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Quinn to sign school facilities reform

Governor Quinn will sign SB 630, mandating transparency and accountability in CPS facility planning, Saturday, August 20 at 11:30 a.m. at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, 3015 W. Division.

The Humboldt Park location is in the district of the bill’s sponsors, State Representative Cynthia Soto and State Senator Irene Martinez. It was CPS closings of thriving neighborhood schools in the area in order to provide buildings for Renaissance 2010 projects – inspiring the kind of community outrage that has accompanied each year’s round of school closings — that spurred the two legislators to seek reform.

Under the new law, CPS will be required to issue guidelines for school closings and consolidations by November, and to provide notice and written explanations to schools being considered for such actions by December.  It will require school transition plans developed in collaboration with each school community; academic, social and emotional supports for transitioning students; and transitional services for homeless and special ed students.

Previously school closings have left little time for communities to respond or for parents to explore options, and little support for students, sometimes leading to spikes in violence.

Reasons for school actions have ranged widely, sometimes relying on faulty data including a controversial space utilization formula, and creating the impression that decisions (including capital spending) reflect a political agenda that sacrifices neighborhood schools for charters and other Renaissance 2010 schools.   Promises to improve the process have repeatedly been broken.

Facility performance standards and space utilization standards – required by the new law to take educational programming into account – will be due next June, and a ten-year Facilities Master Plan for the system must be in place by July 2013.  A detailed annual capital budget and spending report will be required.

The bill continues the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, with representation from community organizators, to provide oversight on implementation.  The task force held hearings last year and developed recommendations incorporated into SB 630.

Soto and Martinez are expected to call on CPS to provide transitional services for students who are moving to new schools this year.  Such services won’t be mandated by law until next year.

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Category: CPS, school closings, school facilities

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