Becky Malone (19WPO member) speaks at the CTU rally on May 23, 2012

 The 19th Ward Parents Organization representing Mt. Greenwood, Beverly and Morgan Park stands here today in union with parents, teachers and community groups from across the city in support of our schools and our teachers.

We as a city are only as strong as each new generation we produce; we as neighborhoods can only thrive and succeed if our children succeed; and we as parents share the task of ensuring our children live up to their full potential, for we are their primary care givers, we are their mentors, we are their guidance counselors and we are their very first teachers. Yet parents and teachers have been repeatedly and systemically denied a voice in the education of our children, and that needs to change!

Our organization does not support the policies being mandated by CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Their motives for “education reform” here in Chicago seem to completely neglect the needs of the children and favor only the pocketbooks of politicians and their wealthy connections. To truly improve public education we need to start looking at how classes are being taught and what the curriculum entails, specifically focusing on the individual needs of the communities served by each school. Indiscriminately replacing every teacher and administrator, as in the case of turnaround schools, or simply adding more time, or giving a new name to an existing program that is currently failing--- these initiatives have all been exposed for their uneven and questionable results as seen here and in other cities, particularly without adequate funding.

As parents and teachers it is important that we continue to voice our concerns about time and funding. They must go hand in hand. To add additional time to our children’s school day will require more money, and not just for teacher compensation, but to hire new teachers to cover mandatory lunches and prep periods as well as supportive resources and materials to help implement a high-quality, well-rounded education for our children. 

19th Ward Parents has been diligently fighting the city’s recycled education mandates since last fall. Like the teacher’s union, our group has repeatedly been met with opposition from the city. We have regularly addressed the School Board. We have written letters to politicians, news agencies and education experts. We have held community forums, signed petitions, participated in tele-town hall meetings seeking concrete answers and information. We even met with Jean-Claude Brizard. In fact, our group, upon Mr. Brizard’s request, researched and submitted several sample plans for a quality school day that would work for our children and our teachers. These plans included enrichment, intervention and acceleration, as well as PE more than once a week, all within a more reasonable length of day. Through the coalition Parents Concerned for Quality Education, we requested a meeting with the Mayor to discuss options for improving education in the city of Chicago without the need to fire good teachers, close schools and implement the longest school day in the nation. But the response from the Mayor and the schools’ CEO has always been the same — to push forward without a solid and sustainable financial or academic plan. The Mayor and CPS are essentially conducting a grand experiment using our schools and our children as guinea pigs, and they are expecting us to quietly accept this plan without questioning its merit or practicality.

Instead of investing in our neighborhood schools, our Mayor has just approved the addition of 60 new charter schools over the next 5 years. Currently, 29 of Chicago’s existing charter schools are listed as AEWS or AWS, meaning they have FAILED to make academic progress for two or more consecutive years. If CPS and the Mayor truly cared about improving the quality of our children’s’ education, they would stop aligning CPS with political lobbyist groups like Stand For Children and DFER, who raise millions of dollars to support charter school expansion and the evaluation of teachers based on standardized test scores, and fail our children by diverting critical dollars from our neighborhood schools. They would make it their goal to improve our existing schools by expanding gifted programs and/or IB programs, offering them in every school, not just selective enrollment schools. They would ensure that every school has a library, a lunchroom and a safe playground. They would provide updated textbooks, technology, and certified teachers to offer art, music and physical education for every school and every child, and they would make sure that there were enough teachers to maintain manageable class sizes. In short, CPS should give ALL schools the support they need to ensure academic success.

The needs of our children are clear. They require qualified teachers, adequate resources, and safe, clean spaces to learn and play. They need the city to celebrate and emulate the many success stories within existing CPS schools, and to address real issues in those that need help, not exacerbate the whole process with the hasty addition of new schools, excessively longer days and ever more testing. We, as parents, can help make this happen by continuing to demand that our voices be heard, along with those of our teachers, as we promote a cooperative and inclusive effort to provide the best education to all children in the city of Chicago!

Here's what a parent is saying about the longer day

Rahm Emanuel announced today that next year the elementary schools will have a school day of seven hours, and high schools will be seven and a half. As this is a first step in the right direction, it is still unacceptable. The extension to the current schedule is still unfunded and unprecedented. This is simply a change in time with no details about funding. We need to keep up the fight for our children. A 7.0 or 7.5 unfunded day is no better for our children's education.
A few things to remember:
  • The national average is 6.64
  • Common Core standards are in place in 40 states and none of them included more time for learning
  • CPS has not indicated any new source of funding. In fact, they are projecting a $600 million - $1 billion deficit for 2012-2013
  • CPS has not indicated what will be cut from the current day to pay for this initiative
Rahm Emanuel is not compromising. He is trying to add spin to his battle. This is real life, not Spin City. In the beginning of all this Mayor Emanuel stated 90 minutes. Then he went to 7.5 hours, which is 105 it is 75 more minutes. No matter how he spins the number, he has yet to add quality to the day. He is only adding quantity.
CPS needs to be honest with the parents, teachers, students and tax payers. There is no plan for added quality, there is no plan for improvement. This is just an example where the leaders of CPS and the Mayor think that if they make something bigger everyone will think it is better. We are not fools!
-Michelle Bever


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