Posts Tagged ‘school closings’

Child mental health experts to speak out on school closings

Friday, May 17th, 2013

speakoutWith the help of the wonderful CReATE members Diane Horwitz and Ann Aviles de Bradley, PURE is putting on a press conference next Tuesday, the day before the May 22 school closings vote, to present the concerns of child mental health experts about the negative impact of school closings on children.

Here’s the press alert we just sent out:

Press Alert May 17, 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, member of CReATE; Assistant Professor, Northeastern Illinois University. 773-339-8479

Child mental health experts raise serious concerns

about the impact of proposed mass school closings on children

Who/What: Social workers, counselors, and child mental health professionals from prominent Illinois and Chicago organizations and universities will present statements of concern about the negative impact of school closings on Chicago students social-emotional health, and will identify needed actions. Among those speaking will be

  • Dr. Erin Mason, President of the Illinois School Counselors Association.
  • Dr. Francisco X. Gaytan, Assistant Professor, Social Work, Northeastern University.
  • Dr. Cassandra McKay-Jackson, the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois-Chicago.
  • Erika Schmidt, Director of the Center for Child And Adolescent Psychotherapy of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Their statements will be delivered to the members of the Chicago Board of Education for their consideration prior to the school closing vote on May 22.

When: Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 10 am

Where: Room 244, Auditorium Building, Roosevelt University, Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway.

Why:The proposed school closings and consolidations will affect as many as 47,000 children in mostly low-income, under-resourced communities. Mental health experts know that these children and their families are already disproportionately affected by the cumulative effects of multiple stressors, impairing students’ ability to engage positively in school. Their expert research and experience substantiate the concerns raised by thousands of parents and others at school closing hearings for the emotional well-being, safety, and social adjustment of our children.

PSAT for 5-14-13: Sign up for the 3-day march

Monday, May 13th, 2013

psat_logoOur City, Our Schools, Our Voices, will come together this coming weekend in the final protest push before the May 22 Board meeting where the mass school closing vote will be taken.

Here’s what the CTU says about this event:

The mayor and Board of Education want to destroy 54 school communities. This will be the largest destruction of schools in U.S. history. We need our neighborhood schools and we should all fight together to save them. Join parents, teachers, students, public school workers, clergy, activists and others in the three day citywide march across the city. They want to divide us. But this is our city, our schools, and together, we’ll use our voice to tell the mayor and the world that we intend to fight back.

The march is organized into south and west sides.

South side 10:00 a.m. Saturday Kickoffat Owens Elementary, 12450 South State Street

West Side 10:00 a.m. Saturday Kickoff at Lafayette Elementary
2714 West Augusta Avenue

Register now for updates and information.

PSAT for 4-30-13, Part 1: Stop shopping at Walmart!!!

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Why would anyone who cares about public schools shop at Walmart?

Really, folks. It’s your money. And when you shop at WalMart, your money goes to support:

  • more charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone  including $230,000 for UNO charter schools.
  • more school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.WalMartFrown
  • more astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • more high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • more vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • more Michelle Rhee: despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart just upped their giving to $8 million.

According to Diane Ravitch, “they commit about $160 million each year for charters, vouchers, Teach for America, think tanks, and media. Everything they do has the singular goal of dismantling public education and opening the schools to untrained, uncertified teachers.”

Maybe if every parent, every teacher, and every student in Chicago stopped shopping at WalMart, we wouldn’t all have to be out in the streets time and time again, like the three-day demonstration planned for May 18-19-20. 

Why boycott?

I had a plan to raise a boycott issue once a month, taking a cue from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s strategy – “our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from (businesses).”

I’ve also pointed out that, even without an admittedly unlikely crippling nationwide boycott of WalMart, Microsoft, Hyatt Hotels, etc., we can effectively put pressure where it really hurts: that is, in the corporate image of these companies.

I haven’t stuck with that plan, with so many other actions to take over the past months, but I remain convinced that we have the power to stop these corporate school raiders. WE JUST HAVE TO USE IT.

So. I guess I’m going to be harping on boycotts and attacking the corporate image of these corporate reformers once a month again for a while. I hope you’ll help spread the word.

School closings traumatize vulnerable children

Monday, April 29th, 2013

strongschoolsLast Thursday, I stumbled onto a meeting of a University of Chicago group called the Education and Mental Lives of Children study group of the Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry.

Not my usual crowd, but a neighbor was making a presentation and the topic was, “Closing Schools, Vulnerable Students.”

The evening turned into a very compelling discussion of the traumatic effects of school closings on children. The group plans to discuss the same issues with respect to the effect on children of standardized testing in a future meeting.

Besides my neighbor, education consultant Bruce Thomas, the other presenter was Erika Schmidt, a child and adult psychoanalyst on the faculty of the Institute for Psychoanalysis, where she is the Director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy.

