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Students speak out at CPS budget hearing... 'How can you say we are the future when you are constantly taking our future away?'...

Lindblom High School student Jasmine Curtis speaking at the August 2017 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by Katie Osgood.Three Lindblom seniors, Nathan Petithomme, Jasmine Curtis, and Alissa James-Anderson, addressed the Board of Education at last Wednesday’s (August 21, 2017) budget hearing. The students all criticized Chicago's budget priorities and offered better ways to fund Chicago's public schools. Nathan and Jasmine's prepared remarks follow:

STUDENT. NATHAN PETITHOMME...

Hi, My name is Nathan Petithomme. I am an activist and avid writer. The reason I am those things are because of Lindblom. Lindblom is a selective enrollment school on the Southside of Chicago, but our status of being selective enrollment increases the amount of people who are interested in the school and who enroll, which means an increase in funding.

Lindblom has invested in me so much as in empowering me through my education to advocate for those who don't have the same opportunities as I do. We need to stop relying on property taxes as a way to fund our schools because of the inequities in education that it causes. The home values in Naperville are higher than they are in Chicago, which means that they get funded more than our schools.

We also need to release TIF funds. TIFs essentially take away from our property taxes and that leads to less funding in schools. TIFs are said to not go to schools because they are for economic revitalization. But, economic revitalization is investing in our schools! During the time where the special education teachers were speaking to the board, I was offended because of the lack of respect that was displayed by the Board, but also because the board isn't elected. The board is full of business people who only know how to make profits, but don't actually know what it takes to lead a classroom and to have to pay out of their pocket for school supplies that the school can't reimburse them for. We should all be coming together for the common good, and get an education bill that is for the students and for the teachers who work hard to get us where we need to be.

STUDENT JASMINE CURTIS...

Hello, My name is Jasmine Curtis. I am a rising senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. I stand here before you today to say that, being a young black woman, I feel like voice doesn't matter. Funding has repeatedly been cut from predominately black and brown schools, you are actively targeting these groups of people and it's not right.

How can you say we are the future when you take our future away. When you take away our teachers, our arts, our sports, you take away our being. Think of a tree, the roots provide nourishment through the tree helping it to grow into something some and independent. Our teachers are our roots, providing just the resources we need to be strong and powerful beings, but when you take them away, the tree dies. We as student die, our hopes, our dreams, our future, it all dies in your hands. I don't want to see my home or my people die, I plan to go back to my community and help restore it and replant the roots you so viciously ripped up. I did not go the CPS hearing to blow smoke in the board's face by telling them what a good job they are doing, because I don't think they're doing a good job at all. These hearings are supposed to be for the public to experience their concerns, yet it seemed like the board had no interest in what the public had to say, and, in my opinion, they sounded irritated when teachers, parents, other adult community members, spoke against their actions. One board member stated that she gives back to her community all the time and how she likes it when young people want to give back to their community and how much "hope" we gave her. I am not a token case, if the board wants to see "hope" then they have to do their job and give our schools what they need. I encourage the board to do what the people want and ask for, and to do it fully. Work with our teachers, our students, our parents and our community members to create a better, safer learning environment for our CPS students.



Comments:

September 5, 2017 at 11:33 AM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

Lindblom H.S. activist students

There is some terrific student activism coming out of Lindblom High School. Congrats!

September 10, 2017 at 9:26 AM

By: Jean Schwab

BOE Meeting

I would like to see what happened at the August BOE meeting.

September 19, 2017 at 9:12 AM

By: Jean Schwab

BOE Meeting

Chicago Public Board Meeting to pass budget Aug. 28,2017

President Frank M. Clark opened the meeting with a PowerPoint of the FY18 budget overview, presented by Jennie Bennett, treasurer of the Chicago Public Schools.

Pertinent points:

• FY18 Budget includes $5.75B in spending and $5.75B in resources

• This budget protects investments in classroom and provides a 5 % increase in per-pupil funding to schools compared with FY17

• Budget includes an additional $300M of state revenue as proposed in Senate Bill 1 and $269M of new local resources

School funding Overview:

• Schools have received $1.9B through Student -Based Budgeting in their FY18 allocations.

