Footnote Credit: Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

Timeline | Elsewhere

| In Short

Ask Catalyst | Capitol Dispatch


Nov. 9: Desegregation

The U.S. Justice Department sues CPS, demanding that the district offer minority

students more chances to transfer to white neighborhood schools. CPS says the

25 schools that are majority-white—on the Northwest Side and in Mt. Greenwood

on the Southwest Side—have no space. But federal attorneys say hundreds

of white students were allowed to transfer into those schools, taking seats

that could have been offered to black and Latino students to enhance integration..

Nov. 12: Kids shut out

The West and South Sides have the greatest need for schools that meet strong

academic standards, according to a new report by the Illinois Facilities Fund.

About 228,000 students are shut out of schools where at least 40 percent of

elementary students or 30 percent of high school students meet state standards.

The five communities with the greatest need are South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing,

Austin, Washington Park and Brighton Park.

Nov. 17: Closings forum

CPS unveils a website for residents to submit criteria they think should be

used to pick schools that ought to close. Critics called the website a charade,

while School Board President Michael Scott called it an effort to be transparent

about school closings. He promised a “very public” discussion of

closings policy. The site is at

Residents can also fill out input forms at libraries or aldermanic offices,

or call (773) 553-1000 to have a form mailed to them.

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Detroit: Budget cuts

The district will have to cut 4,000 jobs and shut down as many as 40 schools

to close a $198 million deficit, according to the Nov. 16 Detroit Free Press.

Parents angrily charged the appointed school board with trying to ruin the district

in the wake of voters’ decision to institute an elected board. The district

already cut $76 million from the budget, which initially had a $274 million

deficit. Schools CEO Kenneth Burnley says Detroit has lost 33,000 students since

1999 and has lost state funding as a result.

Ohio: Head Start

Enrollment is down statewide in Head Start because of new restrictions on eligibility

and a more difficult approval process, according to the Nov. 12 Akron Beacon-Journal.

The new rules require single parents to work and the county to determine eligibility,

rather than the Head Start agency. Parents must fill out an application that

asks for a range of personal information, including income, for the county to

verify. Only 3,400 of 8,500 slots are filled.

Indiana: More efficiency

A state commission recommends a sweeping overhaul of the education system, according

to the Nov. 9 Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. Among the proposals: giving

districts a single pot of money to allow for more spending flexibility; tying

teachers’ raises to student achievement, or else eliminating collective

bargaining; consolidating districts to save money; and outsourcing food, facilities

and transportation services. The commission included business leaders but no

education officials.

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“You have displaced these kids and done nothing to secure

their well-being. Before you tear up some other kids’ lives, what are

you going to do about the kids whose lives you already tore up?”

Parent Dorothy Woodbury to CPS Senior Policy Advisory Lisa

Scruggs at a Nov.15 forum on Renaissance 2010. Woodbury’s two children

were displaced by the closing of Spaulding, a special education school.

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[read this question en Español]

Reed Elementary is on probation. What powers does the local school

council have? What powers have we lost?

Beverly Helm, Chair, Reed LSC

As long as you are on probation, the School Board can remove your

principal and appoint a replacement. You would then lose your power to evaluate

the principal and award a four-year contract. If your principal is not removed,

you retain those powers.

In practice, you also have lost control of your school improvement

plan and budget. The board now requires probation schools to fund reading specialists,

after-school programs and other district priorities. Your area instructional

officer will oversee your school’s improvement planning.

Sarah Vanderwicken of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil

Rights argues that the board is overstepping its legal authority by dictating

school spending and improvement planning. The state law on probation requires

that LSCs address deficiencies identified by the board, but doesn’t say

the board can tell them how to do it, she insists.

Jose Villasenor of the CPS Law Department disagrees, but acknowledges

that the law is unclear and “subject to interpretation.”

E-mail your question to

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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[read this brief en Español]

Springfield—Lawmakers ended a

November veto session without voting on an extension of the state’s school

construction program, which Chicago Public Schools was counting on to pay for

a third of its new projects.

This spring, Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed a $500 million program

to build new schools across the state, plus $50 million to help districts pay

for major repairs. But the governor never specified where the money would come


The only funding idea floated in November was to use tax revenue

from new casinos. But negotiations over expanded gaming foundered and the construction

bill languished.

The stalemate means CPS won’t get $110 million it was expecting

this year for capital projects. And economic forecasters warn the state will

still be in the red next year.

Mike Vaughn, a CPS spokesman, says officials hope legislators

will find the construction money soon. But, he adds, “We’re a little

less hopeful now than at the start of the veto session.”

Daniel C. Vock.

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