Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walking West Pullman

Walking West Pullman from Tim Furman on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago I was able to walk around West Pullman with Wendy Katten and a couple of parent activists from the neighborhood. West Pullman Elementary was one of the fifty schools closed by Rahm Emanuel, and the students there will be sent to Alex Haley Elementary, which is across one of Chicago's most notorious, violent gang lines.

The school put up a fight, like others before it.

I wish I had been able to finish this footage earlier, but I guess it wouldn't have made any difference to the Board because it seems they head their orders. Still, I wanted to finish it just to honor the people living in this community and to put on the record that this particular closure is a terrible, terrible idea. I just dont see how the newly enlarged/overcrowded school, Haley, is going to be able to handle what it's about to encounter next year.

It's been pointed out that it may very well be Barbara Byrd Bennett's plan to end gang violence in the city of Chicago before she leaves. The mechanism appears to be the throwing together of children whose entire families are at war, without any meaningful support.

Children in the suburbs get support. Children growing up in American urban war zones get maybe another social worker.

I'm not going to lie; I was completely rattled by this particular walk. The neighborhood bristling with tension, and I could feel the anxiety. The mom from Haley who stopped to talk to us couldn't get away from the playground fast enough--- the playground is where you're likely to get shot at.  The neighborhood I live in has its gangs, but it's nothing like the shooting war that's going on across 115th street.

There was a lot more to the day than what made it into this video, but technical weirdness and a lack of time forced me to make some decisions. I didn't do it justice. I feel like we're in a city that's slouching toward totally avoidable tragedy, and that some of the kids inside the houses on these streets will be the victims.

For my own part, I hardly recognize America anymore. Whatever sort of game is being played with the children who need the most but get the least, it isn't sustainable, it isn't smart, and it isn't just.

Please, spare me the lecture about how closing these schools down will allow the district to resource the remaining schools with the things they deserve.  What people want are stable, resourced schools their kids can walk to, but you can't have these things when you bleed the schools dry year after year with an incomprehensible TIF system, which will keep happening long into the future, and none of these new sardine schools will look anything like suburban schools that have the staffing numbers, class sizes, and physical plant to meet their needs.

And finally, this. I need to say it to jinx it. This whole thing with the iPads--- I mean, I really hope there's a plan for those, because if those things are actually going to materialize, and they travel with the kids like they do in the suburbs, then I hope someone has at least thought through what that means in a neighborhood where you scramble to get home before the shooting starts.

Update: Yes, I do have the date of the Board wrong in the video; I'll fix it tonight after work. Also, I believe I may be wrong about the names of the schools not being read aloud. I feel like I saw the great Erica Clark being dragged out by security after attempting to read the names of the schools aloud, so I bet that the names of some of these schools were heard before she was out of the room.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The New Sane..

Evidence that crazy is the new sane.

Principal Sarah Abedelal credited under-utilized Brennemann's high test scores to its low class sizes. Then she insisted the school could do as well with twice as many students.

"Size does matter, but when you look at effective teaching, effective teaching strategies, you can teach students double that size," said Abedelal.

This is the sort of thing you have to say to be a successful striver in the modern education reform movement. You have to adopt a certain level of schizophrenia, and you have to deliver the message with a facial expression of absolute confidence.

Actually, why stop at double? With effective strategies, you could quadruple class sizes. Maybe she's saving that for the next round of the Hunger Games.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Stunning Short Film

This is another exceptionally beautiful film by Kai-Duc Luong and Heather Stone, whom I've written about before.

There's some footage of West Pullman Elementary and some of its community.  I walked from West Pullman to its welcoming school, Haley Elementary, with Wendy Katten a few weeks ago, but I haven't put together the footage yet.

We spent the morning at a church breakfast and then walked the distance between these schools with two parents. The receiving school is directly across the dividing line between two gang territories, and unlike other situations where we've crossed gang lines, I definitely felt the tension on this particular trip.

There's basically a shooting war going on near this dividing line, and we passed by several locations where the parents were able to describe the killings that had taken place in various locations there. We met with a mother of a child at Haley, and both sides agree that it's a terrible, terrible idea to combine these two schools.  One  of the mothers was anxious not to talk in front of the Haley playground, given the danger of getting shot at there.

I was kind of wrecked after this tour, I don't mind saying.

I feel like CPS has utterly no plan for these closures, but that the defacto plan is to just put the children of warring communities together and churn up more and more chaos.

The West Pullman/Haley scenario leaves me particularly ill at ease, and I hope that someday people will be honest about what happened to these communities and how it was made worse by what the CPS board just did.

