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PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
11:57am
Wed Oct 16, 2013

Community Members Launch Economic Plan To 'Take Back Chicago' (VIDEO)

Chicagoans packed a town hall meeting Tuesday evening to launch a new social and economic justice agenda for the city. Progress Illinois was there to learn more about "Take Back Chicago."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:25pm
Fri Oct 11, 2013

State Sen. Lightford: Flurry Of Charter School Bills Expected In Upcoming Legislative Sessions

At an education forum in Oak Park Wednesday, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said she plans to introduce legislation to help stop the Illinois State Charter Commission's "hidden agenda" of expanding charter schools across the state.

The Illinois legislature set up this special charter governing body back in 2011. The commission has autonomy from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the power to override local school boards if they reject applications from charter companies looking to open schools in their communities. A number of education activists have blasted the commission, saying its sole purpose is to override these charter denials.

"This independent authorizer, they've hired a lobbyist that has a salary, and there's a hidden agenda," Lightford said at the forum, held at Oak Park's Percy Julian Middle School. "(School) funding would come away from you and go directly into this situation, and I think it's something we all should be very mindful of."

Lightford said she would introduce a bill at some point during next year's legislative session that would get rid of the commission's override powers and give charter authorizing responsibility back to ISBE.

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
5:15pm
Wed Oct 2, 2013

CPS Opens Door For More School Closures

Following the decision to embark on the nation's largest round of school closures at one time this academic year, the Chicago Public Schools have opened the door to the possibility of breaking the district's promised five-year moratorium on school closings. As required by the Illinois School Code, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett released a set of guidelines for school actions, which are required by law no later than October 1. The full set of proposed actions for the upcoming school year are due by December 1.

In the proposed set of guidelines released by the district, CPS is hoping to quicken the closure of schools that are already in the process of being phased out. The district also wants to the ability to shutter schools that pose a "safety hazard presented by the physical condition of the" building. The same criteria could be used to propose consolidations and phase-outs.

The district says the five-year moratorium on school closings that Byrd-Bennett promised last year in exchange for a four-month extension on announcing school actions for the current academic year only applied to closures related to academic performance and utilization.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:12pm
Mon Sep 30, 2013

Albany Park Residents Want Local Aldermen To Oppose Northwest Side Charter School Expansion

Albany Park students and parents who gathered for an education meeting late last week want their local aldermen to publicly oppose the Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) plan to expand charter schools on the Northwest Side.

The more than 50 residents at the meeting, held at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, said they plan to visit the offices of Northwest Side Alds. Deb Mell (33rd), Rey Colon (35th) and Margaret Laurino (39th) this week to urge them to sign a pledge to support neighborhood school investments and speak out against new charters in the area.

CPS issued a request for proposals (RFP) in mid-August for new charters in a number of "priority communities", primarily on the Northwest and Southwest Sides, as a means to help alleviate neighborhood school overcrowding. The charters are slated to open in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. 

Those at the meeting said it's unacceptable that CPS released the RFP at a time when Albany Park neighborhood schools are grappling with more than $5 million in budget cuts.

"These budget cuts left us with huge high school fees, not enough teachers or books for our classes, and our neighborhood schools are struggling to give us [an] education we deserve, but still, the mayor wants to open new charter schools," said Jamie Adams, a Roosevelt High School sophomore and leader with Chicago Students Organizing to Save our Schools (CSOSS).

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
10:54pm
Wed Sep 25, 2013

Chicago Board Of Ed Approves CPS' Facilities Plan; Education Activists Hold First People's Board Meeting

Progress Illinois provides a recap of what happened at the Chicago Board of Education meeting, as well as the first "People's Board Meeting".

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