Chicago Education Facilities Task Force sets first hearing on ten-year Chicago Public Schools facilities master plan at ten a.m. on Saturday (January 12) at Pilgrim MB Church, 4301 W. Washington

Barely had the controversial report of the "underutilization" commission established by the latest CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd Bennett, become public than the legal work of the Educational Facilities Task Force resumed. The Chicago Education Facilities Task Force (CEFTF) had been neutered for a brief time by the betrayal of the original law by State Senator Iris Martinez, who agreed under prodding from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to break the law she had helped create and allow Chicago Public Schools to establish the "Commission" and delay this year's school closings report for 120 days. Under the law, CPS was required to propose the list of schools to be closed by December 1, 2012 and provide the first draft of its ten-year facilities plan by January 1, 2013.

When Illinois Governor Pat Quinn went to Humboldt Park in Chicago on August 20, 2011 to sign the long-awaited Chicago School Facilities legislation, everyone surround him cheered. By October 2011, under then CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard, the Board of Education promulgated rules for the closing in 2012 that exempted turnaround schools from the rules. At its February 2012 meeting, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously to close, phase out, or co-locate 16 schools, despite fierce community opposition -- and the facts -- during dozens of hearings and at the Board itself. By November 2012, under the most recent CPS CEO, Barbara Byrd Bennett, CPS simply refused to hold the hearings, declared a non-existent "underutilization crisis" using phony data about both the schools' buildings and the budget, and was able to change the rules so that CPS doesn't have to reveal its 2013 Hit List until March 31, 2013. This was thanks to State Senator Iris Martinez (above, right foreground clapping), who betrayed the letter and spirit of the law by agreeing to be part of a "Commission" established by Barbara Byrd Bennett to stall and obfuscate the issues for the 2012 - 2013 school year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The controversial "Commission" released its preliminary report on January 10, 2013. The report, which was not accessible to most members of the public (you needed a password from CPS Google Docs to get a copy of it) lists more than 100 schools that it claims may be closed because of what CPS officials and City Hall propagandists are calling a "underutilization crisis."

On Friday, january 11, 2013, the CEFTF announced that it is holding its first public hearing on the ten-year facilities plan. The press release text is below.

The press release directs reporters to call: State Rep. Cynthia Soto (773-252-0401, or Cecile Carroll of Blocks Together (773-426-0842).

"Today, State Rep. Cynthia Soto, Co-Chair of the General Assembly's Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force (CEFTF) announced the schedule for 4 Community Hearings to get the public's input for the 10-Year Master Plan that State law now requires Chicago Public Schools to dtaft by May 1, 2013, and put in place by October 1, 2013. In addition to the January 12 Hearing on the West Side, the CEFTF will hold a Hearing on Feb. 9, 10 a.m. at Chicago Embassy Church, 5848 S. Princeton. Locations for two additional hearings on Sat. March 9 and Sat. April 13 will be announced soon.

"'We need to be forward looking,' Rep. Soto explained, 'and encourage everyone with a stake in public education to participate in shaping the 10-Year Master Plan.'

"Local School Council, parents, educators, elected officials, community groups, Community Action Councils and all others who are planning for their communities' futures are asked to give the CEFTF their input for the 10-Year CPS Master Plan at these meetings.

"'We're taking the initiative to include the stakeholders, because the Task Force's job is to ensure broad public input in all of CPS' facility decisions,' explained Cecile Carroll, who chairs the CEFTF's Master Planning Subcommittee. Ms. Carroll added, 'CPS has yet to show the Task Force how it's going to engage parents and community to create the draft Master Plan by May 1.' The clock is ticking. From the very first Task Force meeting in March 2010,m we've heard over and over again from the public that CPS needs to create a shared vision and comprehensive plan for our schools. And since the Legislature enacted the Mast Plan requirement in 2011, stakeholders have told the Task Force that doing more school closings and other drastic interventions before there's a long-range plan is 'putting the cart before the horse', and just doesn't make sense to them,' Rep. Soto added, 'So now we need to hear form the public: What should the future hold for our neighborhood's public schools? We are urging everyone to get involved.'"

For more information on the General Assembly's Educational Facilities Task Force, to to: www.isbe,net.CEF

Attached please find a Press Release from State Rep. Cynthia Soto, Co-Chair of the IL General Assembly's Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, announcing a series of 4 "Second Saturday" COMMUNITY HEARINGS, seeking the public's input about the creation of the 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan, now required by State law to be drafted by May 1, 2013, and put in place by the Chicago Public Schools by October 1, 2013. For the CEFTF and Rep. Soto, by Jackie Leavy, pro bono Advisor, to the ILGA's Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force (


CEFTF history below here:


State Rep. Cynthia Soto & State Sen. Heather Steans, Co-Chairs

WHO: A 15-member panel appointed by the leaders of the Illinois General Assembly, with bipartisan representation from both Chambers. The Task Force was initially created by IL Public Act 96-0803 in 2009. The Task Force includes one representative each from the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Principals & Administrators’ Association and the Chicago Teachers’ Union; plus four additional members, each representing a recognized school/community organization with past experience of educational facility issues. WHAT: The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force’s initial mandate was to examine CPS’ facilities decisions about “School Actions” and facility spending and construction. From March 2010-March 2011, the CEFTF worked to formulate policy and legislative recommendations to the General Assembly, the Governor, and the School District (Chicago Public Schools-CPS) to ensure that CPS decisions about the use and condition of public school facilities are based on “educationally sound and fiscally responsible” practices. Reform ideas arose from the extensive public outreach efforts of the Task Force which gathered input from teachers, principals, parents, students, local government and CPS officials, elected officials, and national experts; analysis of CPS data; and extensive review of national “best practices”.

In June 2011, the 97th General Assembly adopted the “School Actions Accountability and Master Planning” Act (SB 0630), now IL Public Act 97-0474. On August 20th, 2011 Governor Quinn signed the bill into law (went into effect immediately). It instituted key reforms in Chicago Public Schools’ facility decisions. The law requires CPS to create a 10-Year Facility Master Plan based on broad input from educators, parents, communities, and other local governments. The Master Plan was to be in place by July 2013; however, the deadline was changed to OCTOBER 1st, 2013 during the 2012 ILGA Veto Session. The law also requires detailed disclosure and transparency in CPS capital budgeting and spending on facilities. It also required earlier notice about, and greater input into, CPS’ “School Actions” defined as: School Co-Locations; School Consolidations; School Closings and School “Phase-Outs” (a gradual closing of a school over time); and School Attendance Boundary changes (“student assignment” – which students get to attend what schools). The Act establishes greater protections for students when CPS takes School Actions through mandatory “School Transition Plans”. In the 2012 Veto Session, CPS was granted a one-time extension to announce proposed School Closings (from Dec. 1, 2012) to March 31, 2013. P.A. 97-0474 also re-authorized the continuation of the CEFTF. The Task Force will monitor CPS’ implementation of the reforms and issue at least one report per year on CPS’ progress. It will continue to gather public input, and review and assess CPS’ decision making about the use of its public school facilities. The CEFTF will hold regular open meetings; seek input from experts, local community stakeholders and the public; examine national “best practices”’ and as needed, call public hearings. In 2013, the CEFTF will hold community hearings on the “Second Saturdays” of January, February, March, and April, seeking broad input for the 10-Year Educational Facilities Master Plan.

For more information on the General Assembly Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, Please visit the website of the Illinois State Board of Education:

Or email the Task Force at:


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