-partisan co-sponsorship and broad public support.  Many state lawmakers remain deeply disturbed by CPS’ failure to help struggling schools get off academic probation even as the School Board pursues steps to close and turn-around schools.  Hopefully lawmakers who support strong neighborhood schools will keep their options open to push for legislative remedies in the Veto Session. The General Assembly’s “Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force” plans to hold meetings and hearings over the Summer to hear from the public and document the impact of CPS’ school action and turn-around decisions.  STAY TUNED.

Lawsuit on School Actions & Turn-Arounds:  The lawsuit seeking a Court-ordered Injunction to halt School Actions and Turn-Arounds was re-filed, and attorneys expect to hear something soon about a new hearing before the Judge.

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE
Hold meetings to demand input into TRANSITION PLANS AND SERVICES TO HELP STUDENTS and RECEIVING SCHOOLS impacted by School Closings, Phase-Outs, Co-Locations, and Boundary Changes – “SHOW US THE MONEY and the SERVICES” could be your focus.  If your school is a “Receiving School” – What additional resources, staff, and parental engagement will you have to help all students be safe, and successful?
* Take stakeholders, elected officials and the Media on tours of YOUR neighborhood schools – What will it be like for students being shifted to other schools?  Ask adults to “walk in their shoes.”
* NEED REPAIRS IN YOUR SCHOOL?  EXAMINE CPS’ CAPITAL SPENDING PLANS:  WHAT DO OUR SCHOOLS REALLY NEED?

Because of last year’s reforms, CPS was required to disclose its plans for 1-year and 5-year capital spending on public school facilities.  Around May 3rd, CPS posted its spending priorities on its website.
Find out what CPS is proposing:  CPS intends to cut back capital spending on improving school facilities–from the $660 Million the Board has approved for FY 2012– to only $110 Million next fiscal year.  Go to the CPS website . . .
* http://www.cps.edu/Pages/Capital_Plan_Data.aspx

http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Policies_and_guidelines/Documents/CapitalPlan/FY2013.pdf

Take the Initiative – Organize parents and students to do a “Walk Through” of YOUR school – What facility improvements does your school actually need to provide a great learning/teaching environment?  CPS has said that public input on capital spending priorities will be taken during its regular public hearings on next year’s overall budget. What should happen instead of “stock” ‘public hearings’ ?
* CPS ON A “MISSION” TO CLOSE “UNDER-UTILIZED” SCHOOLS?

IS CPS SETTING THE STAGE FOR MASSIVE SCHOOL CLOSINGS NEXT YEAR? Earlier this year, CPS asserted that nearly HALF of all public schools were “under-utilized.” CEO Jean-Claude Brizard seems ready to “go after” such schools. The word is, he’ll speak to all of the CPS-sponsored “Community Action Councils” on the topic at a citywide CAC meeting: Saturday, June 16th, at Drake Elementary, 2722 S. King Drive.  Some CACs are telling CPS that ALL Local School Council members in their CACs should be notified and encouraged to attend.  ALL CAC meetings ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Find out if CPS has labeled YOUR school “Under-Utilized”. The reforms enacted last year required CPS to publicly disclose its “space utilization” standards, and report on each school. The intent of the law was to prevent CPS from using arbitrary un-verified figures, and make CPS more transparent.  So, NOW you can find CPS’ report for each school online –near the bottom of CPS’ web page for YOUR school, under the heading “Additional Information Resources”.
* Here’s a sample link:  http://schoolreports.cps.edu/SchoolSpaceUtilizationReport/609894_Drake.pdf
* Examine CPS’ “Formula” for yourself:  Is it really okay to start from CPS’ premise that every standard classroom should have 30 students, no matter their ages or grade or educational program?  Do CPS “standards” align with the day-in, day-out real-life space needs of students and teachers?
* Has CPS even accurately “counted” the classrooms and other school spaces in your school?  Some educators and parents have checked, and say NO – CPS’ “counts” aren’t accurate for their schools.  WHAT ABOUT YOURS?
* During that “WALK-THROUGH” to document your repair needs . . .
COUNT YOUR CLASSROOMS and other spaces!  Document HOW EACH SPACE IS BEING UTILIZED, how you WANT to use the space you have, and how useable the space currently is?
* Do you have plans to attract more students to your school?  Do you envision adding Pre-K, after-school programs, grade re-alignments?   OR . . . Have losses of local housing and population or CPS boundary changes and “new school” openings drawn students away from your school?
* How is your neighborhood changing?  Will more families likely move into your community in 2 years, 5 years?
* What family and community activities and continuing education does your school want to have?
* It’s up to educators, parents, students and communities to give CPS a “REALITY CHECK” on both the condition of your school, and how your school is utilized.  BE PREPARED to make the case for how your public school is working, and could and should work for students’ well being in the future.

There are several other important developments and efforts going on around the city – look for additional updates this week!

Jackie

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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.
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