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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 www.ren2010.cps.k12.il.us.
Residents can also fill out input forms at libraries or aldermanic offices,
or call (773) 553-1000 to have a form mailed to them.
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
“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.
[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.”
or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,
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
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.