Press conference on CPS' inadequate response to HB5721

Raise Your Hand Action participated in a press conference with Senator Mattie Hunter, Rep Sonya Harper, Blocks Together and community members on Mon October 29th to push back on CPS' inadequate response to HB5721, now Public Act 100-0965, the CPS facilities bill that became law this summer. Read our statement below.

(Video here.)

I’m Cassie Creswell, the co-director of Raise Your Hand Action.

Our organization lobbied for the passage of HB5721 last spring because for years CPS has made decisions about opening and closing schools without adhering to a long-term facilities plan developed through genuine engagement with communities. One of the key components of this new law is that it would reduce the need for school actions by increasing support for under-enrolled schools. Possible routes of support include joint use agreements, reworking attendance boundaries to boost enrollment, and prohibiting school expansions that would hurt enrollment at under-enrolled schools.

The district must also work with under-enrolled schools to identify opportunities to increase enrollment.

A policy to comply with this law was passed at the most recent Board of Ed meeting. Meanwhile, though the district has rolled out an initiative this fall asking all schools to submit proposals to compete for new programmatic investments.

This initiative was paired with a report from Kids First, the Annual Regional Analysis (ARA). The ARA is an inventory of the district’s schools, their enrollment and programs, organized by geographic region. While Janice Jackson says that the ARA is a set of facts, it's really a report based on two flawed metrics: the SQRP, which is the tool CPS uses to rate schools to determine "quality seats" but is narrowly based on test scores and attendance, and the utilization formula, which is based on class sizes that allow for 30 kids in a room.

The school quality rating correlates with a school’s percentage of low-income children because it is mostly measuring demographic factors outside of a school’s control. There’s so much more that matters in determining the quality of the teaching, learning and culture of a school, and CPS’s rating isn’t capturing that.

Now the district is claiming that its request for proposals from all schools paired with this deeply flawed ARA report is how they are complying with the new law to support underenrolled schools. Since 2013, CPS has tied funding directly to enrollment. And now, rather than allocating all funding, they are holding back resources all our schools desperately need and asking under-resourced schools to develop and submit applications for additional funding and specialized programs. Asking schools to compete for the public dollars that are already theirs reinforces a system of haves and have nots. It creates another arena in the CPS Hunger Games. And it does nothing to break the vicious cycle of providing less to those who already have too little: directly violating the spirit of this new law.

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