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Drugs in schools

Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

Lawmakers consider LSC requirement at charter schools

As CPS gears up for the next Local School Council elections, legislation under consideration in the state’s House of Representatives would require every charter school in Chicago to be administered by an LSC.

Unlike traditional neighborhood schools in the city, charter schools are not overseen by an elected body of parents, community members and staff. (Find out who is running for the LSC at your school.)

“The whole point of this is bringing democracy into our schools,” says Rod Wilson, a member of Communities Organized for Democracy in Education, which has been lobbying for the bill. “We feel that if a school is in District 299 and receives public funding, there should be parents with decision-making authority, not just giving advice or input.”

House Bill 5328, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) also restores some authority to LSCs at schools under probation and requires Chicago Public Schools to provide $2,500 to each council for training purposes. The bill passed on first reading in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee in late March and is awaiting a second vote to get out of committee.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) opposes the bill, arguing that it “would create an additional and conflicting decision making entity in the charter school authorization process,” according to a summary of charter school-related legislation that the organization is tracking in Springfield.

Charter schools under current law and contract are governed under non-profit governing boards, and if you add LSCs as a layer, it’d be unclear what role they’d play,” says Andrew Broy, president of INCS. Charters get to design their curriculum and they get held accountable for results, not process.”

Broy said most charter schools already have active parent councils and that many schools’ governing boards include parents and community members. As an alternative to the LSC proposal, he said he’s suggested to lawmakers that charter schools should demonstrate how they’ll ensure parental and community involvement during the authorization process.

lsc_graphic_0.jpg

Even though the group doesn’t want charter schools to have elected governing entities, three staff members of INCS are currently running for seats on LSCs in Chicago. LSC elections take place on April 7 at the city’s elementary schools, and on April 8 at the high schools.

The INCS staff running for seats at LSCs include: the group’s spokeswoman, Jodie Cantrell, community candidate at Blaine Elementary School; director of development and capacity, Eric Johnson, parent candidate at Audubon Elementary School; and charter support manager, Jelani McEwen, community candidate at Kenwood High School. WBEZ first reported on some of the unusual candidates running for the Blaine LSC in March.

Suspicious of motives

Broy says he doesn’t think it’s a contradiction for his staff to run for positions on LSCs while the organization opposes having councils at charter schools. He considers it a sign of their “well-roundedness” if they participate in community organizations in their neighborhood.

“They’re trying to have a role in governance in local schools, and in those schools they can do that through LSCs,” he says.

But perhaps not surprisingly, activists against charter schools say they are suspicious of the true motives of LSC candidates who support charter schools.

Earlier this week, for example, some parents and educators circulated a list of candidates “not to vote for” on Facebook because of their support for charter schools and supportive politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

“If they’re running for LSCs, does that mean they want to make them charter schools? Is that the purpose?” asks Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center in Bronzeville and a former LSC member himself. “Or do they want to be a part of a democratic process? If so, they should support this bill.”

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is also getting increasingly involved in promoting LSC participation to both its own members and community groups. In February, the CTU and the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) organized a summit for about 250 LSC candidates and other community activists who wanted to learn about how to run an effective council. The coalition of like-minded LSC candidates voted to share a campaign platform that advocates for an elected school board, universal pre-kindergarten and an end to charter and military school expansion.

“We realize how important the LSCs are, and that they’re pretty much in the same boat as the union,” said Michael Brunson, the CTU’s recording secretary. “We have the same interests in having our publicly funded schools survive.”

LSC elections

LCSs are responsible for approving schools’ discretionary budgets, hiring principals, and overseeing the school’s Continuous Improvement Work Plan, although councils at schools on probation have more limited powers. Each council is made up of six parents, two community members, two teachers, one non-teacher staff member and the school principal. High schools also include one student representative.

Getting teachers, residents and community members interested in joining their LSCs isn’t always easy, Brunson says.

“You mention LSCs and people’s eyes roll,” he says. “There has been a lot of cynicism and disengagement. You can see that each year as you have elections, fewer and fewer people running for school councils.”

After passage of the historic School Reform Act and during the first elections in 1989, more than 17,000 people ran for seats.  But interest in LSC elections has since dwindled. This year, for example, CPS extended the deadline for candidates to file their paperwork to encourage more people to sign up.

Despite the extension, many LSCs still lack enough candidates to fill the vacancies. Nine of the 516 schools with LSCs lack any parent candidates, while 39 lack any community candidates. In total, 35 percent of councils don’t have enough parent candidates to fill the vacancies, and 22 percent don’t have enough community member candidates, according to CPS data. Click here to see an interactive map of all LSCs and the names of all of the candidates.

Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago who studies race and class inequality in urban schools, says that despite the lack of interest in LSCs, they remain “the only place where there is democracy at any level” in Chicago schools. The city’s School Board is handpicked by the mayor, although there is currently movement in Springfield to change the system. 

“They have great potential to involve parents and community members and teachers with the principals in robust discussions of what they want to happen at their schools and put pressure on CPS to provide it,” Lipman says.

