Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education reform agenda seemed invincible, until parents and activists started speaking out.
Opponents of the mayor’s plans garnered a victory Saturday afternoon after staging a sit-in at the Brian Piccolo Specialty School on Chicago’s West Side. The near 24-hour occupation by parents came to an end after reaching an agreement with a member of the Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education. Parents and board members will meet on Monday to discuss the school’s future.
CPS plans on closing two schools and implementing a controversial program called “turn-around” at the Piccolo school along with nine others. The board plans to vote on these actions Wednesday. Parents believe the board came to the conclusion based upon wrong information.
“You cannot go around and effect the lives of thousands of children based on a lack of information,” said Cecile Carroll, a community member and parent of two Chicago Public Schools students, during a press conference announcing the end of the occupation. “If you would have engaged with us in the first place, we would never had to do this.”
Earlier on Friday they tried to meet with Mayor Emanuel at City Hall with no success. The fight to save the Piccolo school and others has been going on for months now. In December parents and activists mic-checked the board and demanded their voices be heard. Thus far the only thing heard is the direct action over this past weekend.
At the time I reported for Progress Illinois on the closings. Pablo Casals is one of the schools on the turn-around list as well.
“With limited resources [Pablo] Casals already outperforms citywide schools as well as six of 11 AUSL schools,” said Sharon Herod-Purham, a teacher at the elementary school slated to be turned around. Herod-Purham spoke of data showing her school’s improvement running higher than some of the AUSL schools and claimed turnaround would not help the children. “In fact AUSL schools need a lifeline themselves. Yet, AUSL will receive millions of dollars from CPS to turn Casals around. But Casals has 300 applications for after school programs, yet receives just 47 seats. That’s only 16 percent of the applicants. I wonder what Casals could do at its present capacity with a quarter of the money allocated for that AUSL program.”
Occupy Chicago notes, “Piccolo has failed because CPS has refused to invest in public education.” Occupy Chicago claims CPS is in violation of both the Illinois School Code and the Illinois Civil Rights Act because they did not lay out an action plan with the local school councils or properly fund the achievement gap programs required.
Instead of trying to properly fund schools the board seems intent on firing entire staffs and turning them over to Academy for Urban School Leadership. The former chair of the so-called non-profit, David Vitale, now chairs CPS’s board. The current COO of CPS once handled the finances at AUSL.
This is nothing more than a shell game. Well connected people with money (Vitale was once president of the Chicago Board of Trade, Penny Pritzker with a net worth of $1.7 billion serves on the board, and the mayor who is funded by the same) decide what happens to public school children when their children never went to one. The staff fired would deplete union membership and the replacements would be without the benefits of the teachers union.
As Jeff Bryant notese at OurFuture, the reform language is a ruse.
Arrayed under the reformist banner is an agreed-upon policy agenda that tends to include expanding charter schools, evaluating schools and teachers based on high-stakes test scores, standardizing curriculum, recruiting nontraditional teachers, and sanctioning and closing schools that don’t meet specific performance benchmarks. But what’s immediately puzzling about this self-proclaimed “reform” movement is that the policies it seeks to enforce have been, since the last time Federal education policy was revised, the law of the land. And they have been for the past ten years since the passage of that legislation, known as No Child Left Behind.
Disturbing. The mayor’s intention seems to be a complete restructure of Chicago public schools. Glad parents are fighting back but this type of attack is going to take a lot more than a sit-in at one school.
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.