Posts Tagged ‘school facilities’

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

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

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

More on rent-a-protesters from WGN; parents’ real choice

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Jackie Leavy has sent around another powerful post. We sure miss her and Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, which she ran for years, but what a gift that she is still speaking out so effectively. Please note her spot-on comment about today’s Tribune editorial: “The Tribune criticizes protesters who are questioning CPS’ School Actions and Turn-Arounds for disrupting the CPS Board meeting last month. However the Editorial is silent on the phenomenon of folks being recruited by organizations that have contracts with CPS and paid to say they support CPS at the recent public hearings.”


From Jackie:

Dear Supporters of Great Public Schools for All Students: 

Tuesday, Jan. 24th (during the President’s State of the Union address) –  WGN broadcast a report on the CPS School Action Hearings. Since many of us likely didn’t get a chance to see it, here is the link – this is a report you don’t want to miss:–20120124,0,340019.story

WGN reports that the Chicago Teachers Union plans to call on CPS’ Inspector General to investigate. WBEZ is also continuing to cover the story, with a promise to “follow the money” by reporter Linda Lutton on air this morning (01/26). 

West Humboldt Park Parents Vote Overwhelmingly to Reject Proposed AUSL Turn-Arounds:

On Jan. 24th, CASALS and PICCOLO schools parents held their own VOTE to see what parents really want for their schools. Latrice Watkins, Piccolo Parent and LSC Chair explained, “We knew that the reality of or schools was being ignored, so to show the support for what’s happening in our schools, we organized this election. . . . What’s happening at Piccolo already is a turn-around. . . . CPS did not take into consideration the great momentum at the school.”  Ms. Watkins said, “We got together and began calling parents and talking to parents. . . . We want to send a message that there is a big mistake being made here.”  Only parents/guardians could vote, and there was one vote per household. Casals joined in as well to take a vote at their own school. ELECTION RESULTS:

  •  At Pablo Casals:  93% of the 171 parents/guardians who voted yesterday resoundingly rejected CPS’ Plan to have AUSL take over their school.
  •  At Piccolo:  89% of the more than 100 parent/guardians voting said “NO” to the proposed AUSL take-over.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  SOTO “WANTS TO STOP SCHOOL REFORM COLD”. . . “DON’T PROTECT FAILING SCHOOLS”. . . “LEGISLATORS . . . RESIST THE URGE TO MEDDLE:  Today the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board published the attached editorial. It says State Rep. Soto is trying to “stop school reform cold.”  The Tribune focuses on how terrible Guggenheim, Crane HS, and Dyett HS are. The editorial states “lawmakers in Springfield don’t know best about which Chicago schools should be closed or spared. That’s rightly a local decision.” The Tribune criticizes protestors who are questioning CPS’ School Actions and Turn-Arounds for disrupting the CPS Board meeting last month.  However the Editorial is silent on the phenomenon of folks being recruited by organizations that have contracts with CPS and paid to say they support CPS at the recent public hearings.

What’s Next?

—  Proposed School Actions:  Hearings again tonight and tomorrow night at 125 S. Clark: THURSDAY, 01/26:  5:30 PM – Doolittle East Elementary; 8 PM Guggenheim Elementary.  Friday, Jan. 27th:  5:30 PM Dyett HS; 8 PM:  Lathrop Elementary.  THEN . . . Watch for the Independent Hearing Officers’ Reports to be posted online at CPS’ website – between next week and February 7th.  BOARD VOTES on FEB. 22nd.

—  DOCUMENT & CIRCULATE YOUR ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR YOUR SCHOOLto the media and your elected officials; send to CPS’ CEO Jean Claude Brizard and to the CEFTF:  Be as specific as you can be: What you want to do, what you need to do it.

—  CPS Hearings on Proposed Turn-Arounds next week! Schedule here. Ask your elected officials to consider YOUR ALTERNATIVE proposals.

— Invite a CPS Board member to your next CAC meeting, LSC meeting, or your school/community, or to a meeting, to learn about your ALTERNATIVE PLAN for YOUR School.

—  Read the Tribune Editorial.  You may decide you want to “weigh in” and respond.  If you do, here is the link to submit a Letter to the Editor:,0,3578487.customform.


