Read a joint statement from Raise Your Hand and Raise Your Hand Action on our orgs' next steps after the jump:
Raise Your Hand Action is now the stand-alone 501c4 Illinois Families for Public Schools. The new name is intended to make our mission and work clearer to parents, policymakers and the public: Illinois Families for Public Schools will work at the state level, organizing families to advocate on behalf of all Illinois public schools. Raise Your Hand, the 501c3, will double down on building a citywide parent coalition to fight for systemic educational equity.
In 2016 Raise Your Hand Action was established as the sister-org of Raise Your Hand so public school parents could play a more active role in policy and legislative advocacy in Springfield. RYH Action has begun to make some strong progress in Springfield due to its network of public school supporters within and beyond the city of Chicago.
As Illinois Families for Public Schools, the organization will expand on that foundational work— representing the interests of Illinois public school families by giving them a regular presence and voice in Springfield. Ultimately, the fate and fortune of individual public schools and school districts in our state are all tied to that of the Illinois public education system as a whole. Policy and legislative solutions must bridge municipal, school district and metro area boundaries. And that means mobilizing parents and communities across the state to take action on behalf of public schools.
Raise Your Hand was founded in 2010 to educate and empower parents with a focus on advocacy and community organizing as a mechanism to strengthen and protect public education. RYH is for the first time existing in a “post-Rahm” era and is cautiously optimistic in working for policies that truly support Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Lightfoot’s appointed and still unelected school board. Under the leadership of RYH’s new Executive Director Jianan Shi, RYH will tackle the historical inequities in public education, elevate parents’ voices citywide, and demand the public education all children deserve.
Illinois Families for Public Schools (IL-FPS) will be led by Cassie Creswell. After nine years of dedicated service to the cause of public education in Chicago and Illinois, Wendy Katten, previously the executive director of Raise Your Hand Action, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities; she will remain as a senior advisor to IL-FPS. Raise Your Hand staff includes Executive Director Jianan Shi, Communications & Outreach Director Jennie Biggs, Parent Liaison for Special Education Mary Fahey Hughes, and Administration & Finance Assistant Jodi Lacy.
We think this organizational transition from sister-organizations to two stand-alone organizations is the best arrangement to continue the fight to improve public education and protect it as a public good for our city and state—a fight in which we will remain strong partners going forward.