Posts Tagged ‘Chicago school facilities’

More insight into new facilities law from community expert

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Here’s a great analysis of the new Chicago school facilities law from Jackie Leavy, retired executive director of the late lamented Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.

Jackie and I were members of Paul Vallas’s Blue Ribbon Capital Development Panel, which Vallas dissolved around or about 1997 after Jackie and I (mostly Jackie) began to ask too many questions and actually try to get the group to do what this new law will now force CPS to do.

Here’s what Jackie says today:

Colleagues, Parent and Community Leaders:

You may have already heard by now, but major reforms of CPS’ school actions and facility investment practices were enacted into law late last night in the Illinois General Assembly!

There is so much more to do, but the passage of this bill will help to move the efforts of the “Every Child, Every School” Campaign toward greater equality of educational opportunity for ALL OUR STUDENTS, forward.

Parents and community activists played a crucial role in passing SB 620, as did the leadership of legislators in both chambers in the General Assembly. Aldermanic allies played an important role as well – stepping up even as the new Mayor’s “education team” initially resisted these reforms. Your determination — and dedication to the best interests of ALL children in our public schools — have been rewarded through these significant gains:

  • Finally, a Mandate to Plan: CPS must create a 10-Year Facility Master Plan by 2013 – with extensive community input, and coordination with other local governments and your elected officials – including LSCs!
  • Transparency: CPS MUST put out a DETAILED annual capital budget and 5-Year Capital Plan EVERY YEAR, and produce an end-of-year Capital Expenditure Report.  This will enable the public and elected officials to “FOLLOW THE MONEY.”
  • School Actions: The reforms advocated by the General Assembly’s “Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force” were watered down, but here are important changes included in the bill:

    • School Actions have to be announced by CPS every year by DEC. 1st – BEFORE the application deadline for selective enrollment schools.
    • CPS must issue a WRITTEN announcement explaining its reasons for wanting to take a school action.
    • Hearings will be run by INDEPENDENT HEARING OFFICERS, and can’t be held until 30 DAYS after the CPS announcement of proposed school actions.
    • CPS MUST have a TRANSITION PLAN to support and aid students and schools impacted if/when school actions are approved by the CPS Board. This includes planning with educators and families to meet the “educational, social, and emotional needs” of impacted students, with access to higher-performing schools assured, transportation provided as needed, and a commitment of resources for a full school year to a “Receiving School.” In particular, ELL, special ed, and homeless students’ transition needs MUST be addressed.
  • Oversight and Accountability: The General Assembly’s “Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force” will remain in place, and actively monitor CPS to see if the Board of Ed is complying with the law.

    PLEASE LET PARENTS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS know what has happened – Knowledge is power, and only when the community knows they will have new tools – BASED IN LAW – to use to advocate for your students and your neighborhood schools – will all of this hard work really begin to bear fruit.

    ALSO ATTACHED: Do YOU know what the outgoing Board of Education did at its last meeting?? Please read the article posted on the Catalyst Chicago Magazine online “Notebook” a few days ago. (Catalyst was quick to declare the reform bill “dead” in Springfield a few weeks ago . . . ). It’s interesting how the Magazine reports on the successful campaign of West Side parents to resist the last-minute plans of the old Board against Beidler and Cather Schools – Maybe you’d like to post a comment . . .

    ALSO, PLEASE NOTE THE DESCRIPTION OF NEW ETHICS policies for the incoming Board of Ed: The article mentions that David Vitale, Mayor Emanuel’s nominee for CPS Board President, is on the Board of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (known as ‘AUSL”). What the article does NOT mention is that the newly designated CPS “Chief Operating Officer” Tim Cawley works (or, if he’s resigned his old position, worked) for AUSL. Mr. Cawley’s new position as “COO” would put him in charge of overseeing CPS facilities management and capital program (replacing Patricia Taylor).  Catalyst reports that AUSL just got a $1.3 MILLION contract renewal at last week’s LAST MEETING of the old Board of Ed.  Stay tuned . .

Jackie Leavy Volunteer for the “EVERY CHILD, EVERY SCHOOL” Campaign

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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.