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Facilities 'Task Force' on Chicago to meet in Springfield — after the most important Chicago 'Facilities' decisions have been made... Why were the 'Task Force' members selected in secret?

One month after the Chicago Board of Education voted to radically change eight Chicago public schools and a year after many Chicago activists were promised that the legislation would stop school closings in Chicago, the 'Education Facilities Task Force' established by the so-called Soto Bill will be meeting on March 18, 2010 —

But not in Chicago.

Following a huge media event (February 2, 2009) at the offices of State Rep Cynthia Soto (above right, with glasses and black jacket), hundreds of people were mobilized to support the establishment of the so-called 'Facilities Task Force' called for by the Soto Bill. At the time of the lobbying for the legislation, representatives of some of the groups supporting the bill told supporters that the bill would retroactively stop the proposed school closings and turnarounds on the 2009 CPS Hit List. By the time the bill became law in October 2009, no moratorium was in place. The law also ignores "turnaround" — the most devastating changes — completely. Between October 2009 and March 2010, while CPS implemented its 2010 Hit List, some of the major groups that had supported the Soto Bill ignored the hearings on the 2010 Hit List. Above left, Designs for Change's Valencia Rias speaks at the February 2, 2009 media event staged at Soto's Chicago offices. No one from Designs for Change spoke during the 18 hearings on the 2010 Hit List at CPS headquarters and in the community, and the process by means of which members of the 'Task Force' were selected was a secret from most of the public that the 'Task Force' was supposed to empower. Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt. There was no public notification of how members of the 'Task Force' were selected, nor has the 'Talk Force' been updating the media on its activities. Neither Representative Soto nor Senator Delgado spoke before the hearings on school closings (January 28 through February 10) or at the Chicago Board of Education meeting that voted on the closings and other radical transformations on February 24. Now the 'Task Force' meets — not in Chicago, but three hours' drive south of Chicago.

Some activists who participated in the struggle against the Hit List every year for the past several years, including members of the staff of Substance, questioned why so much importance was placed on lobbying for the 'Soto Bill' at a time when the decisions were being made by the Chicago Board of Education. Additionally, the major attack on inner city schools — all of them Black — was coming from so-called "turnaround", a program of CPS that was not affected by any "facilities" programs.

The history of the Soto Bill was controversial from the beginning. Following a huge media event (February 2, 2009) at the offices of State Rep Cynthia Soto hundreds of people were mobilized by CORE and others to support the establishment of the so-called 'Facilities Task Force' called for by the Soto Bill. At the time of the lobbying for the legislation, representatives of some of the groups supporting the bill told supporters that the bill would retroactively stop the proposed school closings and turnarounds on the 2009 CPS Hit List. The Chicago Board of Education voted on the Hit List for 2009 on February 25, 2009, and the subsequent actions in Springfield had no impact on what took place in Chicago, while some of the most prominent groups supporting the legislation ignored both the teacher bashing "turnaround" and its impact on the schools, even after the dramatic murder of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert cast the Fenger "turnaound" in an international light.

By the time the bill became law in October 2009, no moratorium was in place. Chicago had already implemented all the closings and other plans it had voted on in February 2009.

But even more dramatic was what happened next. None of the major supporters of the Soto Bill spoke out against the 2010 Hit List which was announced in January 2010 by CEO Ron Huberman. At most of the 18 hearings on the Hit List (14 at CPS headquarters and four in the community) between January 28 and February 10, 2010, only one of the groups that subsequently wound up on the 'Task Force' took a public stand against the latest Hit List.

The new 'facilities' law also ignores "turnaround" — the most devastating changes — completely. Between October 2009 and March 2010, while CPS implemented its 2010 Hit List, some of the major groups that had supported the Soto Bill ignored the hearings on the 2010 Hit List. No one from Designs for Change spoke during the 18 hearings on the 2010 Hit List at CPS headquarters and in the community, and the process by means of which members of the 'Task Force' were selected was a secret from the public that the 'Task Force' was supposed to empower. S

According to a last-minute press release shared with Substance by the Grand Boulevard Federation's Andrea Lee:

Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force (via HB 363). Meeting #1, Thursday, March 18th, 2010 from 10 AM – 12 PM, State Capitol Building, Room 122B, Springfield, IL

Co-Chaired by State Representative Cynthia Soto and Senator William Delgado

Become engaged in the legislative process of the Chicago Educational, Facilities Task Force (CEFTF), now law through the passage of HB 363.

