News analysis: Students stage study-in at October Board of Education meeting to force CPS to 'bang the drum' for state funding...

[Editor's note: Walter Payton High School senior Matthew Mata is the editor-in-chief of the print and online publication The Paw Print.]

Twenty-two: A number students, teachers, parents, and administrations all over Chicago are frightened by. This number not only represents the looming percentage of cuts across CPS district schools, but a is a symbol of the lack of care shown by our business-centered leaders both at the local and state levels.

Students stage a study-in outside the Board of Education headquarters on October 28. Photo by Matthew Mata.Over the years, CPS has continually slashed funds to traditional elementary and high schools. These lack of funds resulted in inadequate resources to neighborhood school students, teachers, administrators, and parents. This aided in the closure of over 50 schools in the last six years and have affected predominantly minority-based communities. This allowed for fully-funded charter schools to provide a for-profit education platform to these neighborhoods already struck by racial and socioeconomic divisions. Resources are being taken away from neighborhood schools to purposefully portray these schools as lesser to their for-profit counterparts.

Charter schools are run by private companies that are not held to the exact same standards as the government organizations that oversee traditional schools. Despite the board's efforts to hold these charter schools more accountable, the punishment to traditional schools is still greater. Recently, nine charter schools have opened in buildings that used to house CPS schools, while more than ten charter schools share buildings with current CPS schools. This in part is due to the inequitable funding from not only our Board, but also Springfield. CPS receives only $31 for every student to pay into teacher pensions, versus the $2,226 provided to neighboring suburban districts.

High school students continue putting pressure on CPS by demonstrating on November 6 at the Thompson Center. Photo by Matthew Mata.On October 28, 2015, students from Jones, Whitney Young, Walter Payton, Northside, Lane Tech, Senn, Curie and Infinity Math and Science held a �study-in� to advocate to the CPS Board of Education the lack of urgency displayed at both the local and state levels to pass a budget in Springfield. This budget would then allocate approximately $500 million in funding to prevent 5,000 teacher cuts mid year. These cuts would transpire in every neighborhood across Chicago. Students want the Board of Education to prove its devotion to the students and teachers who are a part of a proven school system, by publicly calling Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan to fund our schools.

CPS has said If these funds are not provided, not only will 5,000 teachers get laid off, but class sizes will balloon, courses will be cut, graduation requirements might not get met, and most importantly special need programs will continue to be defunded. As reported, the CPS Executive in charge of services to provide for special-need students resigned on October 23, 2015. The departure of Markay Winston comes after the district announced the possibility of cutting 56 special education aides and 16 teachers. Whitney Young LSC parent representative Josh Radinsky notes errors in the CPS special education aid service minutes formulas.There are serious errors in the Paraprofessional Service Minutes in regards to how many funds are being spent on special-need programs in schools. LSC parent representative and Whitney Young parent Josh Radinsky identified four flaws on slide 8 of the ODLSS Paraprofessional Service Minutes. These mistakes highlight the inexperience of the policy makers, which adversely affects special education policy that should ensure special education students are taught in a classroom setting with fellow peers, instead of segregating these students just to maximize aide minutes for maximized funding. Students who receive special education services should not be treated as numbers, but as children who equally deserve a quality education.

At every Board of Education meeting, board members commence by honoring an outstanding student, administrator, or teacher. At last month's board meeting on October 28, westside neighborhood school �the Nash,� was ironically honored by the board. It was ironic in the sense that this board agenda was saturated with the funding for and oversight of more charter schools across the city, but yet is planning a massive layoff to traditional district-run schools if it does not receive funds from Springfield. This expansion of charters would take away resources from neighboring traditional district-run schools. Principal Dunbar, from Nash Elementary gave a very demonstrative testimony on how her school was able to become a level 1+ school from previously being a level 3 school despite the limited resources and various challenges brought on to her school. Along with her, were four students. �We don�t just talk and speak that we are excellence, we are not to be missed, for we are the CPS story, a culture of love, kindness, and hard work,� she said. At this, the room fell silent, both charter proponents and opponents wanted to hear the narrative. As her four students spoke, ranging from ages 10-12, their nervous voices could be echoed, for the powerful message being spoken. A message conveyed not only because of the authenticity of their words, but also their actions. Every time the student would timidly stutter a word, they would not stop, for they were determined to continue reading. They wanted to instill Principal Dunbar�s remarks of �we are you and you are us� to everyone in the room. The Board members promise to serve all students in Chicago and fund their schools. Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz was quoted on WBEZ saying, �We are gonna continue to work with Springfield� and �I�m gonna keep banging that drum.� Now is the time that proponents of traditional district-run schools, all over Chicago, want that �drum� to be loud as eve, but feel this �drum� has not been banged loud enough in recent years in promoting quality and equitable education.


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