Both Bruce and Erika have worked with schools on this year’s closing list, and are against the closing plan. Bruce testified at a hearing on behalf of one school, and Erika and her staff at the Institute wrote a letter to Barbara Byrd-Bennett asking her to consider allowing another school to stay open to maintain it as a crucial safe haven for the vulnerable children who go to school there. Byrd-Bennett did not respond to their letter.

At the meeting, Ericka said that children hear the school closing news as a clear statement that their school community is not worth saving, that they and their community are not valuable. To children who have already experienced multiple losses in their lives, the closing is a form of violence, another trauma and loss, another message that the world doesn’t care about them. These professionals explained that children cannot learn if they don’t believe they have a future, if they can’t see that their learning matters, or don’t trust their teachers.

Mayor Emanuel claims that he is the one looking out for the children’s best interests. His non-professional analysis is that the pain of the closings doesn’t compare to the anguish of “trapping” kids in failing schools. These mental health professionals disagree.

PSAT for 4-23-13: Support the student PSAE test boycott

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

psat_logoTomorrow, CPS high school students organized by Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools and VOYCE will boycott the second day of the state high school exam, the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE).

The first testing day includes the ACT test, which many students need for college applications. The students are asserting their right to make up the second day test during a state-scheduled make-up test day next month.

The students say they are “under-resourced, over-tested and fed up!”

The students are making the direct connection between testing and school closing, which they oppose. They will hold a press conference tomorrow prior to the school board meeting,

For Public Schools Action Tuesday (PSAT), here’s what you can do to support the students:

  • Like their Facebook page.
  • Watch and share their excellent video.
  • Wear white tomorrow in solidarity.
  • Follow their twitter feeds – @chistudentsorg and look for #cpsboycott

Report from congressional town hall meeting on school closings

Saturday, April 20th, 2013
Congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny Davis host school closing forum

Congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny Davis host school closing forum

Great hearing today at the historic Quinn Chapel in Chicago. You can read my live tweets from the forum here. Many important points were made, much nauseating rhetoric from CPS staff. My presentation is below, but in addition I had to address the comment of “Chief Transformation Officer” Todd Babbitz who claimed that it was in the best interests of children that these closings happen all at once and on a large scale so that they don’t have to undergo multiple transitions over the years.


I asked for a show of hands of parents whose children have already been moved, and a lot of hands went up. So, this next transition just adds to the damage that has already been done. Now CPS is saying that it’s better to “rip the bandaid” all at once. But they have been doing that for years.

I ran out of time and did not say the other thing that really galled me about these people. They have NEVER YET kept any promise they have made to our children about these transitions, yet now they say that THIS TIME they will do right by the children as they take on many times the number of closings.

Unbelievable. Literally.

CReATE researchers explain that proposed 2013 closings will affect 46,000 children

CReATE researchers explain that proposed 2013 closings will affect 46,000 children


Testimony before the Congressional Hearing on School Closings

convened by Congressman Danny Davis and Congressman Bobby Rush

April 20, 2013 Chicago IL

by Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director, Parents United for Responsible Education

Co-founder and Member of the Board of Directors, Parents Across America


Good afternoon, Congressman Davis and Congressman Rush. Thank you for the invitation to speak at this important event.

I am here representing Parents United for Responsible Education, a 26-year-old parent-organized, parent-run advocacy group based in Chicago. PURE’s overall goal is to assure a high-quality education for all children. Our main strategy is to support active, informed, meaningful parent participation in the public schools.

 I am also representing a relatively new organization, Parents Across America, which is a national network of active parents who believe that parents’ voices must be a part of any discussion of issues affecting our children’s education. PAA currently has 47 chapters and affiliates in 25 states. The fact that PAA has grown so quickly is a reflection of the increasing level of concern American parents are feeling about what is happening to our children’s education.

 I think it’s important to put my comments about school closings into the context of the propaganda war being waged by corporate reformers against public education. As parent groups, PURE and PAA are offended by the way their rhetoric misuses and mis-characterizes parents’ interests.

 You know exactly what I’m talking about. Last year the U. S. House passed the “Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act.” Thank you both, Congressman Rush and Congressman Davis, for listening to parents, and voting NO on this bill. More recently, ALEC-inspired “parent trigger” bills are being pushed in states across the country by astroturf groups like Stand for Children, with extensive funding from the Walton, Gates, and Broad foundations. These proposals take advantage of parents’ genuine concerns and frustrations, using them as just one more tool to fire teachers and other school staff and to close and privatize schools.

 These strategies do not reflect what most parents want, or what research shows actually works, which is a strong local school that has the resources it needs to educate children, and that includes parents as true partners in school improvement.

 I have attached the full Parents Across America position paper opposing mass school closings. I will highlight the key points of our position, beginning with the fact that this is a nationwide, not just a local Chicago phenomenon.

(For the rest of my statement, I summarized the position paper.)

Congressmen Rush and Davis to convene school closing hearing

Thursday, April 18th, 2013



I have been invited to testify at this hearing along with several other public school advocates. I will present this new Parents Across America position paper opposing mass school closings.  Please come out to show your support for our schools.

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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.