Who spoke at the school closing hearings? What did they say?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

From Jackie Leavy, advisor to Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force:


Dear Supporters of Great Public Schools for All Students:

Did you know that the new reform law requires CPS to post Summaries of the Community Hearings on School Actions, within 5 calendar days of the hearing date?



Did you know? The new reform law requires that . . . .

“The independent hearing officer shall issue a written report that summarizes the hearing and determines whether the chief executive officer complied with the requirements of this Section and the [School Action] guidelines”.

    – This refers to Sec. 34-230 of the law, “School action public meetings and hearings”.  This is the Section that REQUIRES CPS’ CEO to come up with academic and non-academic criteria and Guidelines for School Actions. 

    — IF YOU AGREE with the General Assembly Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force that CPS has NOT complied with this section of the law – because the School Action Guidelines are so vague and not specific to each type of Action CPS wants to take – tell your Independent Hearing Officer so. 

   —  IF your review of CPS’ Summaries of the Jan. 6th and Jan. 20th hearings raise any concerns:  Tell your Independent Hearing Officer about those concerns.


CPS’ “chief executive officer shall publish the report [of the Independent Hearing Officer] on the district’s internet website within 5 calendar days after receiving the reportand at least 15 days prior to any Board action being taken.”  Look for the Independent Hearing Officers’ reports on CPS’ website before or no later than February 7th15 days before the February 22nd, 2012 CPS Board meeting.

Knowledge is power.

PSAT for 7-12-11: Fair school closings and brakes on charter schools

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

1) Time once again to urge Gov. Quinn to sign SB 630, the fair school facilities bill (it used to be SB 620). What’s he waiting for? This bill will bring some much-needed transparency and equity — not to mention citizen involvement — to school facilities decisions in Chicago.

See below for details (where to call, etc.).

2) Help put the brakes on charter schools at the federal level.

Last week I wrote about HR 2218, a House bill that is little more than a giveaway to charter management companies, masquerading as a “parent choice” bill. The bill could be called at any time but probably not for a week or so, which makes today a great time to reach out to your Congressmen about it.

There’s a lot of good information about the bill here, including the Parents Across America position paper on HR 2218 and a hard-hitting PAA fact sheet on the many problems with charter schools that have been reported THIS YEAR alone.

But they are kind of lengthy. What would be so helpful is for you to focus in on your own personal stories or concerns about charter schools, written up in a paragraph, and either e-mailed or faxed to your House representative. Following up with a call would be even better. You can call the local office with your message – vote NO on HR 2218.

You can attach the PAA fact sheet, which is two pages long, or consider attaching this one-page PURE fact sheet about the disparities in achievement for African-American and Latino students in Illinois charter schools.

We believe that if our Congressmen really looked at these facts, they would not be able to support further unregulated expansion of charter schools.

And here’s what to do about SB 630 (from CTU VP Jesse Sharkey):

A sweeping bill has passed the State Senate and State House of Representatives that will give LSCs and the public a real voice in how schools are built in Chicago, which schools get repaired first, and the standards and procedures for closing a school. It is called Senate Bill 630.

All that remains is for Governor Pat Quinn to sign Senate Bill 630. There are people who would like to see him veto Senate Bill 630.

Urge Governor Quinn to sign Senate Bill 630. Here’s how:

Click here to open the governor’s “Contact Me” page. Fill out the box entitled “Citizen Request” with a short statement asking Governor Quinn to sign Senate Bill 630—something like the following:

Dear Governor Quinn,

Both the House and Senate recently overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 630, which, for the first time, places specific requirements on the way that the Chicago Public Schools builds, repairs, and closes schools. As [identify yourself as an educator, classroom teacher, parent, supporter, or an LSC member at XX school name, etc], I urge you to sign SB 630 as soon as possible.

SB 630 was actively supported by a broad coalition of groups representing parents, Local School Councils, teachers, communities, and principals. After final negotiations, both Chicago’s Mayor and Board of Education supported SB 630. It is essential that steps called for in SB 630 begin immediately.

We and hundreds of others who have worked on this issue for years, ask that you immediately sign SB 630.