• Schools receive the base rate of $4,290 per student and weights based on grade level and diverse learner LRE categories.

• Schools also receive foundation positions (principal, counselor, clerk and adjustments for teacher experience and multiple buildings.

• Schools receive additional discretionary funding from the state (SGSA, Supplemented General State Aid) and federal government (Title 1), funds based on the percentage of low-income students at each school.

• Funding for diverse learners-based on student IEP needs-and specialized programming (magnet, bilingual) is allocated to schools in addition to the funding sources above

The next part of the presentation was the” FY18 Budget Protects Academic Achievements”

• CPS students outpace nationwide peers in graduation rate growth, while students nationally achieved a record- high graduation rate of 83.2 percent for the 2014-2015 school year. CPS students are outpacing their peers with a graduation rate that is growing more than three times faster than national rate.

The first speaker was Jesse Sharkey, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union, CTU

“…This is the third year in a row that the Board of Education has relied on a phantom budget. Phantom because it relies on unsecured revenues that have never appeared. Two years ago, that was $400 million, last year $200 million , this year over $500 million of funds that are not secured. I don’t hold you responsible for the political impact of starving our schools of needed funds. I do hold you responsible for making a virtue out of a necessity. We need to tell the truth about how harmful the cuts have been, for example, the contractual bargaining agreements have had a pay freeze for each of the last two years. Furlough days have essentially cut teacher and staff pay for the last two years. We have seen the elimination of PD, professional development days, which have put our schools in a difficult situation in terms of being fully prepared in terms of planning and instruction and the rest of the work that goes into teaching students. We’ve closed hundreds of special education positions. These are not efficiencies. Speak out about what’s right in terms of revenue and what’s right about the need to seek revenue. Speak out about what the political leadership of Chicago (Mayor) plan to do to fill a $269 million hole. Frankly, we need to speak out about the vouchers, which are fundamentally devastating to our public-school System. This is not just vouchers but vouchers with tax credits. That means that if I give a thousand dollars to a parochial school or private school, I will get a $750 credit off my taxes. There are many things I don’t want to fund…. but does that mean I don’t want to pay my taxes? Crazy idea! I urge the board to speak out against that.”

Sharkey added that CTU has concerns about the enrollment crisis that is especially acute in neighborhood schools on the south and west sides. According to Sharkey, CTU has bargaining language that includes meetings with the board about this crisis. The CTU wants to start having those meetings. Sharkey also mentioned concerns with the CPSGO, applications to high school.

President Clark answered that he did not see the vouchers troubling because the vouchers would take $35 million while the school system will gain $450 million.

Each attendee was handed a paper listing needed actions for the Board of Education on Aug. 28. The first item was adopting the annual school budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Another action was the renewal of the charter school agreement with eleven charter schools. Some of them mentioned not only renewal but also expansion of services. So, it was understandable that 32 people wanted to speak about changing a charter school name, expansion of services such as adding a kindergarten, or how their particular charter school positively changed their student’s life forever.

While this was going on, four people representing Chinatown, Thuong Phan, Jeffrey Ou, Ivory Lau and Simon Shiu, supported opening a neighborhood high school in their community. Students told the board that they traveled about two hours a day to get to and from high schools across town and want a neighborhood school that is closer and understands their Asian culture.

Ten parents and community members who opposed the closing of National Teaching Academy Elementary School and turning it into a high school told the Board that NTA had a dedicated staff, a Restorative Justice program and a diverse student population, and that closing the elementary school would be too disruptive and the South Loop school with 1,900 students would be too big. Elizabeth Prado stated that “turning NTA into a high school is happening to appease the political and wealthy parents. This is not a righting of a wrong. Kids do not want to go to South Loop Elementary.” Tim Noonan, a community member, says that there “needs to be a traffic study by South Loop Elementary because there is so much traffic that it may cause a threatening atmosphere for children walking to school.” Corey Harris, Hilliard Homes, stated that, “NTA curbs violence in our community and gives us a good education. NTA is the only school in our community that is a level 1. By taking away our school you are inciting violence. Our community was not involved in the decision about our school. “

Latasha Watkins, a NTA parent, stated that she is “being asked to sacrifice her children’s education for parents in wealthy South Loop who don’t want their children to go to Phillips High School, and their children can’t get into a selective enrollment school.”

