Posts Tagged ‘Chicago school closings’

128 Chicago lawyers agree – opposing schools closings a matter of conscience

Monday, May 20th, 2013

M E D I A  R E L E A S E

More than 125 Chicago-area Attjusticeorneys Sign “Letter of Conscience” Against Massive Chicago Public School Closings

Public interest law community expresses outrage, urges more equitable, inclusive and strategic approach

For More Information:

Patricia Nix-Hodes (708) 218-2320; Amy Smolensky, (312) 485-0053; Jill Wohl, (773) 562-0159

May 17, 2013, Chicago – 128 Chicago-area lawyers with an estimated combined 2000 years of distinguished experience and leadership working towards justice and equity in education, health, housing, employment, economic security, safety, discrimination, citizenship, juvenile justice, and civil rights signed their names to a letter urging a halt to the Chicago Public School’s proposed closings and consolidations of 54 schools – the largest school action of its kind in the nation – in less than one year.

Titled “An Open Letter Seeking Justice in the School Closing Crisis,” the letter will be delivered to Mayor Emanuel, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Board of Education Chair David Vitale on Monday, May 20, 2013, and requests a response to be directed to Paul Strauss, who offered to sign the letter on the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law letterhead without hesitation.

The attorneys signing this letter cannot, in good conscience, stand by and remain silent as the Board of Education moves to vote on this potentially disastrous course,” says Strauss, “Closing this many schools in such a poorly-planned and uninclusive manner marks a dangerous precedent. It sets the civil rights in education movement back decades.”

Child advocate Stacey Platt (773-732-2554), one of the attorneys who joined the Open Letter comments “It is a sad injustice for the children and families of the City of Chicago that neighborhood schools –which parents value and children need most of all–are neglected and closed and parent voices ignored.”

The letter cites the Illinois School Code and research criticizing the outsized move to “right size” the District, specifically, that the law of the land squarely asserts that “the primary responsibility for school governance and improvement is in the hands of parents, teachers and community residents at each school.” [5/34-18.43(a)(6)] The letter also highlights the racial and economic distribution, number of homeless students, and students receiving special education services who will be adversely affected by the proposed school actions, which will be voted on by the Board of Education on May 22, 2013.

Highlights of the Open Letter:

[If carried out, these actions] will dramatically alter the school environment for vulnerable elementary students. More than 47,500 elementary students will be affected including more than 3,906 students experiencing homelessness and 2400 students requiring special education services. No such massive school closure has been attempted in the history of our City or our nation. This alone must give all reasonable people pause.

[T]his massive undertaking is being executed in advance of the delivery of a 10 year school facilities master plan, as required by Illinois law… As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once. Closing schools before sharing a clear, well-thought out plan for the City’s educational and economic future signals a perilous lack of accountability from our public administrators.

Overwhelmingly and almost exclusively, the communities of Chicago targeted for massive school closures are those on the City’s South and West Side: communities that are dramatically impoverished and predominantly comprised of African Americans. Such disparity is at best unsettling and is, indeed, provoking racial and economic divisiveness. Tensions run high before the actual closures have even been approved.

The proposed removal of so many schools from impoverished communities of color has been read as an ominous statement on the prospects of those living there. It only adds to the distress and despair, creating a feeling that the City is disinvesting where economic growth and stability is so important –and that we are a City divided.”

The letter coincides with a three-day citywide march protesting the closings, and comes at the same time that numerous community groups, media outlets, local aldermen, state and county legislators and even CPS’ designated hearing officers are expressing opposition and grave disappointment in the lack of strategy, meaningful inclusion, consistency, equity and adherence to requirements throughout the planning and public vetting process conducted by CPS.


Read the full letter here.

PSAT for 4-2-13 Part 1: A parent’s request to stop school closings

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

From Melissa Lindberg and Democracy for America:Every_School_is_my_school

I’m the parent of a child who attends a Chicago public school. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to institute the largest wave of public school closings in US history right here in our city, all so he can open private charter schools to replace them.

I strongly oppose these closings. Every community deserves strong, public, union-protected schools. Join me in leading the movement to resist the privatization of Chicago public schools.

Closing public schools is bad for the students and neighborhoods affected. It’s bad for special needs children. It’s bad for Chicago teachers. And privatization deals almost always have hidden costs — when Washington, DC closed schools “to save money” in actually cost the district $40 million. We can’t let the same thing happen here in Chicago.

If you live in Chicago, 35 of 50 aldermen in our City Council have sponsored a resolution calling for a one year moratorium on building new charter schools, preventing the mayor from replacing the “empty” public schools he’s closing with privately funded alternatives. We deserve to know where our aldermen stand.

Sign here if you want to see City Council take a vote on this resolution.  

(Sorry – I can’t get a link to the petition to sign, just to the page thanking me for signing it – you will have to find these petitions here but it’s pretty easy:

There is a way for everyone in Illinois to help us in our fight. Legislators in the General Assembly introduced a bill calling for a moratorium on public school closings in Chicago. We believe every member of the General Assembly should go on record saying whether or not they approve of this moratorium.

Sign here to tell the General Assembly to vote now to protect Chicago public schools.

Public schools are the heart and soul of the neighborhoods they serve and we want to protect them. But we can’t stop these closings without the help and support of people like you.

Please help us save our schools. Sign our petitions, and share them with friends and family.

Sorry, Rahm – “negotiations” are not over

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Mayor Emanuel may want to believe that “the time for negotiation” on school closings is over, but the community has a different plan.

As CTU President Karen Lewis told the crowd of thousands yesterday at the school closing rally, “It’s not over until you say it’s over.”