Your Name
Your school or other affiliation

Thank you for taking this opportunity to empower educators, parents and local school councils and to end arbitrary facilities decisions.

PSAT for 6-7-11: A smorgasbord of action!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

First, the good news:

Our efforts are paying off! The forces of privatization and school segregation via charters and high-stakes testing are definitely on the defensive.


  • The research supporting our opposition to high-stakes testing just gets stronger. Here’s a review of recent reports on the failures of too much testing, merit pay, and other Obama/Duncan administration education policies and the success of strategies we support such as collaboration, strong unions, and peer evaluation.
  • House Democrats put out a press release detailing their concerns about problems with charter school accountability. Quote from House Ed Committee senior Dem George Miller: “The privatization of public schools under the guise of charter operators is very troubling to me and I intend to keep a close eye on this issue.”
  • Poll numbers are sliding for governors who have pushed for more school privatization and testing and weaker union contracts.
  • Duncan’s old basketball-related back injury is acting up, causing his doctors to prescribe a cut-back in his public appearances. Is it psychosomatic or just a PR reaction to the anti-Duncan rally he faced at Harvard last month or the sandblasting he got from teachers in response to a stupid statement he made this week about Diane Ravitch (see next)?
  • Duncan’s attack on Diane R. was quoted in a Bloomberg News blog by Jonathan Alter, better known to me as the dope who wrote this 1998 love letter to Paul Vallas, “Chicago’s Last Hope?” Alter’s prediction back then — “If Mayor Daley’s reforms fail, get ready for vouchers.” Oops.
  • Alter’s attack on Diane was a response to her weekend op-ed in the New York Times debunking so-called “miracle schools” like Chicago’s Urban Prep, whose major student attrition rate I was the first to point out in March of 2010.

So, let’s keep it up, folks! Here are a bunch of things you can do today for Public Schools Action Tuesday. They’re all quick – why not do them all?

1) Call or e-mail Governor Quinn asking him to sign SB 620, the fair facilities bill. Here’s what Facilities Task Force member Andrea Lee says: 

There is no reason to believe Governor Quinn will not sign the bill, but it is imperative you call or email him to remind him how important SB620 is to you, your children, your school and our State elected officials who voted in favor of the substance of the bill and that this needs to become law. You may call him at 217-782-0244 or email him through his website:  You can even ask for a date in which he’ll be signing the bill.

2) Sign this petition in support of the NAACP which has been taking an enormous amount of charter-generated flack after they joined in a lawsuit against NYC schools for closing schools or co-locating charter schools in existing public schools. (Here’s NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous’s essay about why they decided to join the case.) As we’ve seen here in Chicago, charter schools tend to get costly improvements that were denied to students attending the traditional schools.

3) The Bush tax cuts turned 10 years old today. 10 years later, the fiscal conservatives are still trying to convince the nation that massive tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs and humongous salaries and benefits for corporate CEOs are necessary to “retain talent” but the rest of us don’t really need raises, jobs, homes, well-equipped schools, health care or pensions. In fact, we should join their efforts to take those things away from teachers, who are among the few that still have what all of our legislators take for granted, even those who only serve a year or more. So, to celebrate what Sarah Pain likes to call One Nation, how about joining in the National Call-in Day sponsored by USAction: m ake three (3) calls to 888-907-1485, and ask to be connected with your senator and two representatives. Tell them: "It’s time to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and increase tax rates for millionaires. No more budget cuts until millionaires and corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share.” Here are some events marking the occasion around the US.

4) Register for the SOS March! The July 30th march is free, the July 28-29 conference is $80 for both days (will go up to $100 after June 15). If you can’t be there, you can sign in to get updates or volunteer locally, or buy cool SOS March stuff to help the cause!

SB 620: Passed both houses!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Great to see those words next to this bill, the Chicago school facilities bill which so many in the community have fought for for at least four years. Special thanks to Reps. Cynthia Soto and Iris Martinez, who were the primary sponsors and champions, and to the hard-working members of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force including Cecile Carroll (Blocks Together), Andrea Lee (Grand Boulevard Federation), Valencia Rias (Designs for Change) and Rene Heybach (Chicago Coalition for the Homeless).

You’ll have to read House Amendment 3 to see the final changes. The law now includes requirements for:

  • CPS-developed standards for space utilization and “facilities performance” (i.e. environmental safety, heat/cool, plumbing).
  • A CPS-developed Educational Facilities Master Plan.
  • A CPS developed Capital Improvement Plan.
  • A transparent capital financial plan.
  • A transition plan for students affected by major school facilities changes.
  • More accessible hearings and public meetings including a requirement for a 30-day notice for hearings (CPS typically gives less than a week now).
  • Standards for hearing officers (maybe Fred “Close ‘Em Down” Bates won’t run 95% of the hearings anymore?).
  • A permanent representative task force that will review CPS compliance with this law at least once a year.

This new law won’t solve all of our problems but it will provide us with new tools to hold CPS accountable and to force better decisions, which will ultimately improve education in Chicago for the many, not just the few.

PSAT for 5-17-11: One more push for SB 620

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

What we’ve done so far seems to be working! SB 620, the bill providing a fair, open facilities planning process for CPS schools, has been given an extra week (until this Friday) to pass out of committee. Here’s what State School News Service’s Jim Broadway told me yesterday:

“Something good may be happening. The House committee deadline for SB 620 has been extended by a week, to May 20. That is plenty of time for the bill to emerge from committee and get a third-reading vote. Even if it is amended in the House, the Senate would have lots of time to concur, or to non-concur and resolve the differences with the House through a conference committee.”

What that means is that we all need to make one more call to our House legislators TODAY. Ask them to support SB 620 and make sure it moves out of committee this week.

Here’s the letter I sent to every Illinois House and Senate member last week:

Time for reform in CPS facilities decisions


You still have an opportunity to support a bill that favors open, transparent, RESPONSIBLE democratic decision making about school capital planning and spending in Chicago.

We hear that the General Assembly is about to kill SB 620, which would have required the Chicago Public Schools to create a 10-year facilities master plan and a 5-year capital improvement plan with significant public input.

SB 620 did not emerge out of a vacuum. CPS has failed to be open, transparent, or responsible about facilities expenditures for years. Unlike most major school systems, Chicago currently has no public capital plan. That’s one of the reasons why so many of the district’s decisions about school closings, consolidations, etc. have seemed arbitrary, causing school communities to rise up in anger.

Here are some facts and figures from a 2007 Catalyst analysis:

  • Nearly $50 million of $265 million in renovations now underway are being done in Renaissance and charter schools, according to April reports from area offices. That’s about 19 percent of renovations taking place in buildings that house just 4 percent of students.
  • Renaissance and charter schools are getting repairs completed or funded at a faster pace than traditional schools: 62 percent compared to 45 percent, respectively.
  • For every $1 already spent, CPS needs to spend another 61 cents to finish renovations in buildings housing Renaissance schools. But in traditional schools, the district needs to spend another $1.21—nearly twice as much—for every $1 already spent.

Public outcry over the unfairness and disruption of CPS’s capital decisions became so loud that some of your colleagues initiated a series of hearings last year to learn more about the problems and to identify some solutions. Hundreds of people have testified about disruption and corruption in the process.

For example, one teacher talked about what happened when CPS moved a new magnet school into the same building with a school the district was planning to phase out. The area of the school set aside for the magnet school was given new lighting, new floor tile, new window shades, new whiteboards, upgraded bathrooms, and a new library. Asbestos was removed. Students from the “old” school were forced to enter through a back entrance and were not allowed to use the new drinking fountains put in for the magnet school students, none of whom was a student of color. Chicago called this a school Renaissance.

Perhaps the most famous recent example of community outrage at the unfair manner in which Chicago doles out capital funds was the Whittier Mom’s month-long sit-in to protest their school’s lack of a library.

SB 620 doesn’t cost a penny. In fact, a more transparent, truly prioritized process for deciding how scarce facilities funds should be used will most likely save a lot of money and make it more likely that funds will go to projects that are needed the most.

That’s got to be better for students.

You can still do the right thing. We’re told that the bill can still be called. It’s time to bring sense and fairness in Chicago school capital planning.

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.