This open meeting is for parents, community groups, educators, and members of the public interested in understanding and impacting a more fair, transparent, and accountable Chicago Public Schools facilities’ policy and legislation.

At this meeting, you will learn about the undertakings of this Legislative Task Force, be encouraged to submit written testimony, and learn about future opportunities to vocalize your school facility experiences and recommendations.

The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force was created by the “Chicago School Facilities Act” to gain and make policy and legislative recommendations on CPS capital spending decisions and school facility-related decisions by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in the wake of public concerns about fairness, equity, and transparency. The Task Force is comprised of appointed bi-partisan legislatures, education officials, and community groups.

For more information, please contact: Cecile Carol, Blocks Together 773-276-2194 / bt.educationorg@gmail.com

Andrea Lee, Grand Boulevard Federation 773-548-8140 / andrealee@grandboulevardfederation.org

Valencia Rias, Designs for Change 312-236-7242 / valenciaforlscs@designsforchang.org



Comments:

March 18, 2010 at 6:07 PM

By: kugler

The Letter is a Joke Right?

meeting in Springfield to talk about chicago with parents, community groups, educators, and members of the public? on a weekday at 10 am? without proper due notice?

is this shit for real?

March 18, 2010 at 6:07 PM

By: Danny

Why were the 'Task Force' members selected in secret?

That's a rhetorical question, right?

The political class only talks about things like transparency. What they do is something altogether different.

March 19, 2010 at 2:52 PM

By: Andrea

Education Initiative Coordinator

I understand there are rightful concerns about the transparency of the Facilities Task Force. Our own group was recommended by our State Senator and many community residents, groups, and parents. I also understand that CPS was not in favor of our organization be a member of the task force. For the record, while I agree Springfield is not ideal, there were two rooms reserved (one changed due to room logistics) for the Task Force to meet in Chicago. My understanding is that in spite of Rep. Soto and Sen. Delgado insisting it be here in Chicago, several of their Task Force colleagues asked that the meeting occur in Springfield due to their schedules. Even during yesterday's Task Force meeting, Sen. Delgado reiterated his hope that at least some of the meetings may occur in Chicago - there are 4 non-Chicago and Republican appointees on the Task Force.

Senator Delgado provided verbal testimony to the City Council Education Committee, and Rep. Soto provided written testimony. Rep. Soto whether an amended bill or not, is truly passionate about this and is equally passionate about communities be involved in school and facility decisions. Turnarounds are included in this effort. I think the bill has some very strong opportunities.

In an ideal world, everyone could be everywhere and do everything they felt passionate about, including myself. But this is not the case, and there are days when I feel like I didn't do enough, but then how well would I be serving my immediate community if I were trying to make myself known everywhere else - would Mollison have won its fight? Would McCorkle still feel like their students are worth fighting for? Would our awesome PPEN parents be leaders in their own schools? This is about us working simultaneously for better.

Short community notice on our organization's end (I'm a task force member) was 100% due to not enough hours in the days. The other community group task force members are equally stepping up and contributing as much as their own organizational resources and staffing allow them to do. I think it's important to continue supporting the greater effort, which in this case are not only our children in these schools, but those most often already under-served. Things are not as they appear, and I hope that the readers will continue to believe all of us out here are truly attempting to contribute to school equity, fairness, social justice, and high quality schools for all in which ever way we are able. Sometimes I'm in those fights, sometimes I'm with you in spirit but helping our parents and community here.

The organizations on the task force want this to be transparent and community driven. Do not lose faith in this greater effort and fight. We need each other, or we may as well say you're allowing them to conquer and divide "us" as they do between Blacks and Latinos, teachers and parents, schools and community, etc. etc. I know there is no one solution, and I trust all of our various strategies will lead to impacting school reform efforts for the better.

March 19, 2010 at 5:44 PM

By: Rod Estvan

public notification of how members of the 'Task Force' were selected,

The law PA 096-0803 establishes how the members were selected. It states:

"(c) The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force shall consist of all of the following members:

(1) Two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House, at least one of whom

shall be a member of the Elementary & Secondary Education Committee.

(2) Two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Minority Leader of the House, at least one

of whom shall be a member of the Elementary & Secondary Education Committee.

(3) Two members of the Senate appointed by the President of the Senate, at least one of whom shall be a member of the Education Committee.