Lots of people took much better photos than mine, but I just wanted to point out that we took over the streets outside the Federal Building, the State of Illinois Building, and City Hall, the key landmarks of government, paid for by us taxpayers and filled with people whom we vote into and can vote out of office. It’s called democracy, Rahm, not “negotiation.”


Opening remarks at Daley Plaza in front of the Federal Building.


Filling the street by the State of Illinois Center


Outside City Hall

PSAT for 3-26-13: Get out your comfortable shoes

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

psat_logoTomorrow is the big one, the citywide action against school closures. Our friends at the new Network for Public Education wrote this list of actions to take, which really sums it up:

  • If you are in the Chicago area, attend the march and rally in downtown Chicago at 4 pm on Wednesday, Mar. 27 at Daley Plaza, Clark and Washington Streets. Details here.
  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs to hear from us. He is on Twitter at @rahmemanuel. Mayor Emanuel has a City of Chicago feedback form where you can leave  a message.

march3-27-13Here’s what I tweeted to Mayor Rahm: “Your school closings rhetoric is a sham. Take responsibility for neighborhood schools, don’t close them.”

You can retweet that if you follow me @pureparents.

Here’s what I wrote on the City Hall feedback form:

You recently said that the pain of the closings doesn’t compare to the anguish of “trapping” kids in failing schools. But it’s you who run these “traps.” It’s your appointed school board that makes all the major decisions about these “traps.” It is you, Mayor Daley, and the appointed school board who have failed year after year to give these “traps” the resources they need to educate children. We need better leaders for our schools, not more empty buildings in decimated neighborhoods. Community based school improvement through local school councils and an elected school board will save our schools.

Here’s what I e-mailed to Barbara Byrd-Bennett:

You are a real educator, which we hope generally informs your decisions. However, your track record as a Broad trainer makes it clear that you were brought to Chicago not to raise the quality of education but to do just what you are doing – close large numbers of schools. The Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education, a large group of your educator peers, just released a fact sheet showing that school closings:

  • Have a negative impact on children’s academic performance.
  • Have not resulted in the savings predicted by school officials.
  • Exacerbate racial inequalities.
  • Contribute to increased violence.

Let this be one of the times when you make choices based on real education research, and not on the demands of corporate education reform politicians.


More lies from Tribune survey report

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Thanks to Diane Ravitch for picking up and sharing yesterday’s post about the deceitful Tribune public education survey report.

Catalyst picked it up, too:

CHARTER CHEERLEADERS: A survey commissioned by the Chicago Tribune and the Joyce Foundation finds widespread support—among parents of CPS students and other Chicagoans—for more charter schools in the city. However, Julie Woestehoff, of the group PURE, says the polling wasn’t exactly balanced.

Well, here’s another whopper from today’s Tribune, which continues to tout their survey “findings”:

An impressive 6 in 10 (61.1 percent) favor a law that would empower parents to take control of a persistently failing school and hire a nonprofit education provider — usually a charter operator — to manage the school. That’s the “parent trigger” law that has shaken the status quo in California.

The actual question (#29) from the poll never mentions the words “law,” “charter operator” or ” parent trigger”:

If a school in your neighborhood had a history of low student achievement despite efforts to improve those results, would you agree or disagree that parents of students in that school should have the right to intervene and hire a nonprofit with education experience to manage the school?

That’s a pretty loaded question, and certainly not an outright endorsement of a parent trigger law or turning schools over to charter management.

trappedchildOf course, the biggest whopper in today’s editorial is the “trapped student” image. That’s what the Tribune calls the students “languishing” on charter school waiting lists.

Mayor Rahm says that the pain of the closings doesn’t compare to the anguish of “trapping” kids in failing schools.

It’s public education as a Hansel and Gretel tale. The Trib and the mayor seem to think that parents are just dropping their children off at these terrible gingerbread house schools where the witches inside TRAP and probably eat their children.

Well, here are some questions about who’s trapping children.

Who runs these trap/schools?

Who makes all the major decisions about these trap/schools?

Who has failed year after year to give these trap/schools the resources they need to educate children?

Finally, let’s not forget that the most popular answer to the Trib’s question about what to do about underperforming schools was to “devote more resources while keeping the staff intact.” Only 6% thought the school should be closed and only 18% wanted to hand the school over to a non-profit.

As the Tribune says at the end of today’s editorial, “That’s what Chicagoans want.”

Who’s scarier???

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Ghost - Boo 3In addition to raising the specters of vouchers, parent triggers, and unchecked charter school expansion in its editorial pages, the Tribune warns that opposition to the school closings will only frighten children.

In the lead article, the Trib highlighted this quote from Chicago Community Trust CEO Terry Mazany: “As difficult and disruptive as these large-scale school closings will be, I am equally concerned with the negative repercussions this uncompromising opposition will have on children and families.”

And, in case we didn’t get it, Sunday’s editorial drove the point home:

“Chicago Teachers Union officials threaten massive demonstrations and ‘civil disobedience’ to thwart those closings. That confrontational approach would make this process even more agonizing than it already is. It would frighten children and disrupt thousands of educators and students at those welcoming schools. Teachers have a better choice: Work with CPS to smooth the transition of 30,000 students to better performing schools.”

Yes, in Tribune world, the children’s own parents and their teachers standing up for their educational rights are scarier than wealthy corporate privatizers determined to close their neighborhood schools and replace them with charter schools which are more likely to be mediocre and to push out students that don’t fit their desired profile.

Rahm’s Race to the Bottom

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013


Support PURE!
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.