Posts Tagged ‘school closings’

Parents 4 Teachers offers school closing accountability hotline

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Telephone 003From Parents 4 Teachers



  • Erica Clark, 773-851-6287
  • Sarah Simmons, 773-573-9100

CPS parents from closed schools urged to call School Closings Accountability Line to report problems, lack of resources at receiving schools

CPS parents from the 50 closed schools last year are being urged to call the School Closings Accountability Line to report problems, lack of resources, safety concerns and other issues at the new “receiving” schools their children will be attending this year.

The call in number, sponsored by Parents 4 Teachers, is 773-916-P4T4 (7484).

CPS promised facilities upgrades, new programs, I-Pads, air conditioning and other improvements to the receiving schools in a failed effort to win parent, teacher and student support for the largest round of school closings in the nation.

The Accountability Line will track conditions in the receiving schools so that parents, teachers and community members can hold CPS and the mayor accountable for those promises—and for any harm that befalls students because of the school closings.

“CPS is very good at making promises, but they have a horrible track record for keeping them,” Erica Clark, a CPS parent and member of P4T, said.

Parents are urged to call the number and leave a message with any information about their child’s new school.


Call for testimony for school closing lawsuit

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

justiceFrom the Chicago Teachers Union:

“Save the Date:
Injunction Hearing to Stop School Closings
by ctu communications | 06/14/2013

This is a huge proceeding in terms of efforts to stop the CPS, the Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Emanuel from a record number of school closings. We need your support!

July 16-19, 2013 – 10:00 AM
Courtroom of Federal Judge John Lee
Dirksen Federal Building
219 S. Dearborn – 12th floor

If you have any information you would like to share with our lawyers in opposition to the school closings; believe you have testimony as to why the closings are harmful to special education students; are racist or are otherwise improper and harmful, please call CTU lawyers to participate.

Robin Potter or Patrick Cowlin (312) 861-1800

Tom Geoghegan or Mike Persoon (312) 372-2511”

PSAT for 5-28-13: Fight for democracy

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

psat_logoI know I’m a day late for Memorial Day but I have been reading several excellent pieces over the weekend and the question is still on my mind – what did these soldiers die for?

Was it to guarantee that the Walton family’s income grows larger every year? Was it to assure a bright future for test publishing companies? Or to make the world safer for Rupert Murdoch to steal and use our children’s school information so that they can market more stuff no one needs?

Did they die for our democracy only to have it replaced by consumerism?

First, I read the excellent, extremely well-researched and quite depressing Curtis Black article in NewsTips, “AUSL turnarounds called ineffective, expensive.” Here’s just some of what Curtis laid out.

  • AUSL schools are too expensive. AUSL schools receive over $1 million per year above their per-pupil allotment. This year CPS will pay $11 million for improvements to schools about to be taken over by AUSL. CPS gives AUSL schools an extra assistant principal and a full-time social worker, rare in CPS schools. Curtis wrote, “A couple years ago, annual spending on turnarounds was $20 million. It’s growing steadily.” Thought we had a budget crisis?
  • AUSL schools have poor academic track records. State test results for all but one AUSL school are well below district averages. North Lawndale’s brilliant activist Valerie Leonard pointed out to Curtis that AUSL will control all of the feeder schools to Collins HS after this year’s closings, yet AUSL schools underperform neighborhood schools by 51.7% average ISAT reading for AUSL to 65.6% for neighborhood schools. That’s a turndown, not a turnaround.
  • AUSL schools push out students they don’t want. Curtis shared stories from several people about students being told by AUSL to “find another school.” The percentage of students with disabilities has also dropped at AUSL schools, including a one-third drop at Morton, AUSL’s top scoring school. That’s called turning away, right?
  • AUSL teachers have a “huge” turnover rate, and the percentage of African-American teachers drops significantly in many AUSL schools. Keep in mind that AUSL touts itself as a top-flight teacher training institution.

Okay, I try to share the truth about these schools day in and day out. This is just one more example of the facts that prove that the corporate reform agenda is not about educating children but about power mongers grabbing more power. Don’t forget that Mayor Emanuel’s appointed school board president, David Vitale, was the Chairman of AUSL, a fact conveniently left out of his Board biography.

So, does it help? Does it matter? CPS closed 50 schools despite everything. Why bother?Arlington

Because they died for democracy, not for this $#!+. And our public education system was built to foster democracy, not “choice and competition.”

On the positive side, Curtis’s article highlights Strategic Learning Initiatives, a local program that does work and actually builds on democratic participation. I have written about SLI a few times.

