Parents describe Chicago Board of Education disrespect

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times editorial by 19th Ward Parents leader Becky Malone describes in infuriating detail the disrespect that parents and others experience every time they go to a Chicago Board of Education meeting to speak up for their children’s education:

“On many occasions we have gotten into line by 6 a.m. to wait for two hours hoping to get the golden ticket that would allow us an audience with the board only to return to the same line for an additional two hours before being herded into the party. By this point each month, we have spent nearly five hours traveling and waiting before the meeting has even begun.”

Becky reports that things have gotten even worse lately, with Board members trailing in late to the scheduled 10:30 am start of the public participation portion of the meeting and the usual dog-and-pony show extending well past noon. The show includes lengthy speeches honoring retiring administrators and student groups, usually well-deserved but quite obviously designed to try the patience of the waiting public.

Becky writes:

We are often asked if we feel the board and the mayor are listening to parents and we always reply no. If the board cared what we had to say, meetings would start with public participation to ensure that everyone who made the effort to attend could be heard. If the mayor cared, he would meet with parent groups and speak with us directly, not address us at staged press conferences or through carefully drafted media releases.

To that clear message let me add some suggestions. Return the Board meetings to the schools in the afternoons/evenings several times a year, and reconstitute Board committees which, back in the real reform era, used to meet in between Board meetings to actually discuss policy and problems, and to take the time to listen to parents and others in order to make better decisions.

Of course, that was back when Board decisions were made by the Board, not by City Hall. After all, who cares what parents think when your sole function is to vote yes on everything the Mayor tells you to do?

Just one more reason why we need an elected school board in Chicago. Here’s how you can join the campaign!


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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.