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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Bill to delay school closings announcement moves forward

SPRINGFIELD – CPS took another step to getting a critical deadline on school closures extended to March 31 when the House voted 84-28 Wednesday in favor of an amended Senate Bill 547.

Without an extension, CPS would have to make public – by Saturday – a list of schools that the board and new CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett plan to close at the end of the current school year.

Many of the supporters of the House version of the bill, HB 1957 – including the bill’s own sponsor, Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) – expressed strong reluctance to granting the deadline extension.

To reach the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, the House and Senate need to concur with each other’s amendments. Either action, or both, can occur at any time before the General Assembly adjourns Thursday. Quinn is likely to sign the final legislation.

In a statement, Byrd-Bennett said that the delay is needed to ensure that the district has “the necessary time to work with the community to identify the steps we need to take in the coming months to right-size our district and better invest our limited resources, which are currently being spread too thin. More time means we can work in true partnership with our school communities and listen to their concerns and ideas.”

Opponents of the extension wanted a moratorium for at least a year. Closing 100 or so schools, as the district is said to be planning, is a complicated and time-consuming process if all who are affected are consulted.

Both SB 547 and HB 1957 contain language now requiring such consultation.

The district will be required every year to “make reasonable and demonstrated efforts to ensure” that students dislocated by any action “receive a comparable level of social support services” as were available at their previous school, and that class sizes do not exceed those established under CPS policy as a result of any school action.

Another provision moves from November 1 to October 1 the requirement that the CPS CEO publish “guidelines for school actions,” and newly requires that those guidelines “be created with the involvement of local school councils, parents, educators and community organizations.”

Those constituencies were represented at a public hearing of the House Executive Committee on Tuesday, a hearing that featured eruptions of anger when it appeared that the committee would vote to allow the deadline extension without taking testimony from those who opposed it.

Legislators skeptical of CPS

The House debate on SB 547 centered mostly on the perceived past failures of CPS to respond to complaints by citizens from low-income and minority neighborhoods that the district is not attentive to their concerns.

Rep. Kenneth Dunkin (D-Chicago) strongly urged opposition to SB 547 in response to the anger and frustration expressed by Chicagoans who traveled to Springfield to oppose the bill when it was considered by the House Executive Committee (which approved it 11-0).

“I want to see the Chicago school system succeed … but this is not an agreed bill,” Dunkin said. He demanded to know if the organizations opposed to the bill – such the Chicago Teachers Union and a number of community groups – had come around to supporting it. Neither Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, who sponsored the amended bill, nor Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago), a critic who was instrumental in negotiating the amendments, were able to satisfy Dunkin that any of the groups had withdrawn their opposition.

Rep. Robert Prichard (R-Sycamore), one of the Republican caucus leaders on education policy, rose to support the bill after having been given “an opportunity to have breakfast” Wednesday morning with Byrd-Bennett and other legislators. Prichard said he was impressed by Byrd-Bennett’s assurances that the past “dismal” performance of the CPS would be improved in the future.

No legislators in either chamber had anything positive to say about CPS performance in recent years. One senator after another rose to express “reluctant” support for HB 1957, as amended. But unlike the House, none of the senators withheld a “yes” vote on the bill.

“We are concerned about what’s been going on over at the CPS,” said Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago). “We hear story after story after story,” he said, describing reports of children attending classes held “on balconies above gymnasiums” or “in hallways,” especially in southwest Chicago neighborhoods that are heavily Latino.

Martinez did not disagree. “We know there definitely is a problem,” she said. “We have a new CEO who I believe should be allowed the time to look at the bigger picture” of school closings and other actions. She recounted the statistics: The district has 100,000 more classroom seats than it has students, at least 140 schools are less than half occupied, and closing one school would save an estimated $500,000 to $800,000.

“I, too, am a little reluctant,” Martinez said, “but I’m also hopeful [because] we have a new CEO and I think she gets it.”



northside teacher wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

congressional investigation

when is some going to have a congressional investigation about CPS????


All getting moving expenses, severance packages....while teachers are working with dell 2000 computers and the disrict is such a mess that they need to close 100 schools at once? They changed union laws, now they get to change the rules again...really??? I think they NEED To be taken over by the state NOW!!Obviously the rubber stamp board is a disaster!!!!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Martinez, Soto, Chapa

Martinez, Soto, Chapa LaVia.
When Hispanic teachers start to lose their jobs, remember these three.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Anatomy of a Catastrophe, thanks to Obama, MRE, Madigan

Thursday, Nov 29, 2012

School Closings and Public Policy: The Anatomy of a Catastrophe

School closings, the threat of which hang over Chicago public schools, and which have been a central feature of Bloomberg educational policies in New York, are perhaps the most controversial features of the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative.

