Take 5: LSC elections, college attainment, Rauner’s cuts, neighborhood schools coalition

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A budget proposal from Gov. Bruce Rauner would mean $74 million less in general state aid for Chicago Public Schools in the coming school year.

Photo by Grace Donnelly

A budget proposal from Gov. Bruce Rauner would mean $74 million less in general state aid for Chicago Public Schools in the coming school year.

LSC elections: This year’s barely noted local school council elections had a new twist: A handful of community groups worked to recruit and promote LSC candidates with a shared “education justice” platform.

The political organization 33rd Ward Working Families, formed during Roosevelt High School teacher Tim Meegan’s failed aldermanic campaign, promoted more than 50 candidates who agreed to a seven-point platform that includes more money for neighborhood schools, an elected school board and an end to charter expansion.

The elections began Wednesday, with once again, more open seats than parent and community member candidates in 263 schools. In 188 of 499 schools with elections, there were not enough parent candidates to fill the six seats.

A total of 5,888 candidates applied this year, compared to around 6,000 in 2014’s election and 17,000 in 1989, the first elections. Grade school election results have been posted online. High school elections will continue until 7 p.m. Thursday. Those elected will begin their two-year terms on July 1.

College attainment: Data from a Lumina Foundation report released Monday ranked Chicago as the U.S. metropolitan area with the twelfth-highest level of college degree attainment.

Almost 45 percent of working age adults in Chicago’s metro area had at least an associate’s degree, compared to almost 56 percent in the nation’s top-ranked city, Washington D.C. Chicago was also behind New York, but ahead of Los Angeles.

Separately, Lumina also looked at how many adults obtained career-related certificates from colleges and universities. The foundation is working to increase the proportion of Americans with degrees, aiming for a goal of having 60 percent of working-age Americans earn a post-secondary degree by 2025, an increase of around 15 percent. This increase would come from making programs more accessible and affordable for working adults and low-income individuals.

Rauner’s cuts: A school funding proposal by Gov. Bruce Rauner would hit Chicago with over $74 million in cuts for public schools. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool sharply criticized the cuts this week, noting that the proposal shows some wealthier suburban districts would get more money.

“Governor Rauner is essentially saying, we don’t value your children’s futures as much as we value other children’s futures,” Claypool said. “And that is wrong.”

Rauner said his plan will save CPS money in the long run by ending proration, a practice that state has used to reduce its per-pupil aid to districts since 2009. Under the plan, CPS will also continue to receive block grants. The governor’s office cited a combination of decreasing enrollment and increasing property values as the reason for the cuts, but Claypool said enrollment was only “a small portion of the decrease.”

Projected budget cuts could play into the district’s contract negotiations with the Chicago Teacher’s Union. A fact-finder’s report on the stalled negotiations is due Saturday.

Surveying parents of color: Black and Latino parents, not surprisingly, want higher quality teachers, safety and better resources in their schools, according to a recently released study from the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Anzalone Liszt Grove Research.

In a survey of 400 black parents from Philadelphia and 400 Latino parents from Chicago, over 80 percent thought their children should be more challenged in school and held to the same or higher expectations of white peers. Most of the parents felt their schools weren’t providing students with the same caliber of education as students in majority-white schools received.

“The schools in the Latino communities are run-down, smaller and less funded than those in the white neighborhood,” said a Chicago respondent. Respondents blamed the disparities on lack of funding.

Neighborhood schools coalition: Hundreds of supporters gathered recently at Curie Metropolitan High School for the official launch of the Southwest Chicago Public School Coalition.

The coalition, composed of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and 14 schools, is the product of months of neighborhood schools’ pushback against charter school expansion after the Noble Network proposed opening new high schools on the Southwest Side. The group, which has funding from The Chicago Community Trust’s Generation All, wants to improve the feeder patterns between neighborhood elementary schools and neighborhood high schools. They’re working to get more money to increase schools’ per-pupil funding and rebuild infrastructure, with the hope of bringing in more students.

“CPS shouldn’t be supporting charter schools when we neighborhood schools need funds,” said John F. Kennedy High School student Hugo Calderone. “It’s time to take action.”

Improving feeder patterns is something that several neighborhoods are trying out. In Austin, the leaders of a new high school are working to convince families in the neighborhood that their school is worth sending their children to. The odds are against that effort, as an in-depth story in the Atlantic recently pointed out.

One last note: SUPES Academy co-owner Thomas Vranas pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery and faces up to five years in prison for his role in the SUPES scandal. CPS has sued Vranas, SUPES co-owner Gary Solomon and former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for $65 million in damages related to the case.

  • Shelagh Jackson

    I would have liked to join the LSC at my son’s high school but CPS policy does not allow employees to run as parent or community rep. Many parents are CPS employees and I wonder how this effects the low interest for parent candidates during election time