PSAT for 11-13-12: Tell new/re-elected state legislators to deny 3B’s extension

First, we want to take a moment to congratulate all of our new and re-elected state senators and representatives. Then we want to remind them why they were elected – to represent us in Springfield.

So, for today’s Public Schools Action Tuesday, please take  a moment to send a message to those senators and representatives still in the legislature who will attend the upcoming veto session and may be considering the request of new CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s for an extension of the state-mandated December 1 deadline for announcing school actions including school closures.

We say NO!

Here’s the letter I’m sending now:

Dear State Senator/Representative:

 

We oppose the request by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Beverly Byrd- Bennett for an extension of the state-mandated deadline for announcing school actions from December 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013.

CEO Byrd-Bennett says that this change would allow CPS to carry out “a transparent and open process to properly engage the community around this work” in order to “rebuild trust” with the community.

She’s certainly right about the lack of trust in the community, but verbal promises from the fourth CPS CEO in as many years do nothing to rebuild that trust.

Last year, CPS under CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said “Trust us” when school actions were announced:

There will be significant opportunity for the parents and the public to provide feedback on any proposed school actions, including a formal public hearing – and, for closures and phase-outs, two additional community meetings. Parents, community members and the public can comment on the proposals during these meetings in January and February. CPS will evaluate the testimony presented and careful consider the issues raised during these meetings prior to presenting final recommendations to the Chicago Board of Education for a vote.

This promised “careful consideration” resulted in no change to the original list of actions.

CEO Byrd-Bennett’s proposal includes disappointingly similar hollow promises of involvement.

More troubling, Byrd-Bennett did an end-run around the state-mandated Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force by appointing her own commission which, unlike the CEFTF, includes no one with a strong public track record of advocacy for Chicago public school students, parents or communities, and reportedly does not plan to meet in public as public bodies must do under the Open Meetings Act.

Further reason not to trust CPS this time is the about-face in the premise for school closings this year. Gone is last year’s set of three criteria, all of which were related to supposed underperformance. Since the CPS community has thoroughly exposed the unfair and illogical list of schools generated by this “criteria,” suddenly CPS is focused on saving money by closing underutilized schools, a concern that was not even mentioned last year. And where is the cost savings when CPS continues to open new charter schools, this year to the tune of $75 million, especially when charter schools overall do no better than regular schools CPS puts on the chopping block?

In order to give CEO Byrd-Bennett the extra time she seeks to rebuild trust with the community, we suggest that you:

  • Deny the request for a legislative extension. A delay until March 31 will only cause more inconvenience and disruption to families, staff and communities.
  • Propose a full year moratorium on CPS school actions instead, which should give the community enough time to determine whether or not her promises for community engagement are real or simply more empty words.
  • Require CPS to respect all mandates of SB630, which has yet to be fully implemented.

Thank you for your attention,

Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director

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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.