Sarah Bush stated, ”This is the second time in five years that closure and conversions has affected us.”

Maner Wiley says she supports the NTA conversion only if” there is a grandfather clause, employment for community members, health clinics at NTA to continue, children are provided transportation to school, after school programs and crossing guards.”

Aaron Sanders opposes the coversion, saying, “attending the three meetings was a waste of time because this coversion was a plan of realtors, mayor, alderman and wealthy parents.” He mentioned a petition with 1,200 signatures opposing the conversion of NTA.

Dr. Jackson replied that the district made announcements of the closure of NTA early on. Meetings were held and the timing was pushed back on the plan so that children who are now in second grade may finish NTA elementary and also continue in the high school there. The teachers will follow students to new schools.

Martin Ritter, organizer for Chicago Teachers Union, voiced concerns for paraprofessionals terminated by CPS:

“On June 20, without warning and without reason, CPS terminated 38 Head Start Resource Assistants the same day that their superior told them they were doing a better job than ever. Ninety- nine percent of these employees are women of color. These are women that are head of households. Many are CPS graduates, many have children and grandchildren in CPS. Many are city college graduates. These employees serve the most at risk Pre-K, Kindergarten and first-grade families in CPS. They comforted them when trauma occurred, they transported them to school when their parents could not, and more. The outcomes of these employees are immeasurable. CPS did them and the entire district a horrible disservice. We need these people working in CPS. We need to have these people serving young people. Will you sit down with the thirty-eight assistants and discuss transitioning them to other paraprofessional jobs? “

Dr. Jackson said that CPS will sit down with the paraprofessionals.

Chris Baehrend, President of CHIACTS (Chicago Acts Union) advocates for better schools, including charters by stressing accountability in charter schools. Accountability in charter schools is when they form a union. Charter schools are accountable because they can be opened and closed easily. We have found that district schools can also be easily opened and closed easily. Unions help charter schools be more accountable by supporting the move of funds from administration to the classroom. This is done when the administration of a charter school signs a neutrality agreement with the union. Upon further questioning, Behrend said, “for example, the unionization of United Neighborhood Organization Charter Schools in 2013 when the CEO of UNO was making a salary of $266,000 to supervise sixteen schools. The CEO of Chicago Public Schools was making $250,000 to supervise over 600 schools. Unionizing charter schools make ensures that needed funds and resources reach the classrooms.”

Joy Clendenning , Raise Your Hand, talked to the Board of Education about respect.

• Respect would be following the law. The space utilization at our schools is not out and is eight months overdue.

• Testing schedule which just came out does not include what the tests are used for which is required by the New Truth in Testing Law.

• Respect would occur by not voting “yes” month after month on the agenda, but by showing some independence from the Mayor.

• Respect would be to take a public stand, at a risk to your own personal status, speaking out against the Mayor’s polices. when they hurt our students.

• Respect-We’ve been to Springfield and City Hall and we would love to have you with us.

• Respect-We would like you to be honest about the disconnect between the policies of the schools you and the Mayor send your children, such as the Lab and the policies you impose on our children in public schools. These policies include excessive high ”stake” standardized tests, learning that restricts social interaction, a decrease in arts education and sparse emotional supports.

• Respect is not hiding important announcements in a Friday afternoon press conference.

• Respect and integrity is more than just listening. It’s not the tone in which you speak to someone or how polite you are; it is in actions.

• Respect is actions you take. When parents work for years to open a school in their neighborhood and then they have to go on a hunger strike to get the school open... that does not show respect.

• Respect is shown today by who you chose to listen to and who you do not wish to listen to.

The lasts peaker was Marc Kaplan, a member of Uplift Community High School Local School Council, who talked about the school as being a Social Justice High School but with a principal who is “missing in Action.” Enrollment is decreasing, and the principal has blocked efforts to build the school’s enrollment, stymied efforts to add new programs.

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