Raise Your Hand speaks at the May 2017 Unelected Board of Ed meeting

Public comment statements from Raise Your Hand parents

Statement from Jennifer Jones 

Good afternoon, my name is Jennifer Jones. I’m a parent of two children in CPS.

I am compelled to speak with you today, because I’m extremely concerned with recent CPS funding decisions. Last week, Mayor Emanuel hinted at potential long term revenue solutions such as seeking new taxes on downtown businesses and “high net-worth individuals”. By the end of the week, all sustainable revenue options were off the table and once again CPS is set to take a high interest loan and temporarily fill the budget hole to end the school year. Then, on Monday morning, we found out that CPS is asking for the authority to add up to a half-a-billion dollars of debt to long-term obligations just to to start the next school year. When I heard this news, I said to myself, “who thinks this is the best option?”

While I don’t know what each of you are thinking, I do know that --- YOU --- our Board of Education is responsible for the financial oversight of Chicago Public Schools. The decision to drive CPS into further debt does not exhibit watchful care, but a quick, temporary fix for a long term issue. I fully understand that Chicago is not being funded equally by the state, but what I don’t understand is how you can continue to ignore the need for sustainable CPS revenue from our city. If the board’s goal truly is to provide a high quality, world-class education for our students, equal funding from the state will not be enough to reach this objective.

Today’s closed door agenda includes authorizing the latest loans, but I didn’t see specific plans to discuss future funding. I implore you to explore options like, cutting costs in CPS’ administrative offices, reevaluating the future capital projects, reviewing third party contracts and lobbying the mayor, who wants to mandate a college, military or job acceptance letter to graduate, but isn't offering additional local revenue to help fund the policy. These ideas are just the beginning of the work that needs to be done to provide a quality learning environment for our children.

May I count on you to discuss sustainable funding solutions today, so that there won’t be more brash choices next year?

Statement from Andrea Tolzmann 

Hello. My name is Andrea Tolzmann and I am a parent and LSC member at Pulaski. I am an involved parent at my kid’s school and I am committed to ensuring that they receive a great education. I am a product of public schools and come from a family of public educators. I attend these Board meetings and I stay informed about decisions in CPS that affect my children and all CPS students. I advocate for education issues here in Chicago and in Springfield. I do everything in my power to improve education in Illinois.

But, many parents in Chicago are done. They are done struggling to ensure their kids get into “good” neighborhood schools. They are done “playing the lottery” that is CPS’ Access and Enrollment school choice system. They are done fighting for schools that are not adequately or equitably funded. Sick of their children being treated like second class citizens, they are leaving CPS and leaving Chicago. I personally know eleven families who will be leaving Chicago or Illinois this summer, and their #1 reason is uncertainty about schools. I know I come here month after month and ask you questions, but get no answers or information.

Let’s talk about accountability. This Board is not accountable to the  students or taxpayers of Chicago. Only to the Mayor. For years, we have been asking this Board for your plan to adequately fund our schools. We have asked you to share your long-term sustainability plans and to work with the Mayor and the alderman to come up with new revenue streams and use money in the city’s coffers. We have asked your back-up plans in case the “Plan A’s” didn’t work out. We never get answers. Just uncertainty, chaos, and crisis.

And then there is transparency. This year, CEO Claypool laid out his plan for the civil rights lawsuit against Gov. Rauner and other government officials, which dates back to Spring 2016. In this plan, he touted the law firm of Jenner & Block for giving CPS a discounted rate for legal services. What he failed to mention publicly, was that this “discounted” rate was only provided to CPS if the district lost the case. BUT, if the district received any financial relief, CPS would have to pay the firm (I quote) “… the difference between the discounted rate set forth above and Jenner’s normal hourly rates …” I know the terms of this engagement changed, but not until after CPS had paid Jenner & Block nearly $200,000 and definitely not before this Board voted to approve this deal: Jenner & Block was paid to lose… but would have been paid more to win. Not a bad deal, unless you’re a CPS student.

Since you work for the Mayor, please tell him “goodbye” on behalf of the many families who are done with CPS and Chicago. Please tell him that this exodus from Chicago will continue to negatively affect school enrollment, weaken the local economy, and will ultimately lead to lower housing values across the city because people with children are running away from Chicago Public Schools. You all know as well as I do that strong cities and vibrant communities are built on adequately funded schools.


Statement from Mary Hughes

My name is Mary Hughes. I am the Director of the 19th Ward Parents For Special-Education, and I have a child with autism in the cluster program at the Ag school. The Ag school has the largest number of cluster classrooms of any High School in the city of Chicago, with six classrooms serving 72 students. These students thrive on continuity, familiarity, stability and routine and any disruption to that can lead to dysregulation and an inability to learn.  
I assert CPS is trying to cut special ed costs by holding Extended School Year (ESY) for Ag school students at a non-Ag school location. Last summer, when ESY was held at the Ag school, participation was almost 100%, ran without a hitch and, with lovely Mt. Greenwood Park adjacent to The Ag, students engaged in meaningful daily outdoor learning in a safe environment with full supports.  
Comparatively, the last time ESY for Ag Students was held at a non-Ag school location, participation for Ag school students dropped to less than 30%, and students who did attend rarely left the building, were left without their IEP-mandated communication devices, access to technology, programs and supports. In addition, in the neighborhood where CPS has scheduled ESY for CHSAS students, there have been 56 incidents of violent crime in the last 90 days (including an armed assault with a handgun right in front of the school). Comparatively, in the same time frame, there were two incidents of violent crime in the Ag School neighborhood. 
If you are committed to full participation for AG school students in ESY this summer, you have the power to set aside the  flimsy reasons I have heard for setting it elsewhere and schedule it at the Ag. This simply requires the will to make it work. 
I ask you to relocate ESY for summer 2017 for Network 10 to The Ag and reopen  the ESY teacher application window so that teachers who would have applied for ESY, had ESY been scheduled for the Ag, have that opportunity. 
Decisions on school location for our children who have physical, intellectual, and emotional and communication disabilities are being made with NO input from the parents teachers and staff who know them. This is unacceptable. Our kids and families deserve better.