RYH Statements at the April 2020 CPS BOE Meeting

The CPS Board of Ed conducted their monthly meeting virtually. The meeting was live streamed on the CPS YouTube channel. Below are the RYH prepared statements and press coverage of the meeting. Part of our live tweet thread is here

Jianan Shi, RYH's Executive Director

Link to video

I am speaking on behalf of Raise Your Hand, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago United for Equity, Chicago Lawyers for Civil Rights, and other community-based organizations regarding public accountability for CARES Act funding. 

I wanted to start by thanking this Board for building upon its commitment to access by holding virtual meetings and broadcasting it live, allowing written submissions, and committing to COVID financial expenditure reports at each board meeting. I hope we can continue to expand public participation and transparency during this time.  

Good governance, transparency, and accountability were enshrined in our values for these times especially, we must continue to uphold them. This is also aligned with CPS’s mission to build public trust with the community. Since the pandemic, RYH has had dozens of productive communications with CPS and we hope to see continued inclusive partnerships. 

We ask the district to carry those values and that trust forward by having families be part of the decision-making process for how COVID related funding is spent, not just reporting after the fact. We are asking for the district to form a task force to help guide those decisions - one where parents and community organizations can bring their narratives to the table. Second, we believe that the district should initiate community input listening sessions where they can hear directly from parents and teachers. Lastly, we want the district to be transparent in their plan for using the CARES Act dollars and receive public input before it is allocated. We are part of a school funding coalition that is asking ISBE to reflect the same values of transparency and accountability to equity. 

Let’s work together to determine how funding can reach families most impacted and plan to address the waves of inequities that follow when we enter our new normal. No one has the playbook on how to navigate this. We don’t expect the district to be perfect or present the solution. We expect the district to be in partnership with its families for the solution. Thank you. 


Natasha Erskine, CPS Parent & RYH's Parent Organizer

Link to Video

Thank you for the opportunity to speak virtually. My name is Natasha Erskine, I am a CPS alum and my child attends Lindblom. Let me tell you the Principal, administration and educators there should be a part of your benchmark-sharing and best practices amid COVID-19. It matters when families receive clear, consistent, consumable info with palpable compassion and school spirit felt through their emails and texts on the Remind App. Given the times; it’s great to experience an admin who puts people first. If you don’t have an open process to share best practices; this is the time to create it.

In speaking to other CPS parents and Local School Councils; they do not have the same comforts for their children and learning amid a global health crisis devastating our zip codes, neighbors and families. In real-time, there are absolute process gaps and blindspots in areas briefed by the CPS leadership today. We are seeing the chickens come home to roast because inequity and biases have persisted for too long. The notion that when America catches the flu; Black and poor folks get pneumonia is real. 

Many families are not on Twitter, Facebook or email!

To put a pin on the technology equity gap in CPS...they are as wide as the city! There are families who {still} have not been contacted by schools to cure the tech divide, learning, remote learning supports and parent expectations. If we’re being honest, there are devices available in some schools today; but the perception/biases are that the families they serve “may damage or lose” devices. Some of the governing bodies say they’re waiting on the district to advise if they will backfill any potential losses post COVID-19 and when they can expect replenishment. And for families with 6 children; and cannot safely take the CTA with small children to pick up a laptop at a school; what are the exceptions to your policy to support their remote learning. 

On the far south side; you all know the internet connectivity is scant...there is a growing need for the district to partner with business and philanthropic sectors to prioritize the gaps as seen in other cities across the map. The lack of fixes here causes real-time confusion and discourse at all levels; particularly among Local School Councils who are willing/waiting to be called to your decision-making tables.

From my 20-year military/governmental experience, to adopt an agile mindset focused on the mission; you must be bold in your thinking, and create channels to openly communicate beyond line of sight. That looks like creating channels to listen to the community amid COVID-19. I’d like to invite as many Board Members and CPS leaders to join a 30-minute listening session and fireside chat with LSCs and parent next week Thursday, April 30th at 6pm. 

Thank you.


Special Education & Remote Learning Concerns

Video of Dr. Jones, Chief of CPS ODLSS, responding to two parents who spoke about the difficulties of remote learning for children with special needs. 

Video of one parent's statement on special education & remote learning.


Press Coverage

WBEZ: ‘There Are A Lot Of Unknowns’: Budgeting For Chicago Public Schools In The Age Of Coronavirus

Sun-Times: Remote learning ‘might be the new normal even in the fall,’ Chicago schools chief says

WTTW: CPS Seeking More Devices to Bridge Digital Divide During Remote Learning

Sun-TimesCPS buys 16,000 more computers than planned to help bridge digital divide, but says some devices won’t arrive till May

Chalkbeat ChicagoTens of thousands more devices coming to Chicago schools but internet remains a challenge

Chicago TribuneCPS tries to connect with kids who aren’t participating in remote learning. ‘We need to find out why ... and we need to find that out quickly’

Chalkbeat ChicagoGoodbye As, Bs and Cs? Chicago Public Schools to revisit grading during pandemic

WBEZ: 5 Weeks After In-Person School Shut Down, Only Half Of CPS Kids Who Need A Computer Have One

Chalkbeat ChicagoIllinois schools narrow public input: Despite more questions, less access for students, parents and employees