The idea of closing low performing schools, designated as such entirely on the basis of student test scores, removing half of their teaching staff and all of their administrators, and replacing them with a new school, often a charter, in the same building, is one which has tremendous appeal among business leaders and almost none among educators.

Advocates see this policy as a way of removing ineffective teachers, adding competition to what had been a stagnant sphere of public service, and putting pressure on teachers in high poverty areas to demand and get high performance from their students, once again based on performance on standardized tests.

*** For a “data driven” initiative, school closings have produced surprisingly little data to support their implementation. In New York City, there has been no perceptible decline in the test score gap between Black and Latino, and White and Asian, since the school closings were initiated ( more than 140 schools in NYC have been closed). More tellingly the percentage of Black and Latino students in the city’s specialized high schools, admission to which is based entirely on test scores, is the lowest in the city’s history, prompting a lawsuit from the NAACP. ***

But the opposition to the closings is not just based on lack of “hard” evidence to support their implementation. It is based on three broadly observed consequences of the closings- their propensity to ignore the voices of students, parents and teaches and ride roughshod over the democratic process; their creation of pressures which transform teaching into test prep and lead to the elimination of art, music, physical education and school trips; and the destabilizing of already wounded neighborhoods by undermining relationships between schools and communities and teaching staffs and families.

***In New York City, where school closings have been public policy for more than four years, I know of no example where parents and students have mobilized to demand the closing of a troubled school, but many instances where they have mobilized to oppose school closings. With few exceptions, their voices have been ignored by the Panel for Education Policy, the Bloomberg controlled arbiter of school closing decisions. Test scores and Department of Education recommendations have ruled the day. With the elimination of local school boards and the imposition of Mayoral Control, there is no institutional channel that has any power to represent community interests. Children and parents are being given a devastating lesson here – that their voice doesn’t count. Only those who think the goal of public education is to create a passive , disciplined, labor force will to accept any work offered to them should take comfort in this. ***

A second consequence, even more devastating, is how the threat of school closings ratchets up stress levels in low performing schools. Not only has this led to epidemics of clinical depression among teachers and stress related disorders in children, it has led many schools to drastically transform their curricula to assure students pass tests. First to go are art, music, hands on science and school trips; but there have also been many instances why gym, and recess and after school programs have been reduced to make room for test prep, magnifying already serious obesity problems among children in places like the Bronx where there is little access to healthy food and few out of school opportunities for regular exercise. The conditions I have described, in some schools, have reached levels which could best be described as Child and Teacher Abuse. It is time that those making these policies take responsibility not only for what happens when schools close, but the kind of pedagogy schools in high poverty neighborhoods implement to assure that they won’t be closed.

*** Finally, there is the issue of neighborhood stability. In poor neighborhoods, it is common for young people to move from household to household, sometimes from household to shelter, in response to the economic instability of their caregivers. Many children are being brought up by grandparents or other relatives; some are in foster care, some are homeless. In this situation, schools are often the main point of stability in children’s lives, and teachers important mentors. I know of many teachers in such communities who financially support their students, take them on trips, sometimes have them come to their home on weekends. Closing schools and removing teachers undermines the critical community building function of public schools, leaving young people without an important anchor in their lives. Given this, no one should be surprised by rising levels of violence in communities where this policy is being applied.

We need schools in such communities to be safe zones- not places of Fear and Dread where everyone involved is waiting for the hammer to fall on the instruction of someone downtown who has no idea what people in the neighborhoods are living through or just don’t care ***

I urge all who have read this piece to think very carefully whether school closings are in fact an instrument to promote greater equity or whether they intensify the problems they were meant to remedy and create new problems in their wake.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

U of C found school closings didn't help to student achievement

When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools.

Research Report by de la Torre, Marisa; Gwynne, Julia
U of C Consortium on Chicago School Research

Abstract: Few decisions by a school district are more controversial than the decision to close a school. School staff, students and their families, and even the local community all bear a substantial burden once the decision is made to close a school. ...

