19th Ward Parents fighting for democracy & better public schools

Parents Across America is proud to have a new affiliate in Chicago; 19th Ward Parents.  Their website is www.19thwardparents.com and their email is 19thwardparents@gmail.com . Becky Malone wrote the below post, about their fight to preserve and improve Chicago’s public education system – for all students,  and their campaign for an elected school board.

19th Ward Parents is a grassroots organization of Chicago public school parents.  We stand together with parents, teachers and community groups across Chicago in support of quality public education for all.

Our organization initially came together in early 2011 in opposition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to extend our public school day to make it the longest in the nation — 7.5 hours — with no additional funding.  We investigated the research behind the plan, found it seriously wanting, and organized petition signings, community forums and rallys; we wrote relentlessly to media and spoke at every school board meeting for 5 months straight.  [An excellent fact sheet they helped produce is here.]

Mayor Emanuel finally announced that he would reduce his extended school day plan by 30 minutes to 7 hours in all elementary schools. This was a start, but still, with no funding, not the end of our battle.  We are still fighting for more funding for school libraries and playgrounds, fine arts programs, foreign languages, science labs, and gym.  We are also asking for schools to have more autonomy in decisions on how to best use instructional time and resources to meet students’ needs without lay-offs and the resultant larger class sizes.

Further, we have solidly stood behind our teachers and their union, publicly defending them and their contract negotiations.  We are very proud  that recently, the Chicago Teachers Union had 90 percent of its 26,500 members vote to authorize a strike if summer contract negotiations fail.

This essentially negated a law that was passed just last year, designed specifically so teachers wouldn’t have the ability to strike even though the right was maintained,  by deeming that they needed 75% of their membership to vote in favor!  Our teachers met and far surpassed what they needed, sending a strong message to CPS that they are done being demonized and bullied!

Our most recent effort has us working with community and parent groups from nearly every neighborhood in our city, a cooperative effort that has never before happened in Chicago.  This coalition, called Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), is initiating a city-wide petition drive to move CPS to a representative elected school board.  Currently the Mayor controls the public schools and he appoints the school board. Nationwide, 96% of school boards are elected and Chicago has the only appointed school board in Illinois.  As long as we have an appointed board accountable only to the Mayor, we will never see real change in our public schools.

Moving forward 19th Ward Parents will serve as a resource of information for parents and teachers through hot topic discussion panels about subjects like standardized testing, charter schools and the impact of a possible teachers strike on our children.  Finally, we will continue to demand that our school board provides for the quality education all our children deserve.

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