That reference resonated with the other piece I read this weekend – the wonderful report by my heroes at the National Education Policy Center, “Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Action.”

I read the executive summary when it came out last fall, and that’s well worth looking at if you can’t read the full report.

But the full report shows the importance of embedding democracy into education, and how democracy is destroyed when people become “passive bystanders” in education through privatization, top-down control, and narrowing of the curriculum using punishments linked to test-based accountability.

The report warns that we must not fail to provide all of our children with an education in democratic participation that will equip them to be active and involved citizens. This is the gift we must pass down and not throw away.

That’s why the fight against the corporate reform agenda is so important – it’s about saving democracy.


PSAT for 5-21-13: Do what you do to stand up to the school closings

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

psat_logoEveryone can do something.

Today PURE held a press conference with six child mental health experts who spoke out about the damage the proposed school closings may do to children, giving their professional backing to what parents, teachers, students and others have been saying over and over for the past few months. We faxed 11 powerful statements from those six and others to the Board of Education members this morning .

You can share these excellent resources with your networks. They need to be in the hands of parents, teachers, and other public school advocates wherever corporate reformers are moving to close big numbers of schools.

I was also able to speak out on Channel 2, the local CBS station – not sure when today it will air.

Lots of folks have been marching all over the city, making connections among all the schools threatened with closure. Many more are planning to be at the Board of Ed meeting tomorrow to make some noise as the decisions are made. You can be there.

You can start calling the Board of Education number now – 773-553-1600. If you’re not sure what to say, read any of these excellent articles that detail the many ways that CPS and the Mayor have lied about the schools. You’ll be inspired.

Do what you do, and what you can do. Just do something.

Statements from child mental health experts concerned about Chicago school closings

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The following statements were presented at the PURE press conference on May 21, 2013 (press release here) and shared with the Chicago Board of Education members. They include information from a variety of child development perspectives which substantiate some of the concerns raised by parents and others at the school closing hearings and in other venues and events over the past months.

Also included with the packet for the press and the Chicago Board of Education were:

Press release from PURE press conference on school closings and child mental health

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Erin Mason speaks at PURE press conference

Erin Mason speaks at PURE press conference

Press Release **** For Immediate Release

 May 21, 2013


Julie Woestehoff, Parents United for Responsible Education. 773-715-3989

Diane Horwitz, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE). 847-332-2756

Ann Aviles de Bradley, Assistant Professor, Northeastern Illinois University. 773-339-8479

Child mental health experts raise serious concerns about the impact of proposed mass school closings on Chicago students

Today, several notable social workers, counselors, and academic researchers from prominent Illinois and Chicago organizations and universities submitted a set of statements to the members of the Chicago Board of Education detailing their serious concerns about the potential negative impact of school closings on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students’ social-emotional health. Their statements are available here.

Tomorrow, the Board of Education is scheduled to consider approving up to 54 school closings and consolidations.

The experts shared their statements at a press conference held at Roosevelt University and sponsored by Parents United for Responsible Education, a Chicago public school parent advocacy organization, along with education professors Ann Aviles de Bradley and Diane Horwitz.

Among those speaking at the press conference were

  • Ann Aviles de Bradley, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Daniel Cooper, Assistant Director, Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice, Adler School
  • Francisco X. Gaytan, Assistant Professor School of Social Work, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Erin Mason, President, Illinois School Counselor Association
  • Cassandra McKay-Jackson, Assistant Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Erika Schmidt, Director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis

Significant concerns raised by these experts include grief and loss, issues of transition, schools as community cornerstones, inclusion of student voice, and lack of adequate mental health services.

Erin Mason, speaking on behalf of the Illinois School Counselor Association, said “not unlike losing a loved one, leaving a school that is closing may be devastating for some students and families who have built strong ties to faculty, staff and other families.” Mason cites articles that state, “transitions for some students result in academic difficulties, social/emotional problems, decline in self-concept, poor motivation, decreased attendance, and increased dropout rates,” and another which concludes, “States, schools, and districts need to recognize student mobility as a barrier to success.”

UIC’s Cassandra McKay-Jackson highlighted additional negative outcomes associated with school mobility, “(L)ow attachment (or school detachment) is related to higher levels of violent behavior and aggressive beliefs, more negatively perceived school climate, and lower academic motivation as well as higher risk for school dropout.”