David Vitale, In His Own Words

Struggling very, very hard to remember things.. Carol Marin just asked him why four schools were spared.

Watch the episode.

I'm sure he was very hands-on throughout the whole thing.

And for the record, anyone who struggled for more than sixty seconds to see the absurdity in the proposed Mahalia Jackson plan has serious cognitive difficulties. It was clearly a spreadsheet-based proposal, with management having utterly no idea who even attends the school.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Getting Out The Vote

Several RPNPS members are taking this training tomorrow night; if you're interested in carpooling, get in touch.

We're going to work with several of our northside community partners to get people registered to vote starting this summer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Truth To Power

Wendy went on Chicago Tonight a couple nights ago...

                      "This is a government that will distort facts." ----Wendy Katten

Watch the whole thing:

I understand that Wendy did go back to Goodlow to meet with the CPS safety person; I'm trying to get details of that meeting. What I think I heard was that press was barred, and I'm working for the man so I couldn't go along with a hidden camera. Goodlow is a terrific school with a great culture, a fantastic staff, and a very satisfied community, and no sane person whose been allowed in the building sees any room for the 340+ kids that CPS is going to bring over from Earle. Oh, and they're also firing the Goodlow staff.

This one really need explaining because from the outside (I've only walked the Earle-Goodlow route once and talked to parents from both schools), it looks to me like CPS just randomly threw this closure-relocation-firing together because they needed to make some quota for school closings. It's going to undo public education in the these schools serve.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reflections On The Uptown March

The RPNPS banner during yesterday's Uptown march.

Several RPNPS members joined with Northside Save Our Schools yesterday for the Long March through Uptown in support of the CTU-sponsored citywide march. It was a spectacular, uplifting day, lead in no small way by the tireless students from Stewart. The event was coordinated by Karen Zaccor and Stavroula Harris, and lots of citywide pro-school advocates joined us.

Wendy Katten and Matt Farmer
We started off at Trumbull, which remains on the hit list even though independent observers pointed  out that its "underutilized" label is highly inaccurate. Trumbull's highly regarded special education programming is not taken into account in the utilization formula, which calls for class sizes as high as 36. Nevertheless, Trumbull's hearing officer sealed the coffin on this venerable school, citing the positive self-promotion (for lack of a better phrase) from staff of McCutcheon and McPherson. In this way the Board was successful in pitting school communities against each other, no matter that the whole "underutilzated" label was basically a joke, based on nothing..

As we gathered under Sunday's brilliant sunshine, we listened to music from singer-songwriter Linda
Michelle Gunderson photo by Sandra Stone
, who rewrote This Land Is Your Land  for the public education movement here in Chicago.

CTU's Michelle Gunderson also lead the crowd in some folk music;  let me just apologize right now to the crowd for my version of harmony. It is a well known fact that whenever This Little Light Of Mine is playing, I can't keep my mouth shut.

We also sang We Shall Not Be Moved, which is not only a beautiful song, but a true statement. My observation is that the mayor may win his battle against neighborhood schools this year, but he's losing the war of public opinion.

We marched up one side of Clark Street and down the other, chanting what by now have become the stock chants of the movement: Hey Rahm, we're no fools. We won't let you close our schools! And so on. People joined in the march along the way, and others took pictures. I had the feeling there were a lot of out-of-towners in the Andersonville restaurants; they were snapping pictures like they'd just seen Oprah walking down the street. (For the record, Oprah would never be caught dead supporting neighborhood schools. Not in Chicago.) There was no negativity; it was thumbs up, cheering, and horn-honking the whole way.

We headed west, and the kids took over the microphone. If you ever want to motivate a crowd, let the kids take over the chanting; this is the great takeaway I have from the day. As we made our way toward the mayor's house, neighbor after neighbor raced to the door to cheer us on. It was immensely gratifying. I have never been exactly sure who Rahm Emanuel's political base is, but on this particular issue, his neighbors think he's crazy.

At Rahm's house, activist and RPNPS member Mark Hannan lead a beautiful, soft-spoken benediction.
Mark Hannan

It was quite a moment; Mark found words to connect all of us to the same deeply spiritual current, quoting richly from Obery Hendrick: "the needs of the people are holy." I about died right there and then because, well, it's actually true. You have to be really, really disconnected from the West side and the South side, and with Uptown to be blind to this massively broken covenant between the people who actually live in this town and the people making the decisions.

