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Strengthening LSCs

The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization is hosting a legislative hearing on strengthening LSCs this Saturday, April 12 starting at 11:15 a.m. at Kennicott Park, 4434 S. Lake Park.

KOCO and allies successfully pushed for passage of a resolution last year which declared that the Illinois House of Representatives “support[s] the empowerment of Local School Councils as local, publicly-elected decision-making bodies” and authorized subject matter hearings on the needs of LSCs.

LSC members from across the city will testify Saturday about why LSCs are needed, how they work in particular schools, and how they could be better supported.

LSCs bring “community wisdom” — a grassroots perspective that is often lacking from CPS decision-making, said Jitu Brown, KOCO’s education organizer and a member of the Dyett High School LSC.

Brown cites the disastrous transfer of students from Englewood High to other South Side schools, disregarding community concerns about security and gang issues. “Dyett exploded,” he recalls. “Hyde Park exploded. Who do you hold accountable for that?

“The school district doesn’t understand community dynamics,” Brown said.

He also points to the closing of successful neighborhood schools which “should serve as models” for a system with a huge dropout rate.

More fundamentally, “As people of color we have to be sure there’s public accountability because there’s a demonstrated record of our not receiving the resources or the quality of services that we’re supposed to get, because of our color,” Brown said. “CPS has a disastrous record in terms of equity in distribution of resources.”

Some schools have a laptop for each student, others one or two computers in each classroom, he said. “Why is it OK that Harper High has to use discretionary funds to hire teachers and security guards, and doesn’t have money for a band or debate team or school newspaper, and Walter Payton College Prep is a world-class facility? Why is that acceptable?”

When Brown joined the Dyett LSC is 2003, “there were seven books in its library,” he said. CPS had made a high school of a former middle school “without giving it the resources to be a high school.” The LSC there has worked to get resources and “make the school parent and community friendly,” he said. Brown contributes a life skills program for male students that is successful and growing; next week a group is visiting UIC.

The relationship between CPS and LSCs “has to be a partnership,” Brown said. “I can’t develop a mathematics curriculum, but I know what good teaching looks like, I know what high expectations look like.”

Instead, parents and community “are more tolerated than collaborated with,” he said. “CPS has a belief that parent and community involvement should take direction from the school district.”

There’s a culture exemplified by “the way [school board president] Rufus Williams talks with such arrogance and disdain about parental involvement or LSCs,” Brown said.

KOCO’s education committee, the Mid South Education Association, includes LSC and community members along with administrators and teachers, and sponsors back-to-school rallies, forums and roundtables, as well as teacher trainings on topics like black history and youth leadership development. MSEA also has a group of parents who train LSC members, going beyond the CPS program to cover the history of Chicago school reform from a community perspective, racism and education, and school funding issues.

A task force of school reform groups will compile testimony from Saturday’s hearing and shape legislative proposals out of it, Brown said.

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Category: CPS, school reform

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