According to Erika Schmidt, director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, “School communities are built on a network of important relationships. While the primary relationship is between the child and teacher, other relationships within the school – the principal, assistant principal, classmates, older and younger students, the security guard – all these people provide an integral role in supporting children and helping them thrive. The continuity of these relationships is critical for children whose lives may be frequently disrupted by trauma or loss. Without this kind of stability and continuity, children have a difficult time engaging in learning or even feeling like learning matters to them.”

One important group impacted by school actions are homeless students.“CPS has failed to provide needed support even for its most vulnerable homeless children.” Ann Aviles de Bradley added that “instability in both home and schooling environments is associated with the poorest educational outcomes.”

Approximately 18% of students impacted by school actions are Latino. NEIU’s Francisco Gaytan stated that “The complex lives of newcomer immigrant youth and Latinos often require a single, easily and regularly accessible site, where comprehensive and culturally sensitive services are available. Schools often are the only site that plays such a role in the lives of Latinos and immigrants.” Further, as one of the rare institutions that welcomes all, closing down a nearby neighborhood school would place a large burden on many immigrant Latino families when the school is quite possibly the only social service that they can access.

Many of the experts mentioned that significant cut-backs in mental health services make mass school closings even more problematic. Researchers stated thatproviding critical services for students experiencing mental health has become more difficult due to the closure of several community-based centers. Further, Illinois ranks third in the nation for cuts to mental health services and funding for community mental health services for children has been reduced by 13 percent between fiscal year 2009 and 2012. CPS has a ratio of approximately 1 social worker for every 1,000 students, which is well above the ratio recommended by the National Association of Social Workers, which is a ratio of 1:250. Similarly, elementary school counselors in CPS are only 1 to a school building and have student caseloads well beyond the American School Counselor Association’s recommended 1:250 ratio. Many of these also serve in a second clerical position as the special education case manager which severely limits the services they can provide to all students.

The efforts CPS has made so far to address these concerns have fallen far short of what our experts consider appropriate. Aviles de Bradley said, “The current whole class exercises that have been reported in some closing schools are simply inadequate to meet the myriad of complex individual needs of children and their families.”

Schmidt added, “CPS has demonstrated a disregard for the health and well being of these children and their families through its handling of the slated closures….CPS has assigned outsiders to go into each school to help bridge this transition. These are people the children do not know or trust and those people the children do know and trust are given scripts to program their communication, rather than being allowed to help the children deal with the fears and anxieties that inevitably attend such disruption in their lives. Children, parents, principals, teachers, and all the staff that make a school a community feel devalued by this impersonal and unrealistic handling of these closures.

According to Aviles de Bradley, “We must criticallyexamine and understand the potential negative outcomes, as they are not in the best interests of students, families, schools and their respective communities. This lack of planning and resources will be especially harmful to students experiencing poverty and homelessness. To minimize and ultimately eliminate the negative social-emotional impacts on students, a reconsideration of the proposed school actions must occur.

McKay-Jackson added, “When school detachment is coerced it could be likened to a traumatic event that occurs without any preparation, shattering feelings of security and promoting a feeling powerlessness and vulnerability to a potentially dangerous world. McKay-Jackson urges school leaders to involve students in their deliberations: Engaging student voice and their meaningful participation in positive decision- making also fosters social emotional development. Yet through the exclusion of student voices from the school closure conversation there has been a missed opportunity to support future school attachment. Supporting student voice does not require adults to abdicate their decision-making roles but it does invite youth to participate in joint problem solving, promoting an equity-based reform that requires participation of those who are intended to receive support and who have been most affected by inequitable policies.”

Mason’s statement for the Illinois School Counselor Association includes a detailed list of recommendations, including hiring critical staff from the closing school at the welcoming school and adding additional school counselors. She also recommends minimizing or eliminating administrative and clerical responsibilities of all school counselors so that they have the time to develop transition and adjustment plans for students from the closing and welcoming schools Suggested steps toward this would be creating a transition team at each school that would include parents, school counselors, and school social workers and using school social workers to offer positive, proactive programs to address student, family, and school community needs.

PURE’s response

Parents United for Responsible Education is grateful to all of these professionals who took the time to providetheir expertise and opinions about how Chicago’s proposed mass school closings may affect our children.

These experts’ concerns echo those of many parents who spoke out during the hearings and in other venues and events over the past months.

We have been more than disturbed by the apparent lack of attention by CPS leaders to parents’ concerns and to similar issues raised by education experts, including CPS teachers. We hope that today’s presentation by these professionals will be seriously and thoughtfully considered by those leaders before making a decision that clearly has the potential to cause a great deal of harm to so many children.


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.

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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.