We stayed a bit longer in front of the mayor's house, which was fine by me because on the leafy blocks of Hermitage there's enough shade for everyone.

I'm glad we did because it gave us time to hear Susan Salidor and two friends (apologies, I didn't get the names) sing Susan Friedman's version of the Hebrew prayer Mi Sheberach, which you can listen to here. It was so beautiful I literally could not raise my audio recorder to capture it; I hope someone else did. The song is a prayer for spiritual healing, and I feel it was just exactly what this city will need in the coming year because great harm will eventually require great forgiveness, healing, and restoration.

I myself probably won't rise to the occasion, but there's no question in my mind about the great harm.

We turned the corner to land at Courtenay, which is being shuttered by CPS, in a plan so convoluted that it manages to offend virtually everyone who hears about it. I dread to try to re-explain it here. Let me see if I can. Courtenay, a magnet, is being closed. The Courtenay teachers are moving over to Stockton, a neighborhood school in a much less leafy neighborhood. The Stockton teachers are fired, I gather, or possibly they can apply for any of the jobs at the new version of Stockton, which will be both a neighborhood school and a magnet. The principal of the new school will be selected by the Courtenay LSC, I think. The current version of Courtenay doesn't have a principal at the moment.

Who the hell knows? I possibly have some details wrong on this one but I'm just here to tell you it's a dumb plan, and the Courtenay parents are outraged by it, as are the Stockton parents. At the march, a Courtenay parent rehashed a the story for the crowd. And we headed back east.

At Stockton, several people spoke in English and Spanish about the impact Stockton has had on their
Stockton families protest the firing of their teachers.
families over the years. By now we've all heard hundreds of these testimonials from around the city. Sadly, people's positive opinions about schools only seem to resonate with the board when they're coming from parents at charter schools. These neighborhood stories? I hate to say it, but it's hard to get respect for your story when the man in the audience would prefer that you simply move somewhere else.

And from there, we headed back through Uptown to Stewart, the site of the previous Uptown rally.

Stewart is being shut down for underutilization; it's kids are going to go to Brennemann. You can tell from the exterior of Stewart that the decision to shut this school down was made a long, long time ago. I don't know what will happen to this building or this space, but I do know that when the poor people are finally driven out of Uptown, the city will build a well-resourced public school for the families there. I didn't see anyone from Brennemann at the march, but it's possible someone was there; the striking memory I have of Brennemann goes back to the second Truman hearing. At that event, a student at Brennemann was evidently encouraged to remark during her testimony that it was, "an honor to be in your (Dr. Byrd Bennett's) presence today."

I'm all for polteness, but this kind of phrasing is usually reserved for the Dalai Lama, not an unresponsive public servant who goes from town to town clising schools where poor people live and who isn't even in the room.

Dr. Byrd-Bennett did not grace anyone with her presence at that hearing or any of the other hearings, for the record. But it might have been a strategically wise thing to say in the short run; we'll never know.  We'll see what the class sizes are at the new Brennemann; this might be one closure where they don't overwhelm the receiving school.

My heart is with these Stewart kids, though. I'd like to tell these kids something: they remind me of the
A Stewart mom fights on.
the great, passionate kids at Crane, who like others before them, stood up not only for their own school but for all the schools unfairly targeted by a school closing regime that has become, for all the abuse of the term, the status quo.

A couple of Stewart moms spoke, but the die is cast for this school; the alderman is totally on board with dispersing the poor people and importing shinier people into Uptown, which is supposed to be the new Disneyland of jazz, or something. I forget.

It was a good day for everyone on the march. I'm so proud of the kids leading the chants; the lesson you learn by standing up for what is right lasts just as long as the one you learn by beatifying a bully, and it's a much better lesson in the long run.

My hat is off to the organizers; I wasn't one of them. Karen Zaccor, Stavroula Harrissis, Mark Kaplan--- really, really excellent people working for the common good.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We're Marching, Come Join Us!

The members of RPNPS will be joining the citywide march on the 18th, 19th, and 20th. If you would care to join up with us and support neighborhood schools throughout the city, get in touch. We'd love to meet you.

SCSC Meeting

No one would have ever guessed that a Walton-funded, quasi-governmental committee was meeting in the old State of Illinois building today. And that is just the way this group wants it. Known as the Illinois State Charter School Commission (SCSC) and created through legislation put forward by our own Senator Steans, they have the authority to override school district decisions and approve locally-denied charters on appeal.