10 comments

Ed Dziedzic wrote 29 weeks 23 hours ago

What?!

Staff members of The Illinois Network of Charter Schools are running for positions on publiic school LSCs? Does Broy and {those} who work for him have no shame? Tell me how anyone can justify this as anything but a bald-faced attempt to start to charter-ize those schools?

The crowning hypocrisy is that they oppose LSCs for charters. LOL!

northside wrote 28 weeks 6 days ago

Neighborhood Schools

I would say regular "union" schools are actually now a hybrid of charter and union schools. we still have the pay and the benefits which I love!! HOWEVER with the new REACH evaluation system coupled with new layoff rules....teachers are living in a very precarious world. Many schools are run by a "my way" or highway mentality. We need more LSC involvement and PPLC and PPC meetings....its just a scary scary world when your principal is a dictator. I am sure some schools are very pleasant and democratic....but many many union members are not doing well. Just because your school is good, you can't just rest on your laurels. Be careful, you never know what's around the corner. A new principal and a new are officer, and you peaceful job can be turned into almost a living hell

That's why we need to stick together. So many people have started to become part of "inner" circles at their schools....tattling. Very very scary stuff....wonder what the next contract will bring?

Just venting

Aragra wrote 28 weeks 6 days ago

the interactive map

Great idea, good way to find out who are the school candidates, community participants etc. The schools need parents help and participation.. Good work.

Anonymous wrote 28 weeks 6 days ago

The Red Revolution

So will the unions and teachers now realize they were pawns inthe game? It is Marx AND Engels, communists and corporatists that make a revolution to the few ruling the many. Rahm and Rauner...for example. They are done now, charter schools are the soviet and Chinese model. The IB schools train UN elite leaders the Rauner schools train worker bees. Can we all drop the left right thing and save America? OK we were duped. The plan in Hitler's national socialist revolition, they went after unions, communists (whole helped) Jews then Christians. I heard a new Gov candidate say he was after those unions. Sounds familiar.

Anonymous wrote 28 weeks 1 day ago

The power of LSCs

I think it would be an understatement to say that CPS has fought the LSC model from the day it began. If CPS had put a fraction of the energy into helping build and encourage the Local School Council model of governance that it has put into building charter schools and undercutting LSCs, we would see a dramatically different public school landscape today.

Think of it--a citywide system of public schools, each with a publicly elected and well-trained Local School Council, with the power to hire and fire its own principal, flexible funding, and responsible for a school improvement strategy tailored to each school.

That's the law and it is a system that has produced the finest traditional neighborhood schools in the city. It is possible for each public school to be governed with all the independence of a charter school. And every tax dollar would go to support a single system. Yet CPS has fought the system every step of the way.

Catalyst deserves an award for bringing such fine information about the LSC elections to public attention. Under the law it is the responsibility of CPS to run and publicize the elections. Don't look there for much.

Anonymous wrote 28 weeks 22 hours ago

I don't usually get involved

I don't usually get involved in comments section battles, but just to be sure I am getting this right, can I rephrase your comment:

You are a CTU teacher who loves the good pay, good benefits and a peaceful environment where no one can evaluate you or potentially threaten your job security. You don't like principals who meddle in your affairs and people who "tattle", which I assume means discussing the quality of fellow teachers. I also would assume that "inner circle" refers to people working closely with a new principal?

Kind of amazed that someone has the honesty to write all that. So kudos for that. Who doesn't want to be paid quite well to do whatever they feel is best and to limit the ability of any supervisor to measure the quality of your work or to threaten your job for any reason? Sounds like what everyone would want. But let's dispense with the "putting kids first" rhetoric. This is squarely putting one's self first.

Ed Dziedzic wrote 28 weeks 21 hours ago

What?

I don't see any of that in the earlier comment. You are projecting a great deal of negative interpretation onto something, although I'm not sure what. Can you provide a quote to the comment you are referring to?

Anonymous wrote 28 weeks 21 hours ago

Oops. Was commenting on this post

"Neighborhood Schools
I would say regular "union" schools are actually now a hybrid of charter and union schools. we still have the pay and the benefits which I love!! HOWEVER with the new REACH evaluation system coupled with new layoff rules....teachers are living in a very precarious world. Many schools are run by a "my way" or highway mentality. We need more LSC involvement and PPLC and PPC meetings....its just a scary scary world when your principal is a dictator. I am sure some schools are very pleasant and democratic....but many many union members are not doing well. Just because your school is good, you can't just rest on your laurels. Be careful, you never know what's around the corner. A new principal and a new are officer, and you peaceful job can be turned into almost a living hell

That's why we need to stick together. So many people have started to become part of "inner" circles at their schools....tattling. Very very scary stuff....wonder what the next contract will bring?

Just venting"

Sad wrote 28 weeks 1 hour ago

I think the big issue is that

I think the big issue is that "inner circles" are selected on loyalty to the new admin, often in converse to what is best for students.

To anyone who puts student needs first, that should give pause.

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