(4) Two members of the Senate appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, at least one of whom shall be a member of the Education Committee.

(5) Two representatives of school community

organizations with past involvement in school facility issues appointed by the Speaker of the House.

(6) Two representatives of school community

organizations with past involvement in school facility issues appointed by the President of the Senate.

(7) The chief executive officer of the school district or his or her designee.

(8) The president of the union representing teachers in the schools of the district or his or her designee.

(9) The president of the association representing principals in the schools of the district or his or her designee.

(d) The Speaker of the House shall appoint one of the appointed House members as a co-chairperson of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force. The President of the Senate shall appoint one of the appointed Senate members as a co-chairperson of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task

Force. Members appointed by the legislative leaders shall be appointed for the duration of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force; in the event of a vacancy, the appointment to fill the vacancy shall be made by the legislative leader of the same chamber and party as the leader who made the original appointment."

So the Law itself establishes how the members of the Task force were selected. The language used in this law is very similar to other legislative Task Force laws. I regularly attend meetings as an observer of what is called House Joint Resolution 24

Special Education Funding Task Force.

This task force has a site on the Illinois State Board of Education website. On that site you can see the law that created that Task Force and how members are picked on it. The selection process is very similar to how PA 096-0803 picks its members. It would be good for the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force to have a similar type of web site.

Rod Estvan

March 20, 2010 at 2:35 AM

By: Jim Vail

Not entirely correct

Andrea Lee, Grand Boulevard Federation, was a very vocal critic at the public school closing hearings, so it's not entirely correct to say everyone significant stayed away from the hearings who supports this Task Force from the Soto Bill.

Also, there's something still upsetting about the Soto bill enough that Gov. Quinn, representing the Daley machine, vetoed it (but the state legislature then voted to override it).

CPS wants little to no community involvement in any of this stuff that mostly hurts communities.

With that said, the Soto bill is still toothless because in order for CPS to enact any of its recommendations, it would take another law.

In other words - the political process is pretty much bought and paid for by the Machine led by Madigan, Daley, etc.

Still, there are courageous politicians out there like Ms. Soto and Ms. Dowell who sponsored the moratorium on school closings resolution in the City Council. Anybody who listens to their community and takes a stand against the Mayor and his corporate agenda is to be commended.

But unless the people rise up in mass to stop this madness, they will continue to do as they please.

March 22, 2010 at 9:53 AM

By: bob

Gov.Repore

From the final report of the governors pension modernization task force

How did we get here?

The reality is that the primary cause of the State's unfunded pension liability

is Illinois’s decades-long failure to make its full, actuarially required employer

contribution to the five pension systems. This poor fiscal practice was

codified in the 1995 pension funding bill "P.A. 88-0593," known commonly as

the "Pension Ramp" bill. During the first 15 years of the Pension Ramp, the

State's employer contribution was set at levels that continued the practice of

not making the full actuarially required employer contribution, thereby

increasing the unfunded liability amount. This poor fiscal practice was

followed by a $10 billion pension obligation bond issue in 2003 (P.A. 93-

0002), which diverted $2.7 billion of the bond proceeds to cover expenses in

the state’s operating budget, thereby allowing the state to skip part of the FY

03 and all of the FY 04 payment required under the 1995 funding law. In

addition, P.A. 94-0004 reduced the FY 06 and FY 07 payments by $2.3

billion. The deadly combination of nearly 30 years of systematic State

underfunding of its employer contributions to the pension systems, followed

by the cataclysmic decline in asset values caused by the national meltdown

in financial markets over the last year, combined to create an all-time high in

the State's unfunded pension liability.

The State's failure to make its required employer contributions to the five

pension systems can in turn be traced to one, simple cause: a State fiscal

system that is so poorly designed that it failed for decades to generate

enough revenue growth to both maintain service levels from one year to the

next, and cover the State's actuarially required employer contribution to its

five pension systems. This ongoing "structural deficit" imposed a tough

fiscal/political choice on State elected officials – fully fund pensions and

dramatically cut services, or skip a portion of the pension payment and

maintain as many services as possible. Not wanting to implement dramatic

cuts in spending on essential services, the legislature and various governors

elected to instead divert revenue from making the required employer pension

contribution to maintaining services like education, healthcare, public safety

and caring for disadvantaged populations. Effectively, the State used the

pension systems as a credit card to fund ongoing service operations.

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