Buckle up, Illinois. We know we have charter-friendly folks running the Chicago school system. But even we have our limits. Like schools run by cults. (Two additional charters were granted for the Gulen-run Concept Schools by SCSC.) Now, those 18 suburban districts that wisely denied a charter for the dismally ranked, for-profit K-12 Virtual School are facing the possibility that the SCSC will approve its charter request in one of those communities. And the funding? Taken away from the local school district and given to the charter, which will operate like its own mini-district.

How does this help children?

The SCSC also has a lobbyist representing them in Springfield. Things they're keeping an eye on? A proposed moratorium for virtual schools (approved in the House, I believe), and a proposal for a task force on charter school funding.

A small group of protesters, including RPNPS, P4T, Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, and Bridgeport Alliance were there, both inside and outside the meeting. It was hard to know who else was there. What is clear is that this commission is operating under the radar, with little to no press coverage or public awareness, and has the potential to insert charter schools across the state, at great harm to local schools and districts.

Oh, and they're also operating in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Today they voted to go into Executive Session, an item not listed on their agenda but mentioned verbally at the beginning of the meeting. The OMA violation is merely a technicality, albeit a legal one. Here's the important question: would any of the Commission members send their own children to the schools they are approving?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Join Us At The Charter Commission Tomorrow

Here's the press release for our action tomorrow (Wednesday) at the charter commission meeting.  By the way, here's the commission's agenda, and you can see from it that they're putting in place all the procedures by which they will eventually approve that grifter K12 virtual charter that's attacked the suburbs. 

They're also going to approved the Gulen charter's (Concept) plan to insert its unsupervised self into the 12th ward, thanks to Alderman Cardenas and the City Council. 

And it also looks like they're expanding their paid staff--- they're going to hire a Deputy Director. Basically, it's an unelected commission with the right to nullify taxation with representation, and it's growing, and it will continue to grow until elected school boards are nullified by it. 

It's an affront to democracy, in my opinion. A number of us are going to show up for protests tomorrow; we don't expect the commission to give a damn, but we want to let them know they're not in the shadows any more.  Please come join us tomorrow at 2:30 PM and bring your anger and indignation. 

I mean it--- this is a commission that feels that it knows better than you do, and that in order to impose its agenda, it must nullify your right to vote on matters related to public education. 

Protest Scheduled, 5/15/2013, 2:30 – 5:30 PM, 160 N. LaSalle,

Parents and Community Members Protest the Illinois State Charter
School Commission

Members of several parent and community groups who support
authentic public schools will demonstrate today at the site of the
meeting of the Illinois State Charter School Commission (SCSC),
160 N. LaSalle, 2:30 – 5:30 PM. The SCSC is a special body of the
Illinois Sate Board of Education established by the Illinois Legislature.
Its sole function is to override decisions of local school boards which
have denied charters to companies requesting to establish charter
schools in their communities.

Members from the following organizations will express their
opposition to the existence of, and action taken by, the SCSC:
Rogers Park Neighbors for Public Schools, Parents 4 Teachers,
Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice, Bridgeport Alliance, Progressive
Democrats of Illinois, North Side Action for Justice, and more. They
say that Chicago and other Illinois communities do not need more
charter schools, they need high-quality, well funded, democratically
and transparently run, authentic public schools. RPNPS observes
that it is no coincidence that about 60 Chicago public schools are
slated for school actions, while about 60 new charters have been
authorized. Clearly, they say, public schools are being closed IN
ORDER TO fund charters.

Charter schools are funded by taxpayers, but have little or no
accountability to them. Charters do not outperform public schools,
charters have no mandated parent participation, and the replacement
of public schools with charters has caused community despair and
outrage, according to RPNPS.

The SCSC has so far overridden four local communities to establish
these special charter schools. Such charters have been approved by
SCSC in Richton Park, Grays Lake, and two in Chicago. The

Charter Commission protest, page 2

Commission seems poised to override the decision of 18 local school
districts in Chicago suburbs. These districts have refused to grant
charters to the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley.
This school would be a subsidiary of K-12, a virtual company
purporting to offer education on line. K-12 has been the target of
extensive criticism nationally for 1) the poor quality of the education
offered, 2) fleecing taxpayer dollars, to the tune of several hundred
millions of dollars per year.

The SCSC has already granted charters to two new Concept
Schools, to be located in Chicago. Concept runs one school already
in Chicago, the Chicago Math and Science Academy. Concept was
turned down for the new charters by Chicago Public Schools in April
of this year.

