RYH Statements: May 2019 Unelected CPS Board of Education

We attended and spoke at the May 22, 2019 monthly meeting of the unelected CPS Board of Education meeting- the official last one of the Rahm appointed BOE as President Frank Clark announced at the end of the meeting. Our prepared statements are below with links to a video of one of our speakers. You can find our live tweets from the meeting here.

Jennie Biggs, CPS parent & RYH Communications & Outreach Director

You can watch video of Jennie's statement here.

Table the vote on the $135M for contracts with various vendors for curriculum.

$135M---a major expenditure: more than $260,000 per school, $450 per student.* Four times more than the $32M to be spread over five years for new academic programming that was announced in March with great fanfare by Mayor Emanuel.

As of Monday, you have a new boss, Mayor Lightfoot, and her Education Transition Committee made a bunch of recommendations just last week. One was "Implement Racial Equity Impact Assessments for important policy decisions..." This $135M expenditure certainly qualifies for such an assessment.

Equity was the common thread in the Education Transition Committee discussions and has been mentioned often by CPS as well. This contract states that the outcome will result in “equitable access” to curriculum. Yes, teachers should have “equitable access” to curriculum materials but this contract screams kids on screens, test prep, and costs $135M.

Instead, teachers and students should have access to culturally relevant, research-based curriculum that is designed for student-teacher interaction. In addition, we all know there is an incredibly urgent need for special education supports & services, social workers, nurses, facilities maintenance and investment as well as student safety and respect. Without this, curriculum doesn’t matter. It is irresponsible of you to move forward today with approval of this contract.

We have LOTS of questions about this proposed curriculum:

  • In the Education Transition Committee Report (p. 50, K - 12 Schools): “Identify where our students’ identities can be better reflected in culturally relevant curriculum…” In your presentation, you have this in the RFP but we do not see this in the contract in the agenda. Where in this contract is this guaranteed? Research supports culturally relevant curriculum. All we see is ed tech…
  • What does "digital curriculum", "digital lessons" and "modern student assessment and analytics platform" mean? ( p.286, BOE agenda)
  • So, how much of this $135M curriculum will be on screens?
  • What was the involvement of teachers in developing this plan? Were any students involved or LSCs consulted on what this will look like on the ground?
  • We know the district already uses Amplify science; which parts of this curriculum are online versus offline? We’re wondering how much “hands-on” science kindergartners get to do and how much is on a screen? I was a science teacher for 7 years. Research supports HANDS ON science learning. Why in the world are kids in front of screens? And why would we expand this?
  • What is real and what is digital? :/ (We can’t tell when we try to research these vendors: https://www.amplify.com/.../amplify-science/whats-included/)
  • Are wealthier, whiter districts- and wealthier, whiter schools within our district- implementing curriculum with this much screen time?
  • Is this just test-prep under a different name?
  • Does a standardized curriculum in a district this large, make sense?
  • Do these vendors have research to back up what they do?
  • Is this the best way to spend money on curriculum? Where will the dollars come from for the professional development, collaboration time, planning time and supplies that teachers need to implement a new curriculum?
  • How will you hold vendors accountable to the terms of the contract? (Education Transition Committee report p. 46, Inclusive Voice for Equity and Impact: “...build trust through accountability.”)

There is so much work to do to right so many wrongs from the past 8 years. You can start today by tabling this vote.

*calculated for 513 district run schools with 299,394 students

Chalkbeat Chicago: Amid questions and upheaval, Chicago school board moves forward on curriculum overhaul


Andrea Tolzmann, CPS parent & RYH board member

My name is Andrea Tolzmann and I am a parent at Pulaski International and a Board member with Raise Your Hand. On Monday, Chicago welcomed a new mayor and hopefully entered an era of reform, equity in education, stability and integrity. We also heard a promise to end corruption and clout contracts in the city’s governmental bodies. “Chicago ain’t ready for reform... well reform is here.”

To begin let’s reform how CPS approaches capital spending with it’s “band-aid” approach. Pulaski’s principal and engineers have been dealing with chronic heating/cooling and air circulation and quality issues in the classrooms at our school that use Univent systems. Pulaski appreciates the response from CPS Facilities and the new insurance quality department, yet despite nearly daily maintenance problems reported throughout the years on these 20+ year old units (which only have a lifespan of 15 years), the CPS response is to only replace 8 of the existing 17 units. The remaining outdated units will require special-order parts and trained technicians to be contracted regularly to continue repairing them, which is not cost effective, not a good use of staffing resources and NOT a fiscally responsible plan for spending capital funds. This should not be an acceptable option to this Board. I ask Facilities to please reconsider the choice to replace only some units, do not prolong the inevitable demise of the rest of the units, and JUST GET THE JOB DONE!

Mayor Lightfoot’s promise to prioritize EQUITABLE education for each and every one of our children as a foundation for the future of this city is exciting and we are filled with cautious optimism. It’s time for this Board to let a new administration with a new vision and ideas begin to reform the process of providing “a safe, relevant, and challenging education”  for our children. Mayor Lightfoot’s education team needs to review and assess today’s agenda items for equity and clout. Today’s votes should be delayed. On page 308 of today’s agenda, another $55.5 million dollar contract over 3 years for Jacobs Project Management will be voted on. RYH has repeatedly drawn attention to this Board about this CPS clout contractor since 2015, when analysis of these contracts showed that outsourcing project management to clout contractors like Jacobs and a list of subcontractors with associated scandals stretching back to the Daley administration adds almost 120% to construction costs. Well, CPS ain’t ready for reform... but reform is here. In the days that you have left on this Board, it’s time to stop rubber-stamping clout contracts like this and make room at the table for a new vision of equity, stability and integrity when making decisions on behalf of our children.

Thank you.