This report examines the impact that closing schools had on the students who attended these schools. The authors focus on regular elementary schools that were closed between 2001 and 2006 for underutilization or low performance and ask whether students who were forced to leave these schools and enroll elsewhere experienced any positive or negative effects from this type of school move. ...

The authors report six major findings:

Most students who transferred out of closing schools reenrolled in schools that were academically weak;
The largest negative impact of school closings on students' reading and math achievement occurred in the year before the schools were closed;
Once students left schools slated for closing, on average the additional effects on their learning were neither negative nor positive;
Although the school closing policy had only a small overall effect on student test scores, it did affect summer school enrollment and subsequent school mobility;
When displaced students reached high school, their on-track rates to graduate were no different than the rates of students who attended schools similar to those that closed; and
The learning outcomes of displaced students depended on the characteristics of receiving schools.

Overall, they found few effects, either positive or negative, of school closings on the achievement of displaced students.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

About Consolidations: Do They Work? What IFF says

lllinois Facilities Fund (IFF) is a Chicago-based charter finance and real estate advisory organization for non-profits such as charter operators. The NobleNetwork is a client.

Researchers Siegel and Filardo say IFF has completed facilities consolidation studies for a number of U.S. schools districts, including Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and Milwaukee. (The Walton Foundation paid for the Washington D.C. study.)

In their studies, IFF recommends which neighborhood public schools to close and turn over to charter or contract operators, a process known as transformation.

The IFF study for the Washington D.C. schools district was completed earlier this year. It could not find any examples in the U.S. of a lower performing public neighborhood school that had been transformed to a higher performing charter school.

“In reality, there is no evidence that a change in governance of Tier 4 schools will assure their transformation to high-performing status.”

Read more.

What’s wrong with D.C.’s facilities/charter study
By Valerie Strauss In this post Michael Siegel and Mary Filardo write about a recent supply and analysis analysis released by D.C. Public Schools that focused on the

Last month the District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Education released “Quality Schools: Every Child, Every School, Every Neighborhood .” The study was paid for by the Walton Foundation and prepared by the Illinois Facilities Fund (IFF), a Chicago-based charter finance and real estate advisory organization. Preparation of the study was overseen by IFF’s director of research, Dr. Jovita Baber.

The study comes at a time when the District is within about five years of completing an ambitious modernization and right-sizing program for its public school facilities, and a long and substantial decline in enrollment in DCPS’s traditional public schools has slowed and may have begun to reverse.

“Transformation” is rare and little understood

The unstated premise behind IFF’s recommendation for Tier 4 schools is that their closure and transfer to charter operators will result in the a priori transformation of a lower-performing school to a higher-performing school. For the parents and students attending these schools, this would likely to prove to be a cruel illusion.

Consider that IFF has made similar recommendations in St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, and Kansas City. Yet neither IFF’s study nor its director of research can cite a single school where this remarkable turnaround has occurred. When queried, Dr. Baber vaguely referred to the U.S. Department of Education website for case studies of successful transformations.

The Education Department’s transformation case studies were prepared by the Institute of Education Science. A literature search found documentation for only 35 schools in which post-transformation student performance improved. Notably, the institute could find only “low” or “minimal” evidence to link its recommended transformation strategies to improved student performance in these schools. The institute could not distinguish why efforts at these schools succeeded when so many others failed. Consequently, the institute warns:

“The recommendations in this guide are based on a collection of case studies of low-performing schools that improved student achievement in one to three years. The panel feels compelled to emphasize that the level of evidence is low because none of the studies examined for this practice guide is based on a research methodology that yields valid causal inference.”

In reality, there is no evidence that a change in governance of Tier 4 schools will assure their transformation to high-performing status.

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Re: support for the amendment

I was at the House executive committee meeting where the bill passed to the floor. What was remarkable to me was that there were supporters of the CTU and community based organizations who were still telling me at that meeting that Rep Soto was opposed to the amendment. It was clear to me that she and Rep Martinez were going to support the amendment.

If the Hispanic members of the House had voted no, the bill would not have gotten the three fifths needed to pass given the fact that almost all Black members of the House voted no along with many progressive Democrats. So lets be very clear here CPS effectively out lobbied the CTU on this bill and won over the critical support of the Speaker and Hispanic members of the House. This was a significant victory for CPS and their new CEO.

By the way Access Living took no position on the bill, we had asked Rep Sota repeatedly what position she was taking on the date change and we got no response. Since she was critical in getting the orginal bill passed we were willing to follow her lead on this issue.

Rod Estvan

Political Contributions wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

CTU gave Soto and Martinez

CTU gave Soto and Martinez $1000 on 11/5/12

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Rod, you are an experienced lobbyist,

why were you surprised by Soto's change of heart? There's no way that you could have misunderstood why she didn't return your calls. You could have picked up the phone to call any number of CEFTF members, if you had a hunch things weren't going to go great for teachers and students. You could have posted -- at the very least -- that Soto wasn't returning our calls.

And did CTU, somehow, drop the ball? Is this another executive cock-up, like signing SB7?

Or did CTU purposely pull its punches, by not mentioning this to the press, by not mentioning this in her recent speech before the City Club?

Who wouldn't want to move out of Chicago?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Do you really think BBB is less of a figurehead than J.C.?

Or that this "success" is all her doing, and not the work of MRE, Madigan's and Bruce Rauner?

Are you kidding? Everyone has noticed the much friendlier relations between K.L. and BBB. The biggest change. MRE has hired a smoother speech writer for BBB.

Political Contributions wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

From SB0547 "Affected

From SB0547
"Affected students receive a comparable level of social support services provided by Chicago Public Schools
that were available at the previous school, provided that the need for such social support services continue to

Is there some passage in the legislation that insists that affected students receive the level of social support services a student might really need?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Ask Soto.

That's her job -- to protect the thousands and thousands of children who will be hurt by the closings.

Maybe she'll call you back.

Let us know if she does, okay?

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Re: Rep Soto

I discussed the fact that Rep Soto would not state her opinion on the amendment with member of the facilities task force at least a week and a half ago. It is not uncommon for members of the Legislature to decline to reveal how they intend to vote. But I was not surprised that Rep Soto agreed to the date change once it was clear the Speaker supported the amendment. What was surprising to me was that at the start of the executive committee meeting the opponents of the amendment still believed Rep Soto opposed the bill because It was filled by the Speakers floor leader. I thought I might have wrong in my assassment so I actually asked Rep Soto if she was going to ask to be recognized to speak in opposition and she just said she would see how the discussion went. At that point it was clear to me she favored the amendment. Since the facilities bill was her bill she clearly had the right to determine whether or not the amendment was friendly.

Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

She, as we all do, have the

She, as we all do, have the right to our opinions.
ut I have not read anywhere how she determined the amendment was "friendly." It is not at all. Even the Trib realized that.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago


CTU giving $1000-chump change. It's the power of rahm and alliance with Madigan

northside teacher wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago


I know that "white" teachers aren't very hip these days, but these cuts and closing affect us just as much as any other teacher of color. And in reality, don't forget the true true minority in CPS are the white kids. The blacks, Hispanics, and whites of CPS make up the Majority/Minority (the poor). Please don't take this as some type of white supremacist statement by ANY stretch of the imagination. I am a bit of what they once called a "bleeding liberal"....whatever that means. However, I think we must think of these schools closing as not only affecting the black and Hispanic community. What they really affect are the poor and powerless. And remember,…If I as a white male, lose my job as a teacher, my 3 kids are going to suffer too. I have no back up income or special checks coming from anywhere.

I THINK THE DEMOCRATS just don't care about the poor anymore....and the special needs kids. I was at a conference the other day and I heard suburban teachers talking about their math coaches, and textbooks, whiteboards, and rooms with 20 or less kids and yes a curriculum that WASN’T piecemealed by overworked teachers with no direction. Something just isn’t right…..and CPS is a problem….it needs to be put in front of a judge…why doesn’t Obama (who I voted for) chastise cps FOR THEIR utter disorganization!!! Why doesn’t the state of Illinois use this time to say “Hey CPS what the heck is going on up there??”

Anonymous wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Because its' Rahm's show, and

Because its' Rahm's show, and he is a man in a hurry.
Wants it done now.
Doesn't care how.
Trivialities to him. He has bigger and better ahead. We're just cattle to him.

northside wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago


I think we are more like a certain cattle waste to him.

Jeff Johnson wrote 2 years 6 weeks ago

Closing Schools

The happiness comes from closing schools now; because it will give Illinois Race For the Top money. It will clean all the old pensioned teachers out; and start fresh. But there will be so much more turning around of schools; because younger nontenured teachers will not be in or stay in there long enough to cut the mustard. It is going to turn into a big mess. Schools would not have been underutilized; if students had not been taken.

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