Concept’s parent schools in Ohio were investigated by the Ohio
Attorney General and the federal Government for questionable
practices in 2010. Its contracting practices in Texas have also been
questioned, in a situation very similar to that of UNO schools in
Chicago. UNO has come under the scrutiny of the Illinois legislature
for cronyism in spending money granted to it by the legislature.

When the SCSC grants a charter to an entity, they fund the school at
local rates, then subtract that amount from the local school district’s
funds. The charter school thus approved becomes its own mini-
school district (called an LEA). Supposedly, these schools are
accountable to the SCSC. However, the SCSC has not shown proof
of rigorous examination of these schools’ curricula, administrative
practices, etc.

The SCSC is staffed entirely by charter industry insiders and
individuals who have profited from the existence of charter schools.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Charter Discussion on Chicago Newsroom

Just wanted to post Wendy Katten's appearance on Chicago Newsroom. I actually haven't even watched it yet--- I just don't want it to be forgotten. This is always a good show, and all the people in this episode are all excellent. Having said that, I will say that the charter person from Englewood makes a couple of absurd statements in the first 60 seconds. That's okay, though--- there's a lot of absurdity to sift through in this town.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Joe Moore Is Totally In The Bag

Looks like the Concept zoning passed. Sounds like Joe Moore is digging in.

Perhaps if I'd been on a Turkish junket in the past, as I believe Joe has been,   I could see it from Joe's point of view, but actually, I can't. I see the crystal clear logic in protestors' point of view.  The building of excess capacity is a really, really bad policy for schools. That's why they try to avoid it in the high test-scoring suburbs.

If you want to fix things that are broken, fix the TIF system, fix the illegitimate governance of CPS, and the get rid of the longstanding (status-quo) policy of worshipping the wrong data, closing schools, and causing unnecessary upheaval.

Word Is Getting Out About Concept

DNA has the story of the 12th ward meeting about the Gulen school that has inserted itself there with the Alderman Cardenas' blessing.

(I need to make a note to find out if he's been on a Turkish junket yet because that is inevitable.)

Anyway, I was surprised to see the G-word in the story, but I guess it came up.

Nowaczewski also addressed the group's alleged ties to the teachings of a Turkish Muslim scholar Fethulla Gulen. She said the Concept board "has nothing to do with any movement, Gulen movement or any movement."
Although the company says some of its founders may have been inspired by Gulen, the company said it has no ties, including financial or religious, to a "Gulen Movement."

Nowaczewski is the paid staff person for the undemocratic, unelected state charter commission, which is perhaps the second most glaring example of taxation without representation in our state. The first is the Chicago Board of Education, and the third is the TIF system.

Anyway, she's evidently incapable of even ten minutes of research or any kind of skepticism (critical thinking.) If you look at the cookie-cutter similarity in all of the Gulen schools across the land, you see pretty quickly that it's much more than a random, unrelated group of people who "may have been inspired" by Fethullah Gulen.  It's a network, very, very much on the DL.

And the spiritual leader of the network is the seminal figure in modern Turkish Islam, a man who lives in now self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. You really have to spend some time sifting through it all, but the Gulen movement is sort of a business-philanthropy-religious force that has accumulated a great deal of political power inside Turkey.

I have nothing against any these things. America is a place of refuge for persecuted religious sects; it has a long history of helping foment political change in foreign lands; and we have no shortage of homegrown secret societies.

However, we generally have not turned over public education to these groups. That, I oppose.

On a positive note, there is an implication in Ms. Nowaczewki's naive protestations that it would be a net negative for the Concept schools to have any kind of more formalized affiliations with Gulen. It appears to me that she's trying to imply that they looked at the issue and decided to believe the Company line that they have no connection to any kind of organized Gulen movment and were relieved because that would be a negative thing. Am I wrong? Isn't that implication in her statement?

Anyway, I take no relief in the Concept company line that "they may have been inspired" by Gulen. Really? When the history of this thing is finally written, I have no doubt we will find that Nowaczewki's investigation consisted of asking the Gulen people if they were part of a movement, and the Gulen people saying, "that is kooky talk." Really, can someone FOIA the relevant documents to that investigation? I'd like to see them.

Meanwhile, here's some reading for you.

Like I say, I support people's right to do what they want, believe what they want, say what they want, and associate with others the way they want; however, it is unprecedented for public education systems to be turned over to a group closely associated with a major player in a foreign political drama. It's unwise.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Walking Englewood: Earle To Goodlow

Had an interesting walk through West Englewood with Raise Your Hand's Wendy Katten on Sunday morning. On this particular visit we walked the distance between Earle Elementary and Goodlow Magnet.

This is one of the scenarios that probably made sense to some TFA intern somewhere and it made its way up the ladder of yes-people to the top. I have trouble even explaining it--- basically, the Goodlow staff is being shown the door, and the Earle staff is going to take over, and they're going to bring the Earle neighborhood kids along. Earle may or may not be converted into some kind of magnet, and whether or not that magnet will have any seats reserved for the kids in the neighborhood is beyond me. 

I also don't know what's happening to the Goodlow magnet concept, now that it's a sorta-kinda magnet with a bunch of neighborhood kids and their teachers. The only thing reasonably certain is that it's going to be a crowded, crowded school, and there aren't very many people in the neighborhood who think it's a good idea.

The walk itself is not terribly far, but there are gang lines that you don't get on a spreadsheet. The kids know where they are. I know Barbara Byrd Bennet has hired a retired marine or something, and that she feels that everyone will be safe,  but my theory is that she hasn't listened very closely to the parent reports from the current safe passage program.

But the main thing is that from my vantage point---- of having worked with 8th graders for 23 years, and now high schoolers for a few years----  I fail to see how any of the kids being crammed into the Goodlow building are going to benefit from this upheaval. They won't. It's also my informal observation that CPS has the capacity to "manage" maybe one of these evacuations per year. I'm not sure about how CPS is going to help heal a neighborhood where parents feel like they've been pitted against each other, either.

Fifty is going to be chaos. It will only be successful in the PR releases.

My hat is off to Wendy Katten, who can walk up to anyone and start an illuminating ed policy discussion. It was an interesting morning--- I left out more than I put in. I hope they leave these schools alone, but if not, I'll go back in a year with my camera. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wall To Wall IB(ullsh*t)

I hope you all got to see this.

I spent a good chunk of my vital years writing recommendations for private school 8th graders going into the various and sundry elite programs around the city. I was very, very careful about recommending someone to IB--- it takes a certain kind of kid.

This "wall-to-wall" IB thing that Rahm has come up with is an affront to language. I'm surprised the IB people are letting it stand because in my mind, IB just lost more credibility than they're likely to recover.

And with Rahm using it to fire people unjustly, well that's just icing on the cake. IB has gotten in bed with a monster, and I'd be surprised if the private school world continues even to bother keeping IB in the mix of attractive options.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Do This Now

Sign the petition.

Remember 3 years ago when parents had to rally against CPS’ threat to increase class size limits to 37 with the No to 37 campaign? History is poised to repeat itself. CPS issued a space utilization formula for all CPS schools designating 36 students per homeroom as acceptable and as part of a “well-utilized” and efficient building.

CPS has stated plans to close an historic number of schools, forcing displaced students from 50+ schools to transfer to "welcoming" schools. With this policy, CPS is effectively saying that 36 kids in a classroom is acceptable and that Principals must choose between having rooms for things like music, special education, tutoring, arts, etc., or huge class sizes.

Classrooms containing three dozen children is simply unacceptable and does not best serve the needs of Chicago students. As we did with No to 37, we need to speak out together and say No to 36!

Your child's school may have avoided being on the closure list or on the receiver school list, but with a 36 student allowed per classroom limit now in place, every school in CPS could be seeing these numbers at some point. Every child could be just a face in the crowd.

Raise Your Hand challenges the current CPS space utilization policy that allows for 36 kids per room. Note other large cities and their average class sizes:

* Average Class Sizes Compared
State of Illinois: 21(K); 23 (5th)
National (public): 23.6
National (private): 19.4
New York City : 23.7
Boston: 22 K1-k2; 25 (3rd-5th); 28 (6th-8th).
Los Angeles: 25 (K-3)
Atlanta (Fayette): 20(K);21(1st);23(2nd/3rd); 26(4th/5th);26-28(6th-8th)

Note: Boston limits increased to these levels in 2012 to close budget gaps. Atlanta set these new higher levels in 2012-13 school year.

Again, sign the petition.  And in case it's not perfectly clear, let me rephrase: sign the petition. 

Great Piece On The Confusion

Becky Vivea has captured the moment.
You’ve likely heard about Chicago’s plan to close 54 public schools this year.  But you might not realize it’s part of a much bigger restructuring effort— one that will affect more than 47,000 students and 132 schools.
I would hasten to add that very few teachers and principals could explain with much precision the details of the changes that have been thrust upon them.

There's just no way that a closure plan on this magnitude can possibly do anything but create a lost year, succeeded by years of recovering, with kids in very, very large classes, and